5 Tips for writing an effective multilingual marketing or campaign video

Tip 1. Consider language expansion and contraction

Language expansion and contraction is always the main problem when translating an English source language script for multilingual distribution.

An English script will expand by at least 35% when translated into German, so a fast paced English voiceover with no padding between sequences will create a linguistic challenge to get the German voiceover to fit the timeline. If your video has a fixed linear timeline, plan ahead and use padding. If not the translator will need to adapt and shorten the script, compromising on the original vision.

Tip 2. From the first line of dialogue you write, determine the pace of the voiceover

The pace of your voiceover is always critical to getting the message to your audience. Different forms of content will require different types of speed. As with Tip 1, if you are writing a script dealing with technical content and translating to a target language which will expand, slow the pace down and let the pictures tell the story. If your target audience is 15-20 year olds and you are marketing fashion bling, then your pace needs to be fast.

Tip 3. The tone and style of the voiceover dictates emotional impact

Every video has a message and a target audience. Emotional impact is the writer’s greatest asset and to achieve the video’s objective the tone and style of the voiceover must be a perfect fit. Trained and professional voiceover artists are essentially actors/actresses who can deliver the goods. They just need to be instructed as to what is required in terms of tone and style. Authoritative, Tender, Hard Sell, Sexy, The Voice of God. The list is endless but tone and style needs to be determined at the start of the project

Tip 4. Gender has an impact on the audience

The choice of gender will be dictated by both the content of the script and the demographics of your target audience. Again, decide on the gender of the voiceover artist before starting the script as the choice will dictate the emotional emphasis and what content to develop.

Tip 5. Meet with your video editor

As a multilingual video editor, I always recommend that writers should meet with their video editors at the start of a project if at all possible. This meeting can save an enormous amount of resources over the long term in terms of finances, content and delivery. Pre-production meetings can identify the challenges and opportunities in advance and provide solutions to ensure effective foreign language re-versioning.

Video editors will also check the word count of all translated scripts to provide a guideline on the duration of each required multilingual voiceover. Word counts of translated scripts need to be around the same for all European, Latin American and Middle Eastern languages. Picture languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean are difficult to assess, but are normally similar or shorter in duration after translation from most European languages.


Pre-production planning is essential. Chose gender, style, tone and pace of voiceover before writing the script. If you are not governed by a fixed duration, edit the German or longest version first as it is easier to trim the source video clips in your timeline when producing shorter versions such as French, Spanish and Chinese. If you have a fixed duration for your video you will need to add padding to shorter versions and adapt the translation of languages which expand by shortening the word count. Pace of the voiceover can also be adjusted if necessary. Talk to your editor at the pre-production stage!

Dorian Williams

Voiceover.Cafe is a specialist multilingual agency providing low cost voiceovers, translation and video editing in over 40 languages.


Source of data - 2016 GLOBALIZATION GROUP The Top 10 Internet Languages

Examples of how much the top ten most common online languages expand or contract in comparison with English.

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