Voice-over translation is an audiovisual translation technique by which narrative scripts are first translated and then recorded by native-language speaking talent over the original audio track which can be heard in the background. It is often used in documentaries and news reports to translate the words of foreign-language interviewees in countries where subtitling is not typically used.
Voice-over translation is also extensively used in projects involving the localization of eLearning courses or programs (timed or untimed), as well as videos.
The narration script to be translated may sometimes be provided, if available. If not, the first step in the process is to transcribe the narrative components of the video prior to actually initiating the translation process. Scripts are typically prepared in a 2-column format, where the text is displayed in a way that it will be easy for the translator to be able to compare the English source content with the target-language content, ensuring an accurate translation.
One of the major challenges involved in translating scripts for voice-over is the need for the length of the translated text to be as close as possible to the length of the source language in order to ensure a precise synchronization of the recorded voice to the video. To do this, the translator will adjust the text in order to enable the voice-over talent language to read it at a natural speed within the time constraints required by the length of the video.
Many languages expand when translated, especially when English is the source language. Therefore, the translator needs to know how to adapt the translated text to the video, without compromising the accuracy of the translation.
Translators always reference the source video while working. When translating for content which will be recorded, the linguist needs to look and listen to the content of the video to grasp details that might not be revealed by reading the script independently. For example, consulting the video will help to determine if the English “you” is singular or plural in a specific context. Having the video as reference will also help to better understand the overall tone that needs to be replicated in the translated document.
Time permitting, it is always advisable to have the client review the translated script before the voice-over recording if in-house or third-party linguistic resources are available. This is recommended in order to ensure that the script translation is final, thus preventing time consuming and costly re-recording sessions.
Once the script is approved by the client, one additional round of proofreading is done as a final QA step. Questions concerning pronunciation of specific terms as well as overall style and tone will be discussed and resolved with the client prior to the actual recording, ensuring that the target language narration reflects precisely each client’s expectations.