How to translate a video into another language

Video translations

Video Translation

With the rise of social media platforms and streaming services, we are watching more video content than ever before. Its popularity shows no signs of waning so video translation is hugely important.

The pandemic has undoubtedly played a part in the growing importance of video, with 71% of people saying they watch more video content than they did a year ago. That’s partly down to many of us binge-watching our favourite boxsets and undertaking more online learning during lockdown.

But we’re also turning to video content to keep up with influencers and connect with brands. We’re visual creatures – humans find videos more memorable and engaging than other forms of content. It comes as no surprise, then, that 85% of businesses use video as a marketing tool, with 92% of marketers citing video as an important part of their marketing strategy.

video filming

So, what happens when you want to reach a wider audience and expand your business abroad? How do you engage with potential customers who don’t speak your language? Let’s take a look at the options for getting your videos translated into other languages.

What is video translation?

Put simply, video translation refers to making your video content accessible to speakers of other languages. In this post, we show you how to translate your videos and help you select the most appropriate approach according to your needs and budget.

How can videos be translated into another language?

There are four main approaches to translating videos: subtitling, transcription, video editing and voiceover. The first three focus on text, while the last one focuses on audio.

Subtitling

Subtitles are a popular and cost-effective way to localize video content. Subtitles are boxes of text, typically with one or two lines, displayed at the bottom of the screen, which reflect the dialogue in a video.

video subtitling

In the UK, people tend to use the terms “captions” and “subtitles” interchangeably, but in the world of media accessibility, a distinction is made between the two terms. Captions are in the same language as the audio and are designed for viewers who cannot hear the audio.

Subtitles are for viewers who can hear the audio but do not understand the language spoken. Our “Why you should add captions to your video” post tells you more about why adding same-language captions to your video can help boost your business.

Adding subtitles is a good option for making sure that your video is understood by speakers of other languages.

Automated Captions

If your budget is more boxroom than box office, YouTube allows you to create your own captions for free. You can then use YouTube’s Auto-translate feature. It’s far from perfect, but international viewers will get the gist of your message. If you haven’t yet created your video, keep in mind that auto-generated captions and subtitles tend to be better when there is little background noise and speakers talk slowly and clearly.

You might find that the DIY option of creating your own captions isn’t practical, especially if you have a lot of video content. And you’d be right to think that YouTube’s Auto-translate feature simply won’t cut it if you want your message to resonate with an international audience. So, what then?

Professional Subtitling

If you really want to impress your viewers, it’s worth taking the time to find a professional provider – read our Why Professional Translation post to find out why. This becomes all the more important when it comes to subtitles. With a subtitling professional, you won’t get just a word-for-word translation – they will be taking into consideration factors such as reading speeds, line breaks and character limits to create subtitles that encapsulate the meaning – without taking the spotlight away from your video.

While the huge growth in video streaming services has resulted in a shortage of talented subtitlers, many computer-assisted translation tools now offer support for translating subtitle file formats such as SRT. This has allowed traditional translation service providers to diversify and adapt to their clients’ evolving requirements.

YouTube Analytics

If you have a limited budget, you would do well to focus on your key markets. Take a look at the information available in YouTube Analytics. The Audience tab shows you who’s watching and where. The Top geographies section shows your audience by country, based on IP addresses. If most of your viewers are in South America, consider adding Spanish subtitles to your video. If your video isn’t getting many views in Italy, then perhaps adding Italian subtitles to your video won’t be a priority for you.

Once your provider has returned their professionally crafted captions and subtitles, you can then upload them to platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo and enable your viewers to turn captions on or off with a simple click of the Cc button. Cc stands for “closed captions” – captions that can be turned on and off.

YouTube control bar

What about if you want to make captions permanently part of the video, without having to use the Cc button to turn captions on or off?

This process is known as “burning in”. You might also hear this being referred to as “open captions”. This is a good option if you want to publish your video on social media platforms. You can also customise the appearance of burnt-in subtitles so that your video reflects your corporate branding. Ask your provider if they offer this service, too.

Transcription

Along with adding captions or subtitles to your video, you may wish to provide a transcript. This is a popular option for online course providers. A transcript is a verbatim representation of what is being said and may or may not be timecoded.

In the example of online course providers, learners appreciate having this extra resource to download and study again long after they have watched the video, plus it’s far quicker to find relevant information in text format.

While you’re at it, why not translate your transcript so that you make your training content more accessible to speakers of other languages? It’s a nice touch that will leave a lasting impression on learners.

