Sunday, December 1, 2013

Conducting a Multilingual Market Research

The world has evolved over the years and with each passing year we have been blessed with tools which are making our lives that little bit easier. When the future was talked about in the 80’s and the 90’s flying cars was often envisaged by the sheer mention of the 2010 and beyond.
Although we do not have our cars floating in the air just yet the world has evolved a lot over the last few years – and all for the better I would say. The world is a lot more educated than it ever has been and the biggest influence of this trend is down to the Internet.
The Internet is the speedway for information and data is always passing through it to all corners of the globe we live in. Tim May has been quoted as saying “National borders aren’t even speed bumps on the information superhighway.” The world is connected by the Internet which has made tools like the fax machine absolutely obsolete. The speed in which people converse with one another is at an instant and with the odd censorship’s administered by various governments the Internet still is the bedrock for people to have their individual voices aired.
The Emergence of the Internet
Businesses have traditionally run by being reliant on a customer base that is within reach in terms of geographical locality. Brick and mortar businesses have always been setting up shop near the presence of customers or where there is a hub of activity, i.e. shopping centres or markets.
When the internet was introduced in the 90’s it was at first only consumed by the education institutions and the large business corporation. However, as hardware prices got lower at the close of the 90’s and the cost of an internet connection being more affordable the consumption of the Internet rapidly increased.
The Internet was further enhanced as a result of the evolution of businesses. When more and more businesses had success on the Internet it led to social networking sites being setup which formed as the catalyst for more people becoming aware of the Internet and having a desire to have an Internet connection simply just to use these online services, for example MySpace.
Now that they were on Facebook and had an internet connection they began to use the Internet for other things as well which included shopping online.
Using the Internet for International Growth
The lure of the internet is too much for anyone to ignore and is generally the ideal way for small businesses or start-up businesses to get a foothold in more countries than just the country they reside in.
However before beginning to trade all over the world the starting point should be to conduct market research. Expensive, I hear you say. Well market research in foreign countries does not actually mean you have to spend millions with an international marketing company who does the research for you.
First of all create a list of 15 keywords which best describe your product so people in your country can find your website in UK. A simple spread sheet will serve well in this instance which you can use to note all the various sections of your marketing strategy.
Once you have the keywords then make a list of all the countries you think your product can be popular in. Now is the time to go into the next step of the research, by using a language translator tool like Google Translate. The tool can be used to translate all the keywords into the language of the first country you are going to look in.
After all the keywords are translated then it is the stage to use the Google Keyword tool. The Google Keyword tool can be used to evaluate, by selecting the specific country and the language which will give a search volume indication as to how many people in that country are typing in terms which are related to your product. Make a note of these numbers and then type them in the respective Google search engines specific to the countries. This will help a user to evaluate the competition and the amount of opportunity there is for a specific product.
Repeat this process for as many countries as possible and you will generally get an idea of which country is best to invest in to market a certain product. Market research can quickly be done but you can further cement your opinions by contacting the locals in those countries but the Internet will always be the most cost effective way to conduct business, especially as the boundaries are squashed as low as they currently are.
Author: Rehan keenly

Monday, December 17, 2012

5 Tips To Successfully Launch Your Website In A Foreign Market

Launching your website or promoting an existing one in a new market can be very easy… if you know how to do so and if you have the resources for it!

Here are 5 easy steps to consider prior to launching your website into a new market. It is extremely important to get it right from the beginning as having a website which is country/culture tailor-made will naturally help your ranking and SEO work will help you push your website further higher.

  1. Search: Legal issues in the countries you are targeting.
  2. Understand: Keyword Research conducted by native speakers.
  3. Assess: Know your competitors.
  4. Convert: Turn your website into a local website.
  5. Adapt: Search engine opportunities.
1. Search: Legal issues in the countries you are targeting

It is extremely important to check this one first as it can save you a lot of money and troubles. Often it can be boiled down to two different cases;
  1. The country’s law does not accept your product/service/website.
  2. The country you are targeting is not “Internet friendly” and opportunities there are extremely limited or, at best, challenging to overcome.
No need to have a gambling website in order to be banned from the Internet in some countries. It can be more complicated than it appears. First of all, a product or a service can be disapproved in a state and perfectly allowed in another. Some services can be allowed but strictly controlled by a government. Some status can be very unclear: a product can be allowed by EU law, for example, but still forbidden on the country-level.

