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When a translator is working on a translation of audio scripts for narration, they have to write for voiceover which has different requirements than writing for print.  It’s usually good project management that guides the translator in this process to ensure that this is followed.  Because we work on the translation of audio scripts and also place the foreign language voice talent in the studio, we want to ensure that this process undergoes quality control so that mistakes are not made in the narration process. Here is where you can increase your global competency, understand more about the process and how you can work in tandem to make your project a success.

Make sure everything is translated in the translation of audio scripts

  • Make sure your language service provider translates everything so that the narrator does not have to translate in their head when doing the voiceover. This translation would include all numbers, symbols (%, #, etc.), and abbreviations (cm, mL, etc).   Typically, when doing a translation of audio scripts for a narration project, we translate those and then put the actual number, symbol or abbreviation in (  ) after the translation so that the narrator has that visual cue following exactly how it should be said.  Yes, you’d be surprised that a mistake can be made in narration.  This ensures that there is no guesswork on the part of the narrator, which can lead to an error, which can lead to more studio time, which can increase your costs.

Review the timing of the source video and see if there are areas where you can increase the timing

  • If audio tracks in the foreign language are to be placed on a video over the English tracks, timing will be an issue if the spoken English is fast and moves quickly between frames.  Many languages, such as Romance languages, are 15-25% lengthier once translated. We see this issue of timing handled in the translation of audio scripts.  Typically, this falls on the editor to edit the translation for narration against the source timing to make it fit better.  It may mean removing content from the translation but keeping the meaning.  However, if you want to keep everything and not cut content, consider where you can add in time in the source content.  If it’s a PowerPoint to be narrated and there is animation, you can increase the timing in the Animations pane. This would provide the extra room needed for expansive languages. If you’re working in a video file and using a program such as After Effects, you can extend the timeline in the composition settings.  Likewise, in Adobe Premier Pro, you the speed and duration for one or more clips at a time.  These are examples of how the client who produced the video can make it better for localization of their audio files.  You can affect the end costs and save so ask ahead of time if your language service provider feels that the timing is too tight.

Ensure there is a 2nd “narrator” in the session who will act as the “director” to ensure quality control of the narration

  • A second target language speaking individual is most important in the narration of audio scripts. If you want the narrator to do a self edit and listen to their recording for “self direction”, they may not catch an error that they have made. This may be a pronunciation error that has fossilized in their speech.  A director is the quality control for speed, clear and correct pronunciation and audibility of the foreign language speaking narrator. The director should have a copy of the script, read along while the narrator is narrating and then provide direction on whether to redo it, affirm it or other.  That is what we mean by director.

The narration of translated audio scripts requires practice

Do you put your English narrator in for a cold read or let them have multiple retakes?  When you’re producing the video, you may spend more time in studio on the production and give your speaker more retakes.  However, when it comes to the foreign language narration of the script, can your budget afford more time in the studio?  In order to ensure you make the most of your studio time, give the narrator paid time to practice with the translation of audio scripts.  This also gives them a chance to ask questions ahead of time and then be ready to go once in the studio.  Working with a language service provider, make sure they require their narrators to practice and have it in the quote.

Practice is also required on the part of the translator. Let’s look at the translator’s role in translation of audio scripts.  After translation is complete, the translator and editor work together to read the translation out loud and find any places that may be difficult for the narrator.  There also may be edits made to stress key parts of a message for a voiceover.  We recently had an example of this in an Open Enrollment translation of a presentation.

English text:  You can participate in rewarding challenges to earn points for healthy behaviors and enter sweepstakes to win prizes.

Spanish translation: Puede participar en desafíos en los que obtendrá puntos por mantener conductas saludables y puede participar en sorteos para ganar premios.

The translation was amended from the English source to reinforce the key message that “you can participate”.  You can participate was added again so that a back translation would read as You can participate in rewarding challenges to earn points for healthy behaviors and you can participate in sweepstakes to win prizes.  Of course, you can only do this if you have the timing to do so.  In this case, it was a PowerPoint presentation and each slide had narration in the target language only. We were not laying it on top of the English tracks but recording new.

Voiceovers of transitions in narration can also be tricky.   Take a good look at your English script and see where it may be difficult to read out loud and then amend it for narration before translation of the audio scripts.  Here is an example we see all the time in which a transition for spoken speech is needed. “Make sure to use Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) when working in the hospital.”

Read it in English. Do you find it easy to make the transition to the acronym in English in ( ) behind it.  In the translation, the acronym needs to be explained because it relates to the English name so we would add in a transition such as “Make sure to use Protective Personal Equipment or P-P-E as it’s called in English, when working in the hospital.”

Translation of audio scripts require special formatting

In addition to our specialization in healthcare translations, we also have a Health Literacy Division for English language materials to be rewritten in Plain Language and for certain grade levels (Medicaid and Medicare both require this in healthcare translations).  There are specific guidelines for readability.  We use these same guidelines when we format a script for narration.  Again – make your studio time efficient and make the script easy for the narrator to read.  The guidelines we use are a 14 pt font and spaced at 1.5 lines.  The script is also monolingual.  We do not give the narrator a bilingual file showing the English and the target language. They are only there to read the target language so the focus is on one language.  We do provide visual clues to break up the narration especially if doing a presentation. That visual cue may include the number of the Slide at the top of the block.  We also break up the paragraphs for better readability and to indicate transitions.  If we want particular emphasis on a word, we use the bold style to apply.

Do you have a project that will require translation of audio scripts? Want to keep reading?  Need other reasons?  Here are 5 Reasons to work with a professional firm for subtitling or for narration of your foreign language video projects. Give us a call or contact us by email to talk it through.