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The effect of the human touch on translation and voiceover

Thanks to recent developments and advancements in technology, there has been a whole host of big changes in the voiceover and translation industries. We’re now becoming more used to hearing artificial voices and “read aloud” technology, as well as the worldwide use of automated translation services that have come to define our understanding of foreign languages.

Although impressive, and undoubtedly with their benefits, can these services really replicate the effect created with the human touch? Can Artificial Intelligence (AI) voices make us feel the same way a human voiceover can? Or can automated translations ensure the same accuracy as a professional doing the same job?

We take a look at these works of technology and what kind of differences there are between these, and using real people to do the same work.

Technological developments


First up is text-to-speech, which, as suggested by the name, is a type of assistive technology that reads digital text aloud. Great for those who are visually-impaired, TTS is definitely changing the accessibility game when it comes to navigating online technology.

When using any TTS function, you can expect to hear a computer-generated voice that’s created by linking together sound bites of recorded speech that are stored in a database. In theory, these speech synthesizers can say absolutely anything, thanks to the technology that puts these host of different sounds together.

Not only can these voices say almost anything, they can also sound like almost anything as well. Doubling the frequency can change the voice from a typically male-sounding tone to a female one, and trebling it can produce a sound similar to a child’s voice. Understandably with the way these voices are produced, they still tend to sound relatively artificial and robotic.

AI voices

If you asked “Hey Siri, what’s an AI voice?”, the response would be the perfect example. Artificial Intelligence voices, commonly used for voice-controlled personal assistants like Siri and Alexa, are computer-generated voices that are developed to replicate human speech as accurately as possible.

In contrast with TTS, AI voices are designed to sound realistic, with scientists having long been competing to create the most intelligent speaking system. Despite this, and although AI voices are sounding increasingly more human, there is, of course, a limit to just how natural these computer-generated voices can sound.

Automatic translation services

We’ve all relied on Google Translate to help us out of a sticky situation on holiday and, with more than 500 million users, there’s no doubt that this is an invaluable service.

But how exactly does it work? The algorithms that power these kind of engines learn everything they know from human translators. Millions of words of text translated by real people are powered into the engines, with no end of such material in existence for languages like English, French, and Spanish.

But with 7,000 languages spoken around the world, and only 108 available to communicate in via Google Translate, no matter how impressive the service is, you can start to see its limitations.

There’s no doubt the voiceover and translation industries have been massively affected by these developments, offering a whole range of advantages. But what about the disadvantages, and how do human translations compare?

Benefits of the human touch

When it comes to an effective voiceover, there’s nothing that quite compares to the warmth and emotion of a human voice. When recording for a specific audio project, you will of course want the voice to resonate with your audience and help achieve your desired effect. Using a voice artist means they’ll understand the context, as well as any specific pronunciations, acronyms, and abbreviations.

These are all things that computer-generated voices may struggle with, along with the risk of a lack of spontaneity or of sounding monotonous. It must also be considered that there’s a small variety of AI and computer-generated voices available in sparsely spoken languages or local accents, with much more choice when it comes to human voice artists.

Much of the same principles can be applied to human translation as well, with translators being able to pick up on the specific nuances of different languages, as well as puns and metaphors. Although automatic translation systems are ultimately powered by the work of human translators, there are specific parts of language that only humans can find an alternative for when translating.

Professional translators can also have specialised knowledge of specific sectors, meaning they can understand and interpret terms and phrases in a way that machines cannot. There’s also a greater chance of error when using automatic systems, which may not be a problem when trying to order a beer on holiday, but when your business is trying to target an international audience, there’s much more at stake.

Our services

It goes without saying that these technological developments are impressive, and have no doubt changed the face of the voiceover and translation industries forever. However, when it comes to producing high-quality, effective work, there’s nothing quite like the human touch.

Here at Matinée, we pride ourselves on working only with experienced in-country native translation professionals so we deliver the highest quality product. Our talented linguists ensure that our work does exactly what you need to do in over 80 languages, meaning that we maintain the integrity of your core message, whilst also respecting the local culture and values.

When it comes to voiceovers, we have an extensive roster of talented voice artists who, collectively, can speak over 80 languages, each with their own specialisations and specific skill sets. This means that, whatever the project, we’ll be able to find the perfect voiceover fit.

Our expert team and all the translation and voiceover professionals that we work with can understand the needs of our clients and what is hoped to be communicated through the recording or translation, meaning we can produce work to the highest quality possible.

Why not get in touch with our expert team today to find out how we can help you?

Call us on +44 (0) 118 958 4934

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