Some countries can also be very challenging when it comes to accepting foreign businesses in general, especially if they don’t have a physical office in the targeted country. It is the case for China, for example.

Finally, as a general note, some countries are not Internet friendly and promoting your website becomes utterly challenging or nearly impossible. RWB published the Internet Enemies Report 2012 where the list of countries can be found.

The World's Internet Enemies. Global Map

In short, it is always better to double check in order to avoid expenses and to focus on unrealistic goals.

2. Understand: Keyword research conducted by native speakers

Conducting market research has become fairly straightforward with the different Keyword Research tools available these days. It might not give you a deep insight of the market you are targeting, but it will surely point to the right direction.

First of all, it is important to define who your target audience is – sex, age, profession, interests etc. Once done, you will be able to define which search engine(s), social networking sites and other digital platforms you want to target and then choose the right keywords you need to consider.

As a general tip, I would advise to define categories prior to conducting the keyword research but also not to pre-expect any results and try to keep your mind as open as you can as you might find that the audience you are currently targeting is behaving/searching differently than what you initially thought.

Secondly, forget direct translation! It will only give you an idea of a topic priority within your own language boundaries. By doing a keyword research directly in the target language for a target country, most popular terms and ideas should be found. Last but not least, ask a native speaker to conduct the keyword research. Native speakers not only can speak the language but also carry with them the culture they grew up in, conceptions and traditions. They will naturally include keywords which carry the right meaning and concept.

Finally, it becomes more and more important to consider mobile platforms and therefore to collect data for those platforms. Search behaviour can vary dramatically from desktop to mobile. Different keywords can/should therefore be targeted for the two different platforms.

3. Assess: Know your online competitors

You might have an idea of who your direct competitors are, but it is highly likely that these will vary substantially across markets. Knowing your competitors and keeping this list updated will give you a good idea of what strategy you need to consider and what goals are achievable or not. By knowing exactly who you are going to compete against gives you a better understanding of what steps you need to take and forces you to understand how those competitors are currently achieving their position. This step is extremely important, especially when you want to define a link building strategy.

4. Convert: Turn your website into a local website

It is utterly important that your website means something to the audience you are targeting. Please bear in mind that interests may, again, differ dramatically from country to another – even for target demographic segments where age, gender, affluence etc. are similar.
So by doing a direct translation of a website you might find that even if that website is highly popular in your own country, it might not get as much traction in the other country you are targeting. In this case, the primary reason will often be a lack of adaptation and local trust anchors.

Trust anchors are extremely important. At one glance, it is really easy for an Internet user to decide whether they can trust your website or not. It could be through flags, colour schemes, payment facilities and symbols. This step is absolutely essential if an action is to be expected from the user, such as registration/signup or payment.

5. Adapt: Search engine opportunities

Prior to defining your strategy, an easy way to ensure an effective presence in search engines is to check what kind of features different search engines offer. A good example is Naver; you can see that the interface of South Korea’s most popular search engine is really different from any other search engine and has been tailored to fit the needs of Korean users. It displays features which are very popular amongst Korean users and even Google decided to follow more or less the same layout for its platform in an acknowledgement that its traditional approach simply wouldn’t cut it.

Google versus Naver comparison search engine results

It might become a bit trickier on Google when you target different countries, but native speakers can help you define what the most important features are from their point of view. After identifying what features targeted Internet users are using the most, you will be able to put a strategy together and aim for what your targeted audience is actually looking for.

Wrapping it up

Successfully launching your website in various markets is possible as long as you are able to be flexible in terms of content and to focus more on what the internet user wants than on what you would like them to see. Expanding online into a new market is essentially not that difficult, however succeeding is.

Anyone can convey a message, but conveying the right message often takes time and effort. Remember that local players are already doing most of these things by default, and it will almost always be those guys you will have to compete against.

Author: Benjamin Lefebvre

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cost Saving Tips on Translation Costs

Think outsourcing your e-commerce website’s translation and localization project is too cost prohibitive? Think again. Here are some scenarios in which a translation and localization partner can actually present opportunities for cost savings.

