Language Expansion and Contraction Table for the Top 10 Languages

Language Expansion and Contraction Table for the Top 10 On-line Languages

Here at Voiceover.Cafe we regularly receive English language videos from our clients who want them re-versioned to a new language. Clients who are new to this process assume that we simply translate the script, record a foreign language voiceover and edit the new voiceover onto the existing video timeline.

Editing multilingual voiceovers onto an existing video timeline to the uninitiated seems like a simple process.  However, video editors who deal with these challenges on a daily basis will tell you that it’s not quite that simple.


So why is it not that simple?

The main problem we encounter during the translation process is language expansion and contraction. As an example, when an English script is translated to German, the text will expand by between 25% – 35% in overall duration. So if the original English video was 3 minute in duration, the German version will need to be over 4 minutes.


What are the solutions?

When we have a typical 3 minute video to translate, our editors and project managers can advise on several options after reviewing the English or source language video.

These include:

  1. Slightly raising the pace of the voiceover to shorten the duration as long as the content is suitable for this approach. As an example, Spanish and Italian voiceover artists naturally speak faster that English artists and this is often an acceptable option with Spanish and Italian voiceovers.
  2. Extend the length of the video timeline to match the duration of the new voiceover. This is only possible if editors have access to the original video rushes and can understand the foreign language versions.
  3. Shorten and adapt the script during the translation process to match the video original timeline. This is often the only way for German and other languages which naturally expand and this script adaptation process needs to be undertaken by trained AV translators / subtitlers.
  4. If the video has been produced for re-versioning, the video timeline will have been arranged with natural pauses/padding between sequences to allow for longer voiceover durations.


The following table provides language expansion and contraction timings experienced during the translation stage for the top 10 on-line languages and is a very useful guide.

Language From English To English
Chinese + 10% to +15 % – 10% to -10%
Spanish +10% to +15% -10% to -15%
Japanese + 15% to 20% -5% to -10%
French +15% to +20% -15% to -20%
Portuguese +15% to +20% -15% to -20%
German +25% to +35% -25% to -35%
Arabic +20% to +25% -20% to -25%
Russian +15% to +20% -15% to -20%
Korean -10% to -15% +10% to +15%

Source of data - 2016 GLOBALIZATION GROUP

If you need more information on how we can help translate or re-version your next video project, please fill in the contact form below so we can send you additional project specific information and costs.