Creating a Multi-language Video for Your Business

Creating a multi-language video is a business decision companies are making as they aim to reach more audience online.  Translation and dubbing has been around for decades for the movie and television industry, but is now gaining ground for businesses as companies see its value in extending their reach in the global market.

Companies are putting in money to create audiovisuals not just for internal company use but more so for their marketing tool.  Product information campaigns, How-To’s, and client testimonials are a few types of videos that have proven their value in getting the message across to consumers.  How much more value would these videos have if they were immediately accessible to a much wider audience?


Localizing videos – Voiceover or Subtitles?

There are of course pros and cons when using either method, project managers or decision makers should study and plan which method would be more effective in delivering their multimedia project to their audience.

Knowing how the target audience generally accepts localisation methods is an important factor to consider.  There are certain countries or regions that commonly use subtitles; other countries like Germany and some Asian countries would prefer dubbing.  And in some countries they would have simultaneous original language on the background and a reportage style translation on the foreground. It is vital then to include in your planning your audience research to determine which method to use.  If budget is not a question, providing the audience an option of professional voice over or subtitling can be a win-win solution.

One major benefit of subtitling is that it allows businesses to extend further their audience to the deaf and those hard of hearing.  It can also provide a highly accurate translation at the same time preserve the original narrative allowing the viewers to have an authentic experience. This can be most useful for client testimonial videos, as for some consumers, it is important to hear the original tone, inflection or emotion to fully appreciate and understand the message.

A common error though when using subtitles is making it verbatim rather than giving a concise yet still accurate translation.  This can be a setback because of the variation length from one language to another (for example, English is more often 25% shorter than most languages).  Once the translation is verbatim, you run into another issue by rushing through the lines on the screen – forcing the audience to either just focus on the subtitles or just the video.  Shortening the translation may also entail issues as the message may be lost in the effort to fit the words on the screen or within the time allotted.

On the other hand, using voiceovers can help the audience focus on the video rather than keeping up with the running subtitles.  This of course can be easily done for animated product presentation or how-to’s, but this can also be used for videos with multiple players or speakers.  Hearing distinct voices help the viewers become more immersed on the story rather on the clutter of lines on the screen. There may be some viewers though who will find it distracting watching the speakers or presenters move their lips not in sync with the voice.

Once a decision had been made in what method to use here are three steps in converting that all important business video to a multi-language one.
Business Video


Create an accurate transcription of the original language narrative.  This is of course readily available for scripted presentations, however for testimonials you may either have a computer generated transcription or get one of the team members to transcribed manually. There are now speech-to-text applications that can give a fast turn-around but its accuracy still needs to be checked.  Accuracy of automated transcription is also lower with some of the less common languages.



There are also now different methods of translations.  There are 100% computer generated translations, computer generated with human assistance and 100% translation done by translation expert.  Though machine generated translation is an available option, experts do not encourage businesses to reproduce their videos through just raw machine translation.  As with transcription, project managers should be concerned with the accuracy of the translation.  It also wise to consider hiring a native speaker as a translator.  Apart from achieving accuracy on the translation, a translator who is a native speaker of the language will have the understanding of the subtlety of the language and will be able to express the narrative in such a way that it connects with the target audience.  An expert translator can eliminate the issue of verbatim, and excessively short or long scripts or subtitles.



If voiceover is chosen method of localising the video, the final step is considering the voiceover method to use.  It is also now common hearing a synthesiser voice on videos especially on How-To’s or instructional videos. It may be a less expensive and has fast turnaround compared to using a professional voiceover, but it lacks the “human” connection that businesses should aim for when extending their reach in the global market.  It does not express the complexities, the accent, and other nuances of the language.  A professional voiceover talent can offer a wide range of expressions to match content and tone of the video, whether it be an animated presentation or live action. There are experienced native speaking voice actors for explainer and whiteboard videos or voiceover actors who can do dubbing for company interviews and client testimonials.  The advantage of hiring native speaker for the voiceover is again rooted on the understanding of the language.  A native speaker would not require coaching on the phrasing, inflection, diction, and understanding expressions particular to the language. A good native speaker would be able catch and correct errors, and can also suggest changes.


Adding value to your business videos by making them multi-language can open your business to a wider market. It is an investment that requires planning and careful consideration.  The connection and effectiveness of the video when spoken in the original language should never be lost once translated to another language.  Quality is key – from the transcription, to translation and finally to the voiceover.  Quality should never be traded off with lower cost.  With the boom in online media and resources, there are always affordable alternatives to get that multi-language video project done right.


Emma Jamieson

Emma is a voice over and marketing fanatic. A skilled writer and commentator covering the online voice over industry. Previously worked in marketing agencies and now as a voice talent assistant. When she's not talking to the top voice talent and agents, she's putting her thoughts down digitally and disseminating the information globally.