How to save $100 on language-related spending

For the company that wants to offer a few English-language documents in, for example, Spanish, it can be tempting to turn to a bilingual employee for help. However, relying on your Spanish-speaking accountant to translate your content has hidden costs. While a professional translator might charge $200 and finish the project in 30 minutes, an inexperienced individual might need three hours to do the same amount of work, creating a lost productivity cost.

How to save $1,000 on language-related spending

Outsource your multilingual typesetting services rather than leaning on your internal designers. Asian and other character languages can be difficult to work with, but it’s just as important to employ professional typesetting services for French, German, Spanish, and other languages, which carry their own challenges, including font considerations, line and word breaks, text expansion, accent marks and umlauts, and dropped text. A typesetting project that costs $800 to outsource would likely require five to 10 hours of internal typesetter time, including the requirement to purchase the necessary fonts.

How to save $10,000 on language-related spending

If you’re spending $100k or more annually on translation, find one or two providers that can handle all your projects, and then leverage vendor loyalty to get a better price. Even if you only have a couple of big translation jobs per year, a volume-negotiated savings of 1 cent per word adds up fast.

How to save $100,000 on language-related spending

If your multinational business is spending up to $500,000 on translation, cut costs with translation management technologies such as project and workflow management platforms, translation memory (TM) tools, terminology management glossaries, file exchange portals, and collaborative solutions for reviews and approvals.
While TM tools alone have the potential to save your organization nearly $100,000 in hard costs alone, workflow management systems for project submission, pre-flighting, tracking, review, and delivery drive soft-cost savings by reducing internal project management burdens.

How to save $1 million on language-related spending

If your company has a multi-million-dollar annual translation budget, maximize savings by identifying and centralizing translation services to a single or small group of reliable providers. Once you consolidate, negotiate for better per-word costs, turnaround times and rush premiums. Finally, innovate with server-based translation memory and workflow improvements. A company with a $5 million translation budget can likely cut:
  • $80,000 by consolidating vendors
  • $175,000 by negotiating better per-word rates
  • $765,000 by innovating with translation technology
While every translation and localization budget differs, almost any internationally focused business can reduce its translation costs, improve efficiency and consistency in the short term, and maximize translation spending in the long term by working with a language translation service provider. With consolidation, negotiation, and innovation, businesses can capture significant savings.

Source: Business2community
Author: Liz Elting 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What is the most difficult language to learn - and why?

There are numerous rankings of “difficult” (and “easy”) languages to learn (note that we are talking about second-language learning here, not acquiring one’s native tongue). Some such rankings are unofficial, like the ranking or the ranking at; others are official, for example the classification by DLI based on the number of hours needed to achieve a certain level.

The top spot in all these ranking is given to Chinese: lists Mandarin and Cantonese separately, as #1 and #2; lists Chinese at the top spot and the DLI classification includes un-specified “Chinese” in the most difficult group IV, together with Arabic, Japanese and Korean. But what are the main perceived difficulties in learning Chinese (whether Mandarin, Cantonese or another Chinese variety)? In addition to the general themes of an unfamiliar writing system and dialectal variation (expected of a language with about a billion speakers, like Mandarin, or even “smaller” Chinese languages: Cantonese with 52 million speakers; Shanghainese with over 77 million speakers; Taiwanese with over 25 million speakers), Chinese is difficult to learn because of the “exotic” sounds it has and especially its tone system. There are four tones in Mandarin and six tones in Cantonese.

What about learning other East Asian languages, like Japanese or Korean? These too are typically listed at the top of the difficulty ranking. Among the most difficult aspects of Japanese (in addition to its three-part writing system, including kanji, hiragana and katakana) are “an agglutinative vocabulary” and “rigid hierarchical structure of honorifics inextricably tied to Japanese society and culture”. I agree that the rich system of honorifics — markers of esteem or respect when used in addressing or referring to a person — can be difficult to learn because of the cultural knowledge that one needs in order to be able to use these grammatical forms correctly. You will run into this difficulty if you attempt to learn Japanese, Korean or Thai.
But I am not quite sure what the problem is supposed to be about the “agglutinative vocabulary”. In fact, the term “agglutinative” typically refers not to vocabulary but to the morphological system of a language. In an agglutinative language, each affix attached to the root typically expresses one grammatical property, such as gender, number or case, but not all three at once (as would be the case in a fusional language; see below). Multiple affixes can be attached to the root, and when it happens, affixes do not have much effect on each other’s pronunciation or meaning. Other examples of languages that are agglutinative and are thus said to be difficult to learn include Basque, Korean and Hungarian.

