ProComm Blog

Spanish Voice Overs and Translation: Steps to Success (Part 1)

As the Hispanic demographic has grown in the United States, the broadcast advertising industry has taken notice, and more companies are becoming involved in Spanish-language voice overs.

As with English-language advertising and corporate communication, there are many different levels of production and quality control that you may encounter on the way to finishing your Spanish voice over project. Considering a few extra factors before getting into Spanish-language audio production can make the process much more streamlined and economical.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will review some of the basics that will help with achieving the final goal – translating your message for your audience.

This first installment will focus on two main aspects of doing a Spanish voice over – The importance of using a native speaker, and the ‘flavor’ of Spanish you might use for your project.

When In Rome

If you want your voice over to be authentic, it is best to go to the source and use a bilingual translator/voice talent who grew up in the Hispanic culture. There are many ways to express one’s self, and knowing the idioms, customs and native expressions of a culture can make a big difference in relaying your message in a smooth and effective manner.

A translator or voice talent who was born and nurtured (or possibly just immersed for many years) in a culture as they learned their language skills will have an unconscious advantage over a non-native speaker.  They will have more phrases to draw from in their vast vocabulary and be better at picking the right word, phrase or attitude depending on the message, tone or situation. A native speaker will have a much better grasp on the basics of the language as well as the nuances that will really help drive your message home.

Take a look at this English translation…

Poor Spanish voice over translationAs the example above illustrates, a poor translation can be good for laughs, but not great for conveying information in a useful manner. Clearly those instructions were not translated by a native English speaker.

¿ Comprende? Who Will Understand My Spanish Script?

While it is true that there are many different dialects of Spanish worldwide, that is not a unique situation. The same occurs in English. As someone from the Midwest may say, “You guys take care” with a slightly staccato delivery, a southerner may say, with an elongated drawl, “Y’all take care”…someone listening to both –though they sound fairly different – will understand both speakers.

In applying this principal to el Español, there is a Standard Spanish (also called Neutral Spanish) that is understood by all – without regional dialects or specialized words and phrases associated with a specific region. Standard Spanish is typically the way to write a Spanish voice over script, unless you are targeting a very specific niche audience – then by all means, getting a translation in that style and a voice over with that dialect may be beneficial – or at least it would not detract from the message.

But for a message with a broader audience – whether it be an east coast resident of Cuban descent or a west coast resident of Mexican or Chilean descent –  Standard Spanish is the way to go. Heck, even an Anglo student who has studied a few years of Spanish should be able to understand the basic message.

So when targeting a wide demographic, leave your clipped S’es, swallowed D’s and other regionalisms out of the equation and stick to Standard Spanish. A good Spanish voice talent & translator should already understand all of these things and be able to tweak them as needed.

By starting with these two basic guidelines in translating & voicing in Spanish, you can save yourself some unforeseen headaches when it comes time to record, mix and create your masterpiece. It is all pretty straightforward, though possibly some new things to think about, if you are not yet accustomed to foreign language audio production.

So soak up this info…and tune in during the next week or so, when we explore more deeply the importance of using Native speakers and bilingual professionals for your recording projects…and taking timings into consideration when branching out into foreign language voice overs.

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