Foreign-Language Video Translations: Basic Tips

When producing a video that you know will be translated to other languages, here are a few simple tips to keep in mind:
Translations often have larger word counts; as much as 25% more in Romance languages, for example. Plan ahead by leaving more space around your onscreen text. If you already crowding the available space in your English original, the problem can get much worse in the translated version.

  1. Increased word counts can cause you even more headaches in narrations. Suppose your original English voice-over is cruising along at 120 words per minute, with no big breaths or pauses between sentences or paragraphs. For the equivalent translated voice-over with 25% more words, the narrator has to sustain 150 words per minute. For many situations, this is simply too fast for the message you need to transmit—and will inevitably feel rushed to the listener. If you leave a little bit of extra time around each bullet point or paragraph in your original English narration (perhaps even creating a special edit of the video, specifically for dubbing purposes), you and your audience will be much happier with the translated results.
  2. Some languages, like Chinese, Hindi, Farsi and Arabic, use more complex characters than the Latin alphabet used in English. Consequently, the equivalent text in your onscreen titles often needs to be slightly larger in order to maintain legibility. For example, many Chinese characters have very fine strokes that can flicker or “sing” when displayed at a small size on a video screen. Be sure to check with your translation agency about which character sets for those languages are most “video-friendly.”
  3. If you build graphics or titles in other programs (Adobe AfterEffects or Live Type, for example) that include text, make sure the source script documents you submit for translation include all this text, clearly tagged as a graphic.
  4. Even for languages that use the Latin character set, some fonts don’t support the required diacritical marks (accents, etc.). Obviously, this issue is more frequent with specialty fonts, and in languages such as Hungarian, Czech, and so on. Sometimes the errors are obvious, but in other instances it’s more confusing, because characters actually get switched to something else! For this reason (and many others, such as odd line breaks) always have your final video text proofread by your translation agency before releasing it.

ASIST Translation Services, Inc. is a full-service translation agency located in Columbus, Ohio. We provide translation, interpreting, proofreading, voice recording and media production, localization of interactive and Web content, and specialized language services to clients around the world.

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