Some, though not all, agglutinative languages also have rich systems of case markers, that are used not only to mark such grammatical functions as the subject, object, indirect object, possessor, etc. but also to indicate spatial relations. While some “difficulty rankings” will scare you with statements like “Basque’s complexities … lay in its 24 cases” or “anyone hoping to pick up Hungarian must also completely conquer its whopping 35 cases”, some of these statements overexagerate. The consensus among linguists is that Basque has only 12 cases and Hungarian has only 21 cases. Two of Hungarian’s cousins — Finnish and Estonian — have somewhat “poorer” cases systems (14 cases in Estonian, 15 cases in Finnish), while others have even richer case systems: for example, certain dialects of Komi have up to 27 cases. By the record-holder in terms of the number of cases is a Dagestanian language Tabasaran with its 46 cases!

While it may appear daunting to learn so many cases, in Finno-Ugric languages, such as Finnish or Hungarian, the form of the case morpheme is the same regardless of what noun it attaches to. The situation is quite different in Slavic languages like Russian or Polish, which have fewer cases (for instance, Russian has “mere” six cases), but the forms of the case morphemes differ depending on what noun you attach the case morpheme to (these different types of nouns are known as “declension patterns”, and they are closely related to but not exactly the same as “genders”). For example, the dative (singular) in Russian is -e if it attaches to knig- ‘book’, -u if it attaches to stol- ‘table’ or -i if it attaches to mater- ‘mother’. Thus, instead of learning one set of 15 case affixes in Finnish, for Russian you need to learn three sets of six (i.e., 18) case affixes, as well as to know which affixes to attach to which nouns. Besides, to master the Russian case system you will need to learn the various exceptions, which too are more common in fusional languages like Russian than in agglutinative languages like Finnish. My conclusion: agglutinative languages may be somewhat easier to learn (at least, in terms of the memory load) than fusional languages; the only truly scary thing about agglutinative languages is the term itself!

And what of Arabic? One of chief reasons it lands in one of the top spots in the “difficulty ranking” is the script, which uses different shapes of letters word-initially, -medially and -finally, but has no letters to record vowels. Another difficulty often listed is the dialectal problem; however, most students of Arabic as a foreign language will be learning Modern Standard Arabic rather than one of the 40 or so colloquial varieties, spoken from Morocco to Egypt, from Syria to Iraq and the Persian/Arabic Gulf. Grammatical difficulties one should be prepared to face include the unfamiliar Verb-Subject-Object order (vs. the English Subject-Verb-Object order), dual number (in addition to the familiar singular and plural), three cases and two genders (which, all in all, should be much easier to learn than the Hungarian or Russian case+gender systems) and multiple verbal forms. A really unusual phenomenon that Arabic shares with Hebrew is its non-concatenative morphology. In a non-concatenative language, unlike in more familiar languages such as English, Spanish or Russian, grammatical meaning -– for example, plural number on nouns or past tense on verbs -– is expressed not through adding a suffix to the nominal or verbal root/stem, but through changing the vowels in the stem. Typically, the consonants are part of the noun or verb root, while vowels -– and where they are placed in relation to the consonants of the root -– constitute the “template” (hence, non-concatenative morphology is also known as “root-and-template morphology”).

Finally, one other language that I found in one of those lists of “difficult to learn languages” — to my great surprise — was Icelandic. It is certainly true that “many Icelandic phonemes don’t have exact English equivalents” — remember the difficulties that many American journalists had with that Eyjafjallajökull volcano?! Other perceived difficulties of Icelandic include “its archaic vocabulary” and “complex grammar”. Really? It is true that Icelandic is one of the most conservative North Germanic (i.e., Scandinavian) languages that has kept the old noun declension and verb conjugations, but it is undoubtedly much closer to English and much more similar to it than, say, Chinese, Arabic or Hungarian, which makes it rather easier for an English speaker to learn.

Source: Languages of the World
Author: Asya Pereltsvaig

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Skills To Become a Freelance Translator

Skills To Become a Freelance Translator  Advice & TipsLanguage: Command over the 'source' language as well as the 'destination' language is essential to a translator. Knowledge of grammar and syntax is also essential. Idioms and phrases in one language often do not have a direct parallel in another language. The translator therefore requires sufficient knowledge to be able to use substitute phrases that will still convey the meaning and intent of the original work.

