A successful global
application starts with a good translation. Here are some tips to help you
get it done as accurately as possible.
1. Your script must be
translated by a human, not a computer
Computer translation programs may be fine for translating emails, but they
are not yet sophisticated enough to properly translate telephony scripts
with any degree of accuracy.
Some real-life examples of really embarrassing translation mistakes
computers have made: in Japanese, the phrase "Falling short of
expectations" became "The shorts you expect to wear in the fall." In
Russian "The President of the United States visited Moscow" came out as
"The US President is a monkey."
2. Use experienced
Companies will often try to save money by having their scripts translated
in-house by someone who speaks the language. But this can cause unexpected
problems. If the translator is a non-native speaker, he or she may have
learned colloquial speech that is appropriate for conversation but not for
business. They may also be unfamiliar with technical terms or with the
nuances of gender and syntax. Even in the same language, telephony terms
can differ from country to country. In Great Britain, the pound sign is
referred to as the "hash" sign. In Canada, the pound sign is a "carré,"
and in France it's a "diése." In Latin America the star sign is an "estrella,"
and in Spain it's an "asterisco" or an "almohadilla."
Another decision that
needs to be made is whether to use formal or informal speech. In romance
languages, such as Spanish, French and Portuguese, there is both a formal
and informal form of "you" (tu/usted, tu/vous). In Spanish or French
applications, the informal "tu" is inappropriate. But in Brazilian
Portuguese the informal "you" (vôce) is acceptable and preferred.
3. The finished script
needs approval before recording begins
Making changes after the initial recording is complete gets expensive.
Talent and set up fees must be paid for every recording session, even if
it's only to change one or two words. To avoid this headache, make sure
the script is finalized and the translation checked and approved by the
client before going into the studio.
4. Allow enough time
While rush service is often available, don't expect the voice talent to be
able to translate from English into the target language on the spot. Good
translation takes time. Allow at least a week for the average sized job of
300 prompts or less.
5. Work with your
translator during the design phase
In many languages other than English, nouns can be masculine, feminine and
even neutral. This must be accounted for when designing the system
architecture and call flow.
Choosing the right speaker, or voice talent, is perhaps the most important
decision you will make when it comes to recording your application. Here
are some important factors to take into consideration:
1. Use an experienced
As with translation, some companies try to save money by using an in-house
speaker. If the speaker is not a trained professional, this can be an
expensive and time-consuming mistake. There is a big difference between
colloquial and broadcast quality speech. Trained professionals have a
neutral accent, good diction and clear articulation. Their speech is
universally accepted and free of regionalisms or accents that can cause
pre-conceptions in the mind of the listener. Professional speakers are
consistent in their delivery and the prompts they record concatenate
smoothly. Non-professionals lack this type of voice control, especially on
large jobs with hundreds of prompts. Experienced voice talent is
completely comfortable in the studio. Nerves are not an issue. They are
familiar with microphone technique, less prone to error, easy to direct
and readily available—all of which saves you valuable time. Make sure you
select a foreign speaker who is a permanent local resident so he or she is
easily available for the inevitable changes and additions to the script.
2. Choose the proper
For voice prompts in Spanish, the Castillian dialect is preferred in
Spain, while neutral Spanish is preferred everywhere else. French is also
tricky. European and Canadian French are not interchangeable. While the
language is basically the same, the accent is not. To avoid offending
callers, a French Canadian speaker should be used for Canada, and a Euro
French speaker for France. There are also distinct differences between
European and Brazilian Portuguese, not to mention the obvious differences
between British and American English.
3. Other cultural
I strongly suggest having a liaison in the target country who can
participate in the selection of the voice talent and verify any questions
regarding cultural issues. For example, just as female speakers are
generally preferred in the United States, they are also preferred abroad,
except in certain Arabic countries. In Japan, when a female voice is
chosen, a higher pitched voice is preferred.
Speech Recording and
1. Choose the right
Not all recording studios are suitable for telephony recording. Avoid
studios that specialize in music or production for commercials, film and
video. They will not have the proper technology necessary to digitize the
speech so that it is compatible with your telephony platform. Make sure
the studio has a broadband internet connection so that large sound files
can be quickly transferred electronically. Phone patch capability is also
helpful in case you or the client wishes to monitor the recording session
2. Use a domestic
studio with foreign language experience
Working with an overseas studio presents unique challenges, including
dealing with different time zones, and a possible language barrier that
makes it difficult to communicate with studio personnel. Also, there is
often a technology lag in foreign countries. All of these factors add up
to an unacceptable loss of control.
3. Request a monitor
Ask the translation company if it can furnish a native speaking monitor to
be present at the recording session and playback. It's worth the extra
investment for quality control. If a monitor is not available and if the
engineer does not speak the language being recorded, errors should be
corrected on the spot and the voice talent should review the recording for
accuracy after the job is recorded.
definitely presents a challenge. However, if you address all of these
issues, it needn't be overwhelming. In fact, what might otherwise be a
project management nightmare can actually turn out to be a fascinating
About The Author
Susan Berkley is CEO of The Great Voice Company providing voice prompts
for phone systems in all languages. A top voiceover artist, she is one of
the voices who says "Thank you for using AT&T" and best-selling author of
"Speak To Influence: How to Unlock the Hidden Power of Your Voice."
About The Great Voice
The Great Voice Company is a full service recording and digitizing
facility specializing in voice prompts in any language for all types of
telephone applications. It has recorded over 2 million voice prompts in
hundreds of languages since 1987. Additionally, Great Voice offers a
training program to improve voice skills.