Video editing

If your video contains unspoken on-screen text – think speaker names and job titles or statistics – then you could include this text as part of your subtitle track. However, things quickly start to get cluttered if there is dialogue going on at the same time – which do you prioritise?

video editing

Specialist foreign-language video editing teams can help with localizing your video to include translations of any on-screen text with tools such as Adobe Premiere Pro or After Effects.

If your video contains lots of on-screen text or you want to give international viewers a video that truly speaks to them, you might want to consider changing the audio language in your video.

How to change audio language in a YouTube video?

The spoken word can make a huge impact on listeners. You’ve probably chosen your voice artist for precisely this reason. But the dulcet tones of your professional voice artist are unlikely to engage speakers of other languages in quite the same way. You might want to consider changing the audio language in your YouTube videos. But how?

Voiceover

At least for the moment, YouTube doesn’t have a solution for changing the audio language of a video that you didn’t upload, so there’s no quick-and-dirty audio equivalent to YouTube’s Auto-translate captions feature.

If you want your video to resonate with speakers of other languages, consider voiceover. The options here range from inexpensive text-to-speech technology to movie actor quality – and price tag.

video voiceover

Text-to-speech technology is improving all the time, so it’s worth checking out review sites such as TechRadar to find out which providers go beyond stilted, flat speech to offer lifelike voices in multiple languages. This option is easy on your pocket and could be a good fit for a video in which no speakers are present on screen. You’ll also need a little bit of video editing know-how to replace the original audio track with the foreign-language audio.

If you’re looking for a voice that is more than just lifelike and you have a video that features on-screen contributors, then professional voice artists are the way to go. With the right brief, a good voice actor will be able to deliver a compelling message to viewers in your target market.

Dubbing

They will also be able to offer dubbing – and this is what you will often see in feature films, animations and video games. There are two dubbing methods to choose from: phrase-syncing and lip-syncing. Phrase-syncing matches the start and end of the contributor’s speech, though it is not matched to lip movements. Lip-syncing involves matching the on-screen contributor’s mouth movements as closely as possible.

There’s usually a specialist team behind both forms of dubbing, including translators, dialogue writers, voice artists and sound engineers. You might also be looking at usage fees if you intend to use the voice recording in the public domain. If you’re after a polished result, remember that what appears to be an eye-watering quote from a professional voiceover agency covers a lot of highly specialised behind-the-scenes work.

How to translate videos into English?

Everything you’ve learned so far in this blog also applies for translation into English. No matter whether you’re a Korean electronics manufacturer or a German automotive parts supplier looking to make a splash on the international market, you can have your video content translated into English by professionals using one of the approaches described above.

If you’re an English speaker exploring online and come across a foreign-language video on YouTube and you’re looking for free English subtitles to get the gist of what’s being said, these tips are for you:

Step one

Look for the Cc button on the menu. Not all YouTube videos have this. If you see a Cc button, then you’re in luck. Click on it to activate the captions.

Step two

Click on the Settings icon next to it. Here you can adjust the playback speed, change the video resolution and activate subtitles.

Step three

Click on Subtitles/CC. You’ll then have the option to Auto-translate into various languages.

Step four

Select English. You won’t get 100% accuracy, but you should be able to follow along. You can also customise the appearance of your subtitles by clicking on Options.

If you’re short on time and don’t want to watch the entire video, you can view a transcript in the original language of the video by clicking on the button with three dots. You can then simply copy and paste the transcript into an online machine translation engine.

How to use online video language converters?

With the rise of AI and continual improvements in machine translation, voice recognition, speech-to-text and text-to-speech technologies, there are all sorts of video translator apps out there.

Video AI

Some harness AI to generate video subtitles automatically, while others offer live translation and transcription for meetings, conferences and events. These technologies go a long way to making the world a more inclusive place, though their accuracy tends to drop when you add fast speakers or overlapping speech into the mix.

Sometimes, only a finely tuned human ear will be able to make out what is actually being said.

Want to know more?

So, there you have it. There are many factors to consider when it comes to translating your videos. If making your video content accessible to a global audience in any language all seems a bit complex, why not get in touch with us? Planet Languages can help you find the best solution for your needs and budget. We work with an extensive network of experienced subtitling and transcription professionals and voice talent in 80 different languages.

About the author

Bethan Thomas DipTrans MCIL graduated with a First Class Honours degree in German, Spanish and Translation & Interpreting Studies from the University of Salford. After working in the translation industry in Switzerland and Spain, Bethan joined Planet Languages in April 2004. During her time at Planet Languages she developed an interest in media accessibility and audiovisual translation. She has provided subtitling services to various television channels in the UK since 2015 and regularly applies her expertise to multilingual subtitling and voiceover projects at Planet Languages.

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