Technical Knowledge: This is essential for domain or technical literature. Often technical terms in one language do not have an equivalent in another language. Most notable in this area are computer terms that are in English or legal terms that appear in Latin. Domain knowledge will help the translator to explain a concept or term in a precise manner without compromising on its meaning.

To Become a Successful Freelance Translator

Practical/Work experience in a translation firm will give you valuable experience in the kind of work that may come your way. In a translation firm, your work is likely to be supervised by an experienced translator who will be responsible for any minor mistakes you may make. This will also give you confidence in your ability.

Working for a professional translation firm will also help you gauge your level of expertise against what is in demand. The experience will give you insight into the kind of jobs that are available (the remuneration offered for a professional job, the time frames demanded, the level of acceptable quality).

It will also help you establish a reputation in the translation business and help you establish contacts among those who require translations. Working for a short while as a volunteer trainee or an intern may also be a viable option in case you are not able to get a paid 'traineeship'. Just look at it as an extension of your translation course.

Sign a Part-Time Contract: Once you have gained a little practical translation experience, you may want to sign a part-time contract. A number of translation agencies prefer this route, as they do not have a guaranteed regular volume of translation work that comes in. Working on a part-time basis also gives you a minimum income and at the same time also leaves you free to search for your own translation contracts that you do on your own terms.

Identify Translation Agencies: These agencies will give you 'quality' translations to do and will also be regular about paying you and honoring your other employment terms. Most translation agencies receive translation assignments for different languages. Therefore, they prefer to pay a retainer to different translators with different language and technical skills so that the are able to meet the requirements of their customers.
Surf the Net: The Internet has shrunk the size of the world leveled the playing field. Identify multinational firms that are likely to have translation requirements for which you have the requisite skills and experience.

Try and approach them directly on the Internet, as the translation fee you earn as a direct translator will be much higher than what you would earn on retainer or through a translation firm. However, be sure to deal only with companies with a sound reputation, or you could easily end up not receiving payment at all. Before you take on the assignment, try and sign a legally enforceable agreement with them so that your interests are safeguarded.

A career as a translator is not easy to establish, but once established it is an ideal career to use for freelance work. Time spent on an internship and time spent building up your reputation and your clientele will pay off in the long run.

Source: Become a
Author: Tony Jacowski

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Top 7 Questions Clients Ask While Hiring A Translator

  1. What are the languages you work with?
  2. How fast can you complete a translation project?
  3. How much do you charge for a translation work?
  4. Can you translate legal and technical documents?
  5. Can you provide a certified translation?
  6. Can you assure the contents of my documents will remain confidential and private?
  7. Do you use any translation software? Is it reliable?
These answers can be very helpful when applying for a translation job.

1. What are the languages you work with?

Translators around the world will usually be translating the most common and usual languages paired with English. For a more specific and accurate translation result, look for the translators who are actually specialized in their language pairs according to their geographic location. Keep in mind that there is a considerable variation on the same language spoken between two different countries.

2. How fast can a translation job be done?

This should be determined by the subject matter to be translated, language, the length and complexity of a document, and the capability of a translator to provide a fast job without compromising its integrity. A translator will usually take about 3 to 4 days to translate between 10 - 20 pages into any of the most common languages. A professional translator, will also do his best to accommodate a client’s wish of a fast translation delivery according to both; the client and the translator’s schedule.

3. How much do you charge for a translation work?

Translation works is commonly charged by word counting, number of pages to be translated, or even have a flat rate for small translation projects. If a determined translation job requires special attention or additional research, these charges will also be included in the amount of time used to complete the translation.

4. Can you translate legal and technical documents?

Only officially authorized translators have the right of performing legal documents translation and bureaucratic related documents such as scholarly writings and other regulations. A legal or technical translator must be familiar with the language and functions of the U.S. judicial system, as well as other countries' legal systems, so make sure you’re hiring a governmental recognized professional translator to provide such job.

5. Can you provide a certified translation?

Most professional and certified translators can provide a qualified translation. They will also be able to provide their professional information at the bottom of the document and you will need to get it notarized in order to validate its contents. Legal and technical translations can only be done by a legally recognized translator.

