Translating your sales video?
Don’t “Throw the house out the window”

If your business deals with marketing across different territories, you know how important it is to have sales materials in multiple languages. You also know that creating and publishing content costs a lot of money. You don’t need to re-invent the wheel in order to reach other segments; you just need your text translated into the right language and syntax. Simple, right? 

Not so much. Have you ever watched a movie dubbed into another language? It sounds strange, right? It probably makes you cringe to hear weird terms and forced accents.

The trick with a good translation is to write a message that your audience can feel as its own. Left to the last minute or in unqualified hands, chances are your translation may end up turning into a bizarre clone of the original (and with a thick accent).

Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to translations:

TIP 1: It’s not about translation, but interpretation

You roll the dice, Google “translation services”, upload your original transcript, and voilà, your cheap translation is done. You hope the effortless, relatable, authentic tone of your script will be equally accurate in the translation, but the idiomatic expressions you’re using in one language may become meaningless or confusing in another.

“Okay, I see”, you may say. “I’ll ask my co-worker that speaks the language to do it!” But watch out, you may end up with a mistranslation. It’s not only about the words. Your script must have the right nuances, as they can make or break a translation. The devil is in the details. 

TIP 2: Colloquialism, slang, and jargon

Colloquialisms make dialogue sound more genuine. But Using idioms, figures of speech or sayings in your original piece can be tricky. While a video narration feels authentic in the first language, achieving the same semantics or subtle sentiments in another language requires creative skill and local pop culture knowledge. The best bet is to choose a translator that is a creative writer with common sense and knowledge of regional sayings in both languages.

As an example, take the phrase “roll out the red carpet”, in English. To convey that idea in Venezuelan Spanish, you’d have to say: “tirar la casa por la ventana”, but if you translate it word for word, you’ll end up with something like: “let’s throw the house out of the window”, which makes no sense at all! 

TIP 3: Tackle translations early on

Agreed. Writing your original script and its translations in tandem is hard, but working storytelling, flow and rhythm as you advance your script in both languages will allow you to tackle idiomatic expressions early on, giving all versions and translations a consistent message and tone. To achieve this, have your main writer work with your translator during the scripting phase, making sure that the ideas are fully expressed in both languages.

TIP 4: Confirm you have the right wording for technical terms

I’ve witnessed how real this is across the technology and electronics sectors. In the case your translator is a good creative writer, but not an expert in your business sector, get a consultant that’s familiar with the subject matter in the target language to help your translator to get technical terms right. As a matter of fact, certain terms are actually kept in English across all languages, or have specific naming systems. Even mundane terms like “click” or “tap” vary from country to country.

TIP 5: Cast voices being mindful of regional accents

Did you know how that in English there are over 160 different accents? The United States alone has 27 distinct dialects. Even though they speak the same language, a person from New Jersey will sound very different than someone from Texas. If you are translating a video for a Brazilian audience for example, make sure you hire someone with a Brazilian accent and not someone with a Portuguese from Portugal accent. Sometimes accent in a language is so critical that I’ve had voice over talent rejected by the client because it sounds from a certain region.

TIP 6: You can always subtitle!

If you’re looking to keep the impact of the original piece, opting for re-recording voice over and re-creating graphics is the way to go. But being 100% realistic, subtitles are a cheap and fast solution. This viable alternative only requires minimal post-production, so as long as you have a solid translated transcript, you should be covered. 

Another great idea is to request your translator to provide you with an .SRT caption file to upload to your distribution platform. You can easily add .SRT files to your videos in many platforms, such as LinkedIn or YouTube. This allows you to offer subtitles for your video without the hassle of sending it to a postproduction facility to embed the captions onto your piece. This option is brilliant if you need multiple the same video in several languages. With the click of a button, your viewers can easily switch between available caption languages. 

PRO-TIP 1: Translation vs. customization

From the postproduction and editing point of view, there are 2 crucial -separate- things to look at, which are audio and video. 

Audio wise, lengths of what you say in one language may change in another (remember the hilarious voice over dubs of Bruce Lee’s movies where the sentence in English would be so much shorter that what he was saying in Chinese?) So, when you are plotting the length of your scenes, make sure your space is long enough to insert your translated audio so you’re not struggling to stretch video frames you don’t have. 

Video wise, when designing the motion graphic text animations for your video, make sure the lockups you have in mind for your original piece will also work in the translated language.

PRO-TIP 2: Licensing and territories

Depending on what kind of distribution and platforms you’re looking to have for your video, always make sure you clear usage rights across all territories, for all the parts that make up you video, taking care to cover voice over, music, video, and so on. You don’t want your video to be taken down because someone reported a copyright or licensing infringement.

Good luck! Follow these steps and become a cross-over pro!