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Translation For Media Is Different Than Any Other Kind Of Translation

There are built in challenges in translating for multimedia that simply don’t exist in any other form of translation.  Let’s take a corporate video project for example. Businesses of all types use video for internal training, advertising, promotional pieces and more.  The first challenge in translating for video is trying to get the target language translation fit the audio timings of the original narration.   For example, if the first paragraph of the narration is 20 seconds in length, then having a translated audio script of 25 to 30 seconds isn’t going to work.

So what should you do here?  Well there are two possible answers if the translation is too long.

One would be to record the new language audio in its longer length and then go back and edit or add video footage, if it’s available, to lengthen the video.

This presents a number of issues which include additional time to finish the project and therefore additional cost as well.  There will be issues with the video editor not knowing the language and hence not knowing what is being said where.  This last step will require additional time and cost in having someone create documents that will hopefully help the video editor make the correct and necessary edits or pay to have someone who is bilingual assist the video editor with the edits.

The second path is quite frankly the better choice.  That is to use a translator who has extensive experience in translating specifically for media.  That way you can get an audio script that will correctly fits the timings of the original audio.

Now this seems like a very simple answer to a very complex issue.  In fact it can actually be that easy.  But the problem lies in the fact that the vast majority of translators really don’t know how to do this correctly.  Finding a translator who actually has years of experience translating for media is not easy to find.  I know this from 29 years of experience working in the foreign language media industry.

This is not meant to be a slight to those translators.  Because it’s not that they are bad translators, it’s more about the fact that they spend ninety-nine percent of their time translating for printed documents.  This would include for example medical, legal and corporate training documents.  Timing issues simply don’t exist in this type of translation work.  Translating for these types of documents is a completely different mindset than what is needed to translate for multimedia.

It’s fairly common knowledge for most people that when translating from English to another language, the translation will expand by 10 to 30%.   This is basically true for a “literal” translation and in fact this type of translation can be technically very accurate.  The problem with using this technique for multimedia is that, if you remember our example from above, you can’t put 30 seconds of translated text into 20 seconds of time in a video.  Something’s got to give.

What is needed when translating for multimedia is a more colloquial or “spoken word” approach.  There are two benefits to this.  First and most importantly, this is the way people actually speak.  This type of translation has a natural flow to the language.  It just feels and sounds right.  It’s easier for the voice talent to read and easier for the listener to understand.

The other benefit is that this colloquial approach actually helps a great deal to make the translation shorter and therefore much more accurate to the timings needed in the video.

Some might argue that it’s not as accurate as a literal translation.  This is absolutely not true.  This approach simply finds a more efficient way to say the same thing while always preserving the original content’s meaning.

Here’s a very simple English example of this.
Original:
 “I will need to go down to the grocery store and it’s too far to walk. 
Do you mind if I drive your car to get there?”

Edit:
 “I need to go to the grocery store.  May I borrow your car?”
It’s implied that it’s too far to walk because a car is needed. The rest as I just mentioned above is simply a more efficient way to say the same thing.

You can see there’s a big difference in the time it takes to say those phrases but the content and meaning stays the same.

The most import point I want to make here is my experience over the last 30 years confirms that the reality of this type of translation takes a real person with media translation experience. It therefore takes time and considerable effort to get this done correctly.  This is real “Quality” in a translation and it conforms with LRS Recording’s standard of having a translation that sounds and flows as though it was “Written In” the target country/language.  Not “Translated INTO” the target country/language.

Mark Ohlsen
 President & CEO,

LRS Recording, LLC

Email: info@lrsrecording.com
The Translation Services Experts for Multimedia
http://www.lrsrecording.com