6. Can you assure the contents of my documents will remain confidential and private?

Translator’s privacy and client’s confidentiality comes first. They should make the effort to keep all documents and personal information from being disclosed to a third party. A privacy agreement will demonstrate to the client a complete respect and professionalism in keeping the privacy and discretion of any document available to the public, unless otherwise advised.

7. Do you use any translation software? Is it reliable?

Translators for the most part are not affectionate of post-editing machine translation. It can make their work even harder and time consuming than translating directly from an original text. It could also be considered partially reliable. It’s always best if a professional translator that uses this method combines his human translation to the process for a more accurate result.

Source: Become a
Author: Vanessa Greenway,
CTP Associate

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Subtitling and Dubbing Dialogues for Foreign Films

Subtitling and dubbing dialogue are vital skills. Get them wrong and you could mangle a classic scene.

Not even a dub could save The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo from falling prey to one of Hollywood's raids on foreign language films. Just as Insomnia, The Ring and even True Lies were respun with English-speaking actors, so the Swedish-language film version of Stieg Larsson's novel is being repackaged for a worldwide audience as movie-makers hope to better the US gross of $10.1m and the paltry £1.5m it made in the UK.

The English-language remake has already caused something of a stir, with fans believing Neils Arden Oplev's original to be a definitive screen adaptation. They say giving English speakers the option of watching with either subtitles or dubbing has made the film accessible enough.

Certainly dubbing is rather unusual. UK and US audiences tend to be shown foreign films with subtitles and dubbing is generally left for movies and television series aimed at children. The reason being that, as audiences grow older, they prefer to hear a film's original language which gives a sense of place and adds to the atmosphere of a film.

There have been notable exceptions – spaghetti Westerns had international casts that would act in their own languages so studios would dub Italian voices into English and vice versa – but even when English-language dubbing is available, such as with the Mandarin film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, movies tend to be subtitled when shown in cinemas or broadcast on television in the UK.

"There is clearly an established market for subtitled foreign-language films, and research by theatrical distributors has concluded that the audience responds better to films in their original language," says Sue Deeks, head of programme acquisition at the BBC, who has brought foreign-language hits such as The Killing and Spiral to UK audiences.

"If a film is released commercially in a dubbed format we would certainly consider transmitting it in that version, but in our experience, while dubbing has undoubtedly improved over the years, audiences still prefer to experience the authentic voice and language of the actors and the real flavour of the culture or country they are from."

Although the number of dubbed foreign productions in the UK is low, the reverse is the case in some other countries. In Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, Hungary, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Slovakia, China, Iran, Russian-speaking countries and Francophones in Quebec, dubbing is so commonplace that some voice artists are even assigned to specific actors.

Dominique Paturel has replaced Michael Caine's London twang with French in 40 of his films, starting with The Ipcress File in 1965, and he is well-known in his own right.

Some want greater recognition. German voice artist Marcus Off, who regularly dubs actors such as Ralph Fiennes, Sean Penn and Michael Sheen, felt so under-appreciated in his work dubbing Johnny Depp in the German release of Pirates of the Caribbean that he sued Disney. Off wanted €180,000 – 10 times what he was paid for the work, claiming that his voice had been key to the film's success in Germany.

"Often the production companies retain the same voice talent to ensure continuity unless the talent is sick or demands more remuneration," says voice actor Mohd Sheikh, who works for the dubbing company Media Movers. "Dubbing is a tricky art. Emoting with more focus on matching the lips can be an arduous task."

The decision over whether to dub or subtitle sometimes goes beyond creative preferences. Foreign languages were banned in Mussolini's fascist Italy so films were dubbed into Italian. Since the early 1960s, foreign language films have been prevented from being dubbed into the Kannada language in India to protect the domestic film industry.

Dubbing was also prohibited in Portugal in 1948, again for protection, but subtitling was allowed. Films were also censored so that some sensitive words – such as communism or colonialism – were replaced.
Dubbing does not always follow take original dialogue and translating it literally into another language as with Japan's cult television hit Monkey, for instance. Actor Eric Thompson took the French animation The Magic Roundabout (Le Manège enchanté) and narrated it using the visuals alone, discarding Serge Danot's original scripts, which would have cost the BBC more money.

