Localization of eLearning: Voiceover vs. Subtitles

November 27, 2012 by Acclaro
Category: Training & eLearning, Multimedia
voiceover translation

An audio component is essential for most eLearning materials, such as Adobe Presenter, Articulate, Captivate, Lectora, and even Camtasia. When localizing your on-screen content, remember to include the spoken portions as well. Depending on your budget and quality expectations, you can either re-record the audio in your target language (voiceover), or look into options for subtitling. There are pros and cons to both. Performing a voiceover is typically more expensive but guarantees a more customized and polished experience. Subtitling, while cheaper to produce, is effective but may mean that subtitles could interfere with onscreen course content. Here are three tips for figuring out which option is right for you:

1. Looking at your look and feel: If you worked with a studio for your English course material, consider putting the same level of effort into your localized versions. A finely-produced course with a bad voiceover may distract your users or leave a negative impression. If professional linguists are outside of your budget, there are a number of freelance voiceover artists who can do a good job. While they might not have all of the bells and whistles of a studio, they should have the basics to get the job done well.

2. Timing is everything: Subtitling eLearning materials is the easier way to go, since the subtitles will match up with the running dialogue as the course progresses. Most subtitles are limited to 32 characters per line, and 2 lines on the screen at any given time. Many languages expand in translation, so you might find yourself with a bit of a real estate challenge. To get around that, you can:

  • Cycle the translated text through at a faster speed,
  • Edit the translations down to run in sync with the English, or
  • Slow down the pace of the course to fit it all in.

Similarly, if you choose to go the voiceover route, you may have more words to fit in to the audio script. That could mean the voiceover is spoken at a rapid pace, and syncing it up with onscreen text, if needed, is more difficult.

3. One size might not fit all: If you are looking to localize your eLearning course into Spanish, French, or Portuguese, be aware that the European variants of these languages can be very different from those in other regions, like Latin America, Canada, or Brazil, so you may need to have a couple of different language translation versions in order to be most effective. Similarly, Chinese for Hong Kong and Taiwan is written with different characters (Traditional Chinese) from other regions, like mainland China and Singapore (Simplified Chinese)…and the spoken Chinese dialects are numerous. If your eLearning will be used for Chinese speakers here in the U.S., make sure your users will be able to understand the spoken or written text.

For more info, look at our Top 10 Tips for preparing multimedia for localization, or how we helped Tiffany & Co. with localization of their eLearning course content.

Photo attribution: Profound Whatever

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Smart, fun and useful. Acclaro shares news and tips on translation, localization, language, global business and culture.

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