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Localizing E-Learning: Pros and Cons of Voice-Over versus Subtitles

92129255Senior Multimedia Engineer at Welocalize, Michael Anderson, looks at the pros and cons of using voice-over and subtitles in localized e-learning materials.

Multimedia is often used extensively in e-learning materials and in some global marketing materials. A key component of any visual or audio content is the use of subtitling or voice-overs to tell the story. Which one you go for will affect the localization process, depending on the audience, course content and locale.

Consider the scenario: Your e-learning course has been built and you are ready to publish. You have on screen text mixed with voice over narrative. Do you choose to localize with a voice-over narrator or use subtitling?

One is not better than the other; however, a few factors come into play when deciding the best route to go.  Here are the various pros and cons of using voice-over versus subtitling for e-learning content:

VOICE-OVER (VO)

Recording VO in studio and syncing to source audio track

VOICE-OVER PROS:

  • Multilingual voice-overs make localized courses look and sound complete and professional, as if it were built for that locale from scratch.
  • Avoids over-crowding of on screen text and captions.
  • Easy to listen to and follow, therefore e-learning makes more impact.

VOICE-OVER CONS:

  • Voice-over can be more expensive than subtitling: voice talents costs, studio costs, engineering syncing costs.
  • Multiple speakers can mean multiple voice talents required which can generate extra cost.
  • Some script translations can result in significant expansions which will need longer syncing and timing.

SUBTITLES

Adding text to the lower third of the screen that follow along with the [source] narrator

SUBTITLE PROS:

  • Ensures target audience is seeing subtitled content.
  • Does not change the source audio track.
  • Subtitling production is less expensive than voice-over.

SUBTITLE CONS:

  • Additional text added to the screen can cause crowding and with text expansion, the screen gets buried with tons of text.
  • Following subtitles on screen, especially with complex material, can be tricky especially if it is combined with on-screen animation.

To help make the right decision, you need to consider what the key objectives, messages and audiences are for the e-learning course. Welocalize has a global multimedia team, available to analyze the source files and provide advice on whether voice-over or subtitling would be the option for localized versions.

For optimum localization, it is often a good idea to consider localization from the start, at the planning stage. That way, the source content has been developed with localization and translation in mind.

Michael

Michael.anderson@welocalize.com

Based in California, Michael Anderson is one of Welocalize’s senior multimedia engineers.

Read more about multimedia and e-learning in the Welocalize whitepaper: Welocalize Ready for Global Learning Guide to Multimedia Localization

 

 

 

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