This is common in Germany, which has more foreign movie dubbing studios than anywhere else in the world. The Persuaders television series added humorous elements to the original English version and it is not unusual for sexually explicit gags to make their way into German dubs.

"Germany has a lot of such readaptions," says Sameer Bhardwaj, a foreign language dubbing consultant. "Intellectuals tend to go on internet forums saying how the jokes are badly translated or the entire story and concept has changed but most viewers never knew about the original language, joke or concept and them it's always a new dish to be tried and appreciated."

There are many examples of bad dubs and not necessarily regarding foreign language conversions. Films re-dubbed for television often have swear-words removed ("That guy's a serious asshole" in Robocop was replaced with the softer "airhead"). The characters of Honey Rider, Blofeld, Goldfinger and Marc-Ange Draco in the James Bond movies were dubbed by British actors.

Some dubs are performed to make them more attractive in particular countries. In Shrek 2, Doris, the ugly stepsister, was voiced by Jonathan Ross in the UK and Larry King in America. Miramax, the distributors of Trainspotting, feared that American audiences would find the Edinburgh vernacular incomprehensible, so asked its British producers to dub parts of it.

"Dubbing in general is a regional thing," says Jane Crowther, acting editor of Total Film. "While we don't have a history of it in the UK, other regions systematically dub English language films, television and games into their native tongue, making celebrities of the voice actors who exclusively dub the stars and tweaking the material to reflect the sense of humour and culture of the country. It's expected and accepted."

Hollywood movies are dubbed for around 90 per cent of non-English-language territories, according to Variety. It has put pressure on the thriving dubbing studios especially given blockbuster films are dubbed into more than 30 languages. In India alone, a film such as Spider-Man 3 can be dubbed into as many as four languages: Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Bhojpuri. Constant production tweaks to movies and late shipping puts causes greater stress.

How much work is involved depends on the type of dub. "Some prefer voice-over dubbing instead of lip-sync dubbing," says Ken Lorber, CEO of dubbing studio The Kitchen. "This where the original dialogue is lowered but still maintained under the voiced over dialogue. Others prefer a lector approach whereby a narrator describes what is being said in a story description, spoken over the original dialogue. This is common in Russia and some eastern European countries."

Studios have increasingly turned to technology. Media Movers and The Kitchen have software which can automatically sync dubbed tracks. "At best, dubbing is an imperfect art," says Lorber. "Regardless of the efforts, transferring dialogue from one language to another will always yield lip sync issues, as different languages require different lip movements to form each word. What is critical is that when an actor on screen begins to speak, the dubbed words begin to be spoken."

Christoph Bregler, associate professor of Computer Science at New York University, has worked on a system called Video Rewrite which hopes to solve the lip-movement issues. It changes the on-screen lip and facial movements of actors depending on the dub. The original actor looks as if they are saying the dubbed version.

"I grew up in Germany and was used to seeing all the Woody Allen movies in German," says Bregler. "When I moved to the US 21 years ago, I was surprised how Woody Allen really spoke. Video Rewrite aims to have a more perfect dubbing so it has wider acceptance."

Human intervention is still vital. "Lip syncing is difficult and time consuming," says Nikolay Ivanov, CEO of Bulgaria-based Graffiti Studios. "There are software programs that semi-automate the process but the final touch is always human. A bad dub is able to ruin even the greatest content. Bad translation, bad casting, poor quality control – these all lead to a bad dub.

"Things are changing, though. Although offering both subtitling and dubbing is double expensive, modern technology is enabling that to become cheaper." The message from the dubbers is clear, read our lips, we're only getting better.

How dubbing works

Typically a dubbing studio will view an entire film. A project manager will review the material, the translation department will find the best translator and the artistic director will be made responsible for the production process.

Once the script has been written – it is adapted and timed for the recording process – auditions are held for dubbing actors. Studios like The Kitchen uses technology to record each actor individually with the artists viewing the original video on screen and listening to the foreign dialogue via headphones ("Sometimes the dubbed lines need to be rewritten in order to achieve this in a session if the timing is off," says voice actor Trish Basanyi).

The artists are able to see and hear the dialogue surrounding their segment in order to get into character and once the recordings have been made, they are sent to be lip synced and reviewed. Care has to be taken to create the ambiances of the voice quality too, ensuring, for example, that a character in a gym sounds doesn't sound as if he's in a small office.

Author: David Crookes
Source: The Independent