What you need to know about audio localization

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.

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