Video translation tips for digital content in any language

Graphic Thumbnail with title "Translating video content"
Graphic Thumbnail with title "Translating video content"

When your business offers marketing content to multinational audiences, a video translation is a must. But that’s just a matter of translating the script text into other languages, right?

Not so much. Have you ever watched a movie dubbed from another language? The awkward wording and forced accents can make any native speaker cringe.

The backbone of a good multicultural translation is to craft a message that each audience can feel as its own. Left for last or in unqualified hands, your video translation may morph into an absurd clone of the original. Your adapted content shouldn’t end up being too difficult to understand for your audience. Well translated content ensures your sales pitch remains clear in any language.

In my experience creating marketing videos for American and Latin American markets, planning makes all the difference. Understanding the cultural identity of an audience allows me to be more creative and deliver a better video. There are multiple methods for getting a video translated to a foreign language depending on the budget and the timeframe.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when translating your brand’s video content:

It’s not about script translation, but content interpretation

You Google “translation services”, upload your original transcript, and voilà, your cheap translation is done. A good translation should keep the same effortless, relatable, and authentic tone. But the idiomatic expressions you’re using in one language may become meaningless or confusing in a foreign language.

Another option is to ask your co-worker that speaks the language to do it. While this can be an easy way out, you may end up with a mistranslation. Beyond words, your script must have the right nuances, as they can make or break a translation.

Cast voices being mindful of regional accents

Did you know that in English there are over 160 different accents? The United States alone has 27 distinct dialects (A person from New Jersey sound different than someone from Texas). Same applies for other countries. For instance, for a Brazilian audience, pick someone from São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. Someone with a Portuguese from Portugal accent will sound off. A resource such as is a fantastic tool for finding voice over talent in different languages.

Reach multilingual audiences with subtitled video content

Re-recording voice over and customizing graphics is the best way to keep the impact of the original piece. But being 100% realistic, subtitles are a cheap and fast solution that only requires minimal post-production.

Another great idea is to request your translator to provide you with an .SRT caption file to upload to LinkedIn or YouTube. It’s so easy to offer subtitles without the hassle of embedding the captions onto your piece. This option is brilliant when you need the same video translation in several languages. With the click of a button, your viewers can easily switch between multilingual captions. 

Offering a captions for your video also makes your content more inclusive. The words displayed with your video allows the deaf or hard-of-hearing to understand your content. According to the NAD (National Association of the Deaf) depending on what kind of program you’re publishing you may be required to offer captioning to make audiovisual information accesible.

Tackle your multilingual video translation early on

Writing your original script and its translations in tandem is hard. However, working storytelling and flow as you advance scripts in both languages allows you to tackle idiomatic expressions early on. This gives a video translation a consistent message and tone. To achieve this, have your main writer work with your translator during the scripting phase. This is great way to make sure that the ideas are fully expressed in both languages.

Translating colloquialism, slang, and jargon in multiple languages

Colloquialisms make dialogue sound genuine. But translating idioms, figures of speech or sayings can be tricky. Achieving the same subtle sentiments in a translation requires creative skill and pop culture knowledge. Choose a translator that’s a creative writer with common sense and is very familiar with regional sayings in both languages.

Take the phrase “roll out the red carpet”, in English. To convey that idea in Venezuela, you’d say: “tirar la casa por la ventana”. Translated word for word, you’ll get “let’s throw the house out of the window”, which makes no sense at all! 

Confirm you have the right wording transcription for technical terms

I’ve witnessed how real this is across the technology and legal sectors. If your translator is a good creative writer, get an expert to confirm you have properly translated technical terms. 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.

Adapt your sequence to a foreign language

From the postproduction and editing point of view there are two crucial things to consider, which are audio and video. Audio wise, lengths of what you say in one language may change in another. For instance, you may remember old foreign films. Chances are sentences dubbed into English are so much shorter than what was said in the original language. When you’re plotting the length of your scenes, make sure your space is long enough to insert your translated audio. This way you won’t struggle to stretch video frames you don’t have. 

Similarly, plan ahead 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.

Licensing and territories for every version of your translated video

Define what kind of distribution platforms you’re looking to upload your video to. Make sure you clear usage rights across all territories and for all the parts that make up your 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.

If you have any trouble following these steps, reach out to me with any questions. Have fun!