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Getting the translation right for voiceover scripts

If you get the translation for the voiceover script right, then you’re guaranteed success. Here are tips on how to do just that.
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The voiceover script is the most important stepping stone of the voiceover process as it lays the foundation for what follows after. If you get that right, then you’re guaranteed success.

How can this affect you?

If the translation for the voiceover script is done incorrectly, here are the potential issues that can happen:

1) You’re the client and you realise the mistranslations AFTER hearing the recording. This means that you will have to re-record which adds an extra financial burden to your budget as well as needing more time to complete the job. Studios will have to be re-booked along with the studio engineer and the Voiceover artist(s). There is no guarantee that any of these will be available as they could be fully booked for other projects, so re-hiring someone else to do the job and/or locating a different studio may be the only option. On top of all the added stress, the final product comes out rushed and is not the quality that you had originally wanted.

2) If the Voiceover script is being translated in to a language you don’t understand, there is the potential that the poorly translated voiceover gets released anyway without you realising the mistakes. Not only is this embarrassing and damaging to your brand, but it can offend people in different languages by showing them that you haven’t taken the time to translate properly.

What do you need for that perfect translated script?

The original script

It’s useful to keep in mind what to write for the original script if you know that it’s going to be translated. When writing the script, it helps to be simple and concise. Keep it relevant without any ambiguity. Unless necessary, avoid using long-winded phrases. If possible avoid acronyms, slang and cultural jargon as this increases the risk of potential mistranslations and misunderstandings.

Also one of the most important criteria for a good script is readability. It’s not uncommon for a recording session to be stopped when the wording of the script makes it difficult to read out loud properly. Writing a piece of text is normal for many people, but when you read it in person, it just won’t roll of the tongue. Top tip for writers new to voiceovers – read out your script as if you are recording a voiceover session.

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A good general rule to keep in mind is that all translation being released in the public domain needs proofreading. No matter how good the translator, you’ll always need that extra pair of eyes to check for any mistakes that can easily happen.


It’s important to note that when a script is translated, the word count will change. Depending on the language, this can be increased or decreased dramatically. For example English is written in a short and simple manner compared to the European Romance Languages like French and Spanish. Thus the French or Spanish Voiceover Artist would need to speak a lot faster than the English artist in order to fit their sentences in to the same time frame. This results in the final product sounding too rushed. Normally we would like the word count of the translated phrases to be as close as possible to the original word count. In order to do this, it would mean that sometimes sentences have to be re-worded in order to fit in to the timing of the voiceover. Thus it’s good to have an experienced translator who understand the voiceover process and who is able to edit and re-phrase sentences in such a way as to not lose the tone or emotional impact of the message.


It’s not just translation that’s needed. In most cases it’s transcreation where the text would need to be adapted in order to fit in to the culture and mind-set of the target audience, as well as adapting its word count as mentioned in the point above. A word or phrase in one language can be offensive in another, or the tone and style of one language might not be appropriate in the other.

Client feedback and guidance

Giving as much information as possible to the agency you are working with is essential. This includes providing glossaries which demonstrate how you want certain specialised words to be pronounced or if there are certain words and phrases you don’t want translated. This could be for place or brand names, acronyms, technical terms or for marketing slogans. And it’s also always recommended that the client can be easily contactable by the agency in case they have any questions or need clarification on any topics during the recording session.

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Thus simply having a word– for –word translation is not the best way forward when creating voiceover scripts. A lot of other factors need to be considered such as the ones mentioned above if you really want to market your voiceovers and communication strategies successfully in foreign markets.


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