Organizations use videos for a variety of purposes, including employee training, product instructions, and marketing. In recent years, video has proven to be a particularly effective means of engagement, leading to increased click-through rates in emails, increased web traffic and social media follows, and increased sales.
However, high-quality video production requires a significant investment of money and resources. Add in the factor of appealing to different cultural and regional markets around the world, and things can get complicated (and expensive) fast.
In many cases, the foreign-language information that needs to be conveyed through video is similar but needs some tweaking before being presented to a new regional audience. In these instances, it can be beneficial to localize video content rather than create something from scratch.
Here are three tips to successfully localize video content for different regions and cultures.
1. Speak Slowly to Accommodate Subtitles or New Audio
Video content will most likely need to be adapted for different languages. Most of the time, this is accomplished by dubbing with new audio or using a voiceover in the target language. It could also be done by keeping the audio in the original language and using subtitles in the target language at the bottom of the screen.
The target language may require more space than the original language due to a different alphabet or grammatical system. For example, the English phrase “hello” has two syllables, but the Korean word for “hello” (an-yeong-ha-se-yo) has five syllables. With dubbing or voiceover, this may lead to the new audio rushing through the script to match the visuals, while with subtitles, this may mean that the font would be too small, or too many letters would need to appear on the screen. Speaking slowly will fix this problem and give the target language time to “breathe.”
Similarly, in order for the viewer to be able to read and retain the most information when reading subtitles, a limited number of words should appear on the screen at one time. If the speaker in the video speaks too quickly, then too many words will appear on the screen or flash by too quickly for viewers to understand.
2. Change Infographics and Visuals As Needed
Sometimes you will need to include graphics, charts, diagrams, or other visuals in the video. For example, think about a weather forecast. Suppose you live in New York City and want to see if it is going to rain on Saturday. The weather map on the NYC weather channel would show the greater New York City area, not a map of San Francisco, Mexico City, or Toronto. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be much of a benefit for the viewer to watch the forecast in the first place. The same principle applies to video localization. All visuals should be relevant to the target audience and easily understood.
Examples of visuals that may need to be changed include maps or other geographic areas, images that represent people in the target population (Chinese people in China, etc.), and diagrams, products, or infographics that will need to be translated and labeled in the target language.
3. Design Content That Transfers Well Across Cultures, but also Prepare To Edit for cultural Nuance as Needed
Consider using techniques that are not specific to location or culture. Animations, animals, or other non-regional speakers hold more universal appeal than featuring speakers from a defined region and can mean that fewer video components will need to be localized.
In addition, some idioms or cultural cues may not translate directly and should be adapted for the new audience. For example, when Starbucks first introduced the “cafe latte” to Germany, the company did not realize that “latte” was not just a term for “milk”--it was German slang for male arousal. This faux pas led to embarrassment for both the company and its consumers.
Likewise, in some Asian cultures, seeing a name written in red means that death is wished upon that person—as a result, using a red font for a person’s name in a video can be construed as an insult. Consulting with a team of translation and localization experts who are well-versed in your target audience’s culture can help avoid these misunderstandings.
The specific localization techniques that should be used, as well as time and budget required, will depend on the specifications of the project, how many markets it needs to be localized for, and the type of content that needs to be localized.
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