What You Need to Know About Audio Localization

There may come a need in your organization where you have to take an audio content piece recorded in English and have it localized into Spanish, or perhaps into another language.

Where do you start? I will show you!

If you are new to audio localization, you should know what it means first. Audio localization is different from sound localization. Sound localization refers to a listener’s ability to identify the location of a sound in direction and distance.

Audio localization is the process of taking sound content, especially when recorded, transmitted or reproduced, and adapting it to a specific locale or market. Audio localization oftentimes includes language translation as a part of the process.

Read on to find more about the audio localization process how it can be applied within your organization.

Business Applications for Localized Audio

How do you integrate audio localization in your business? Here are three examples.

1. Learning Courses

You have your training content developed in English, which is great for your English-speaking customers and employees. But what about customers and employees that speak other languages?

According to Christopher Pappas, one of the benefits of localized eLearning courses is the increase of knowledge acquisition and retention rates. That in turn, should lead to happy customers and employees.

2. Commercials

Arbitron’s Hispanic Radio Today study says that radio has a near-universal reach among Hispanic consumers. Those consumers are also huge spenders in many key retail categories. One of the best way to reach those consumers is through radio commercials that are recorded in Spanish.

Localizing audio for radio commercials

Where does localization come in? Spanish speakers in California, Texas, the New England states and Puerto Rico will all require a unique marketing approach. Your audio content will need to be localized based on those specific target markets.

3. IVR – Interactive Voice Response

Your organization uses telephones to communicate and most likely a phone tree to go along with them, right? The recorded prompts in that phone tree are in English, but you can also have them recorded in other languages to help you deliver a better customer experience.

Through IVR technology, you can set up multilingual appointment reminders, payments, polls and surveys for inbound or outbound uses.

Audio Localization Process Explained

Now that you know the business applications of audio localization, you should learn the process behind it. When working with an audio localization vendor, be prepared for the following.

Step 1 – Getting voice samples

Before your audio content can be record, voice talent must be recruited for the project. The company you’re working with should provide you with recorded voice samples. If they don’t, be sure to ask for them. It’s important for you to make a final decision on the voice talent since they will be representing your brand image.

Voice Actor Casting

I’d recommend you go with professional voice actors as opposed to working with individuals who merely speak the language. Working with professionals may seem more costly on paper, but it may also take less time to complete the recording. In the end, you get a better product when you work with professionals. More here on why you should always work with professionals.

Here are a few more things to consider when getting voice samples.

  • How many voices will you need? Your vendor should provide you with voice talent casting options if necessary.
  • What age are the actors? If you are doing voice-overs or have a specific demographic in mind, try to match the age of the on-screen actors or your target demographic whenever possible.
  • Will you need male or female voices? Ideally, you’d want to match a female source voice with a female voice-over in your target language.

Settling on the voices for your final recording is essential. Now you know what to look for.

Step 2 – Localizing the script

Now that you have your voice artists secured, it’s time to localize your script. By having your script localized, the voice artists will be able to read it in the target language. The recorded audio can then be used as a voice-over in radio, television production, eLearning courses and other content types.

Localizing the script

Here is what’s involved in this step.

1. Script Transcription

Before you have your script localized, you must first have it transcribed. If you already have it transcribed, provide the transcription to your audio localization vendor. If not, either have it transcribed on your end or have your vendor do it. The transcription should include time-stamps. With proper time coding, you will know exactly where to match source and target language audio. This makes everyone’s job easier!

2. Script Translation

The transcribed text is then translated for audio recording. Your vendor should offer an option of having it translated for audio recording, since translating for audio is different than translating for plain reading. This means using shorter sentences so it’s easy for the voice actor to read and breathe in-between!

Another factor to consider during the script translation is the expansion and contraction of text. If you’re having your script translated from English into Spanish, be prepared for it to expand by 25%. That will certainly impact the length of the audio recording.

If your localized audio recording in Spanish is going to be used in Mexico, Argentina or another country, have the translated script undergo an in-country review. This is an essential quality assurance step. In-country review will assure that the translated content is culturally appropriate and makes sense for the target audience.

Finally, provide a pronunciation guide to your vendor for key terms, especially brand names and acronyms. During the voice-over recording, voice actors will follow your guide to properly pronounce those key terms.

Your vendor should now present the translated script to you for approval. Once you approve it, the vendor can proceed with the audio recording process. Make sure you’re absolutely satisfied with the script. Any changes to the script during or after the recording process will cost you!

Step 3 – Recording the audio

The voice actors have been selected and you approved the localized script. It’s now time to record the audio. Nowadays you can record sound with just about anything from a professional studio recorder to a smart phone.

Since you’ve made the effort in securing professional voice talent and investing in quality script transcription and translation, you’re probably looking for equal quality in the recorded audio. This means that professional equipment must be used to achieve studio-quality sound.

Audio recording in a studio

Your vendor may have a studio in-house or may offer you an option to pay for professional studio time. Either is a good option. A studio will give you access to a sound isolation booth and professional recording equipment. Additionally, you will have access to audio engineers that will assist with the recording and post production.

Step 4 – Post production

Once your audio is recorded, it has to undergo post production. Your vendor will have audio engineers and specialists working on the tracks clean them up and adapt them to your application.

Recording Studio Mixing Console

In this step, the following tasks will occur.

  • Editing the audio voice-over.
  • Cleaning up breathing, lip and other noises.
  • Matching source tempo.
  • Addressing variations in speaker volume, tone and ambient noise.
  • Highlighting the differences between source and target language tone.
  • Adapting the audio track to video or other applications.

These are just some of the essential tasks that take place in this step. There are numerous others tasks specific to your project that will take place as well. It would take another blog article to describe all of them.

Step 5 – QA Review

As the post production wraps up, your vendor should offer a quality assurance review prior to delivering the final product to you. If everything was done correctly in the first four steps, the QA review shouldn’t take too long.

It is also essential to have a QA review to catch anything that may have slipped outside the project specifications. Any mistakes caught in this step can be fixed prior to delivery.

Step 6 – Delivery

Now that QA has been wrapped up, your files are ready to be delivered. Your vendor will deliver the files in a format specified by you. Make sure you outline the file specifications in the project scope prior to starting a project. For example, your phone system IVR may have a different file format and compression requirements compared to an eLearning module.

Are you prepared to invest in quality translations?

If you are unable to integrate the audio provided by your vendor into your final product yourself, they should be able to assist. This may cost you a little more, but might be worth the investment to have it done right.

Conclusion

You’ve now learned about audio localization and how it can be applied in your organization. Having the knowledge of audio localization business applications and the process behind it will set you up for success.

More importantly, it will give you confidence to find a qualified vendor for your project. Feel free to use the information in this article to help you select a qualified audio localization vendor.

Are you ready to localize your audio content in other languages?

Share your experiences with audio localization in the comments.

The Ultimate Checklist for Your Business Localization Strategy

You are looking to sell your products in other countries, whether directly or through a distributor. Your products are popular in the United States and you believe there is a market for them overseas. In fact, there is data that confirms your beliefs. You’ve also heard the word Localization and maybe saw other companies “localizing” their content, but may not fully understand how it works.

In order for your business to succeed in other countries, you must have a documented localization strategy. What I will do is show you some of the things you can add to your strategy that will set you up for success.

Importance of Localization

Why localize your business content anyway? It seems like a costly endeavor. You might be thinking that you can just provide your content in English and succeed, right?

That thought process will not set you up for success, and I will prove it to you.

Here is how.

I recently went to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for vacation, a wonderful destination to relax and enjoy some sunshine on the beach. My proficiency in Spanish is mediocre at best, so communicating with the locals proved to be a challenge and at times a frustrating experience. Thankfully, many locals in Cabo San Lucas speak a bit of English since it’s such a popular destination for U.S. tourists.

I went to purchase some goods at a local convenience store, including sunscreen, trail mix and other items that I charged to a credit card. When I looked at the receipt I was shocked. The total shown on the receipt was $300. I only bought a few things, how can the total price be that much?

I later realized that the currency displayed was in Mexican Pesos, not U.S. Dollars, even though the $ was shown on the receipt. Understanding that put me at ease, although it wasn’t immediately clear whether the charge was in pesos or in dollars.

Luckily, I also know how to use sunscreen since the directions on the tube were not of any use to me, since they were in Spanish. I can only read some Spanish, but not enough to understand the specifics.

Sunscreen in Mexico

The trail mix that I bought contained a variety of nuts. The package included a nutrition information label, and possibly allergen information as well. Even though I was not allergic to any ingredient in that trail mix, it would have been nice to see allergen information in Spanish as well as in English, since it’s sold to consumers who speak both languages, and food allergies can be life-threatening.

Overall, this made me think of the importance of localization, because as a consumer I was going through a confusing customer experience.

Now, imagine someone buying your product in Mexico that was manufactured in the U.S. and you are expecting them to read the user manual in English. The customer experience will be equally as confusing, and if your product is not intuitive to use, you risk losing that customer for good. And who wants to lose customers? I am sure you don’t.

Checklist Items for Your Localization Strategy

As a business looking to expand overseas, what do you localize? Here are some essential items to include in your localization strategy.

1. Country

When you are looking to localize your content for a specific locale, there is no better example than the country you are localizing for. After all, the country is the location you are targeting. A good example of such localization is for the Spanish language. Spanish is the official language of Spain and is also spoken in many other countries around the world, including Mexico, Argentina and the United States.

Last thing you want to do is have your content translated into Spanish intended for audience from Spain and then distribute it in Mexico. You will create a poor customer experience for the consumers in Mexico, because the dialect of Spanish there is unique to the country and culture.

Select the country, then the language

Another example includes countries where multiple languages are spoken, such as Kazakhstan, where Kazakh and Russian are both official languages. You will have a group of consumers that only understand one or the other, not necessarily both.

Country

Localize content for specific languages and cultures in the target countries.

2. Language

Language translation is perhaps the most important aspect of your localization strategy. When you are expanding into a specific market, you must understand the language of your customers.

A good approach in this case would be to identify the official language or languages in the country you are looking to sell in. For example, in Germany the official language is German. With over 95% of the population speaking German, you are in pretty good shape translating your content into German for that specific market.

Language

Identify the language or languages of the target market.

3. Units

United States remains one of the few countries that don’t use the metric system for measuring units. In other words, when doing business in Mexico or other countries, have a unit conversion calculator handy.

Units to consider include length, area, volume, temperature, mass and weight. Think miles to kilometers and pounds to kilograms conversion.

One important consideration is to tie the units to the locale you are targeting and not to the language you are translating into. This is because different countries display units in different formats.

For example, if your content is translated for the Spanish-speaking population in Portland, Oregon, the translation will be in Spanish, but the units may be displayed according to U.S.-standards.

Units

Localize units based on the target market standards.

4. Date & Time

The way date and time are displayed differ from country to country.

For example, 5/12/15 (mm/dd/yy) is understood as May 12, 2015 in the United States. In many other countries, it would be understood as December 5, 2015 since the local date format is (dd/mm/yy).

Localized Date & Time

This is an important detail, especially for legal documents such as contracts and financial statements.

Date & Time

Format the date & time display for the target market.

5. Currency

When doing business in other countries, be ready for financial transactions using the local currency. If you are selling your products on the internet, display prices in the currency of the countries you are targeting.

If you are selling something to consumers in Mexico, and display prices in U.S. Dollars, you will cause confusion.

Currency

Quote prices in local currency.

6. Colors

Color psychology plays a huge role in determining how consumers perceive your brand. What may work well in the U.S. market, could have negative effects in China and other countries.

Localize colors to send a positive brand message

Source: The Logo Company

Be prepared have separate brand identities that are localized to specific cultures. This could mean going away from your corporate color scheme.

Colors

Research the psychology of colors for your target market and use the colors that will get your desired results.

7. Logo & Slogan

Your logo and slogan are closely related to the colors you use in your brand. Your logo and slogan may have to be adapted to the country you are doing business in. There are many companies that do this successfully, including Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola understands localization & global branding

Source: Globalmarketingculture.com

Again, you want to do this so you don’t offend your target audience and lose their business. When you do it right, you will only gain their trust and establish yourself as a reputable brand.

Logo & Slogan

Adapt logo & slogan to the country/culture you are doing business in.

8. Local Presence & Customer Service

One of the best things you can do for your business is having local representation in your target market. Preferably, the persons representing you are familiar with the local language, culture and customs. It will make customer interaction a lot easier.

Of course, local presence may not be an option for all businesses due to cost associated with it. Alternatively, you can provide customer service in your customers’ language, whether online or by telephone. If you do it by telephone, you can establish an agreement with a telephonic interpreting service provider or hire bilingual staff.

Local Presence & Customer Service

Research local presence & customer service options, including bilingual staff.

9. In-Country Review

A friend recently told me a story about a project his company completed for a multinational manufacturer headquartered in Germany, with production facilities in Poland. The project scope was to “fix” the translations another company completed.

The translations included training and human resources materials for factory workers in Poland. The problem was, that those materials were not well received by the factory workers and didn’t provide the desired results the manufacturer expected.

The reason was that the content was translated for a more sophisticated audience, such as business executives. When the factory workers read it, they found it offensive and felt like they were being talked down to. The translation was simply not the right fit for the target audience.

As part of the fix, my friend’s company hired a team of subject-matter experts in Poland to help localize the translated content in a way which was not offensive to the factory workers. This included in-country review and feedback by a few select workers. With the feedback in mind, changes were implemented in the translated content.

The result was a much more successful training and human resources program that yielded desired results.

In-Country Review

Consider in-country review for your translated content before making it available to your target audience.

Conclusion

You’ve now learned about several aspects of localization and what to include in your business localization strategy.

To position your business for success, you must communicate with your target audience in their language. If they can’t understand your message, they won’t buy from your company.

One way to do this is to translate and localize your business content. And now you have a checklist to help you with your business localization strategy.

Please share your localization story in the comments.

How to Instantly Improve Global Customer Experience

This week is the National Customer Service Week, so in its honor I’d like to show you how you can improve your customer experience strategy.

Customer service is an essential component of the overall global customer experience, from building awareness and attracting new customers to conversion, cultivation and advocacy.

There are three organizations I’m going to analyze and demonstrate how they implement language services in their customer experience process.

Three Organizations Delivering Excellent Customer Experience

What do Amazon.com, Clark Public Utilities and the Ritz-Carlton all have in common?

They were among 50 organizations recognized by J.D. Power for providing the highest level of customer service.

They are also quite different from one another. One is an eCommerce giant, the other a public utility and the third a world-class luxury hotel chain.

In the case of Amazon.com and the Ritz-Carlton, there is a lot of very good competition out there. Customers have a choice to buy goods & services from other online retailers and travelers can stay at other luxury hotels.

With Clark Public Utilities, the case is slightly different, because there’s no competition. You only have one place to buy power and water in that geographical location.

All three of these organizations found ways to deliver the best service to their customers through a variety of ways. More importantly, they found ways to improve the overall customer experience & satisfaction.

It’s relatively easy to capture one transaction from a customer. Your goal should be on figuring out on how to get that customer to come back for more.

If your customer has an excellent experience interacting with you, they will surely buy from you again.

Here’s how you can instantly improve your global customer experience strategy.

Communicate with Your Customers in Their Language

The days of English being the language of commerce are behind us. If you’re not creating brand awareness in Chinese, Spanish and Arabic, you are missing out on a huge business opportunity.

Besides English, those three languages and their respective dialects are the most common in the world. That’s a lot of purchasing power!

Whether you’re doing business in other countries or within the United States, adding the ability to communicate in your customers’ languages is a guaranteed way to improve customer experience & satisfaction.

Here is how Amazon.com, Clark Public Utilities (CPU) and the Ritz-Carlton do it.

Amazon.com Localized User Experience

Amazon.com is a global eCommerce giant that consistently ranks first in online sales.

An intuitive navigation structure combined with localized websites makes it easy for customers to find what they are looking for and buy it. And if they’re later not happy with the purchase, they can generally return it without any hassle.

Amazon.com Website Localization

Localized versions of Amazon.com

Roughly 33% of Amazon.com’s annual sales came from international markets.

That’s partly due to the customer experience they provide through localized websites. That number will most certainly increase as Amazon.com expands into other global markets.

Your take away: Consider translating and localizing your marketing communication materials and website content into other languages.

Clark Public Utilities Customer Support

Being a CPU customer myself, I was not surprised to see them ranked on the J.D. Power list for great customer service. CPU provides a great customer experience through their 24/7/365 call center.

Without having any competition where local customers can go buy similar utility services, CPU has a great business model with virtually no competition.

They don’t necessarily have to provide great customer service, but they do nonetheless.

When you call in, you’re greeted by a customer service representative that can assist you with your bill or any questions you may have. Let’s say you don’t speak English and have trouble communicating. The CPU representative will instantly bring an interpreter on the line who speaks your language to help facilitate the communication.

Many communities in the United States are as diverse as the world itself. In essence, that makes the global customer experience become more local.

Your take away: Consider implementing telephone interpreting services to support your call center operations.

The Ritz-Carlton Customer Service

The Ritz-Carlton operates luxury hotels and resorts in major cities across 26 countries. The customer service provided by the Ritz-Carlton is considered a benchmark for service industries worldwide.

Having stayed at the Ritz-Carlton hotels before, I can personally attest to the quality experience I’ve had. When you fly in and get to your hotel, all you want to do is check in and be on your way.

The entire interaction process from making reservations to checking in has to feel comfortable and seamless. It’s something that you experience consciously and subconsciously.

Regardless of your destination, the staff will make sure they communicate to you in your language in a courteous and welcoming matter.

Your take away: Consider the big picture of customer experience and make sure you’re not alienating persons who speak different languages.

Focus on the Customer

Implementing professional language translation & interpreting services may seem like an unnecessary cost, and it may very well be costly in the beginning.

However, when properly implemented, providing these services will turn into a profit center, while keeping your customers happy and coming back for more.

If you have other global customer experience ideas to share, I’d like to hear them.

Share your thoughts in the comments section.