COVID-19 update – Matinée is operating business as usual with our team working remotely.

Video translation and the potential pitfalls

Translation of Audio and Video Content and the Potential Pitfalls

The majority of translation projects are seamless and go ahead without any issues. However, it’s important to educate yourself about the potential pitfalls to understand how to minimise that risk.

What is translation?

For audio translation, someone fluent in both the original and target languages must review the content, and translate the sense of what is being said into the target language. This usually requires a lot more thought than just a word-for-word translation.

We’ve all seen pictures of funny signs or messages that have been lost in translation. That happens because every language has a unique set of slang, colloquialisms, and common phrases that simply don’t translate word for word. In Spanish there’s a saying in “En boca cerrada no entran moscas”. Literally, that means flies don’t enter a closed mouth, which an English speaker might or might not be able to figure out is a way of saying “keep your mouth shut”. A skilled translator will be able to pick out these phrases that could cause confusion and translate the sense of them into the target language.

So what other issues could potentially arise in a translation project?

Style preference

There’s more than just one way to say or write something, and this also applies when it comes to translation. In fact a huge proportion of what makes up a good translation comes down to style preference. What is good for one client will be considered average by another. Translation can be hugely subjective, and many factors have to be taken into consideration, such as interpretation, context, and the target audience. For that reason, it’s important to seek out a professional translator, rather than just someone who speaks the language, or worse, a machine translator. Industry professionals will have the requisite experience in handling specific types of projects, and that is a big advantage, especially if a brand’s reputation is on the line.

In general, English is quite a short language. When translating English to a foreign language, the translated text tends to be a lot longer. For example, German can be up to 40% longer. It’s important to condense the word count as much as possible, whilst retaining the sense of what is being said. The word count alone doesn’t always affect the total final duration of the audio. Many languages like Italian have more vowels. Therefore, more time is spent articulating the words, and this can have an impact on time syncing a voice over to video.

When translating for voice-over purposes, it’s important to know the language, or languages, required for translation, the dialect or accent of the target audience. For example is it Mexican Spanish or European Spanish, how many people are talking, and the duration and speed of the speech within the original video? All of this will need to be considered carefully before deciding on the best approach for the job, to match the available budget and timescale.

Just because someone is fluent in two or more languages doesn’t make them a translator. As we mentioned previously, the translations often have to be a condensed version, and this is especially true in the case of subtitles. There’s a lot of requirements and processes for translators to understand, so it’s best to use someone who’s had experience with subtitles. We use specialized tools and software for this work. The subtitles must be formatted correctly to work in a myriad of platforms including YouTube, Netflix, Amazon video, DVD, Blu-ray and more.

This can be both a very technical and creative process. Its technical due to the character and timing restrictions. For instance, you can only fit a limited number of words and characters on-screen, and each subtitle needs to appear long enough to be read. This means the original spoken dialogue has to be transcribed, translated and condensed. And this is where a lot of creativity is employed by the translator.

When the subtitles are complete we also have an approval stage, where we send a low-res version of the video, and you can review the subtitles on the video, and let us know of any edit requirements.

Providing your own translations

It is possible to use your own translators. However, please find out beforehand if they have experience with voice over or subtitle translations. If not, we may be able to brief them about the best process. Also, many customers think they’re helping by getting the translations completed before contacting us, but this can often be counterproductive. The translations are often not formatted correctly and it can take more time and cost even more. Contact us early in the process and we’ll guide you to the best result, whether we undertake the translation work here or not.

Please visit: Video Translation Services – Voice Over and Subtitling