Dubbing or Subtitling for eLearning translation
May 16, 2023

Dubbing or Subtitling for eLearning translation

Voice and visuals are what make an eLearning course come alive. In fact, without audio and video in eLearning, it would be nearly impossible to hold the student’s attention. Unlike in a physical classroom, the teacher’s voice, notes on the board, and some lively banter among the students are all missing from the environment of an eLearning module.

What’s more, voice and video have universal appeal? Because that’s how humanity has learned anything – from looking at things or hearing the voice of their teacher.

But certain issues come up with eLearning translation when we try to render audio and video in the learner’s language. You would need to decide the approach to translating audio and video: will it be dubbing, or would you rather subtitle the narrative and dialog? Both have their own specific use cases, and you need to make the appropriate choice which suits your quality, time, budget requirements, and student preferences.

In this blog, we’ll take a close look at both of these approaches to eLearning translation and weigh their pros and cons.

The Pros and Cons of Dubbing for eLearning Translation

The Pros and Cons of Dubbing for E-Learning Translation

Dubbing refers to the off-camera narration in video content. All dialog and any background narration is translated to the target language and then spoken by voice actors.

In dubbing, the original voice track is completely replaced by the dubbed version. So, syncing the dubbed dialogues with the lip movement of the speakers on screen is very important. Else, there will be a lag between the action on screen and the voice we hear.

Dubbing requires quality voice acting and recording. It can work well if:

1. You have the right budget for dubbing, as you need to hire quality voice actors and a good dubbing studio.

2. Your audience prefers dubbing over subtitles. Some locales do have such preferences, so do your research. It might even change depending on what type of content it is.

3. There are too many speakers on the screen. This might not usually happen with eLearning, though. When there are multiple speakers on the screen, it helps if we can hear them speak rather than have to rush through many lines of subtitles.

The challenges that dubbing presents are:

1. Firstly, it’s the budget. If your dubbing is to be of high quality, then you have to invest in the right voice actors and recording studios.

2. It can take more time to get done, as you have to book voice actors and studios and then record it. Often, even at the time of recording, the translated dialogs may have to be re-done on the spot, if it’s sounding odd when spoken or if it’s not syncing with the lip movement.

3. Choosing the voice actor is a significant task. They can come to represent your brand voice. Also, if you have many eLearning programs going, and you keep changing voice actors from one to the other, there is some sort of disconnect.

When done right, dubbing can render a human touch to the training program. Students can simply concentrate on hearing the voice rather than have to read the subtitles.

The Pros and Cons of Subtitling for eLearning Translation

The Pros and Cons of Subtitling for E-Learning Translation

Subtitling refers to rendering the spoken dialog in written form in the target language. The process is to first generate transcripts – speech-to-text conversion usually in the same language with time stamps. Then, the transcript is translated to the target language, thus creating a subtitle.

Subtitling can be an effective way of translating your training modules for the following reasons:

1. It is by far the cheapest and quickest way of translating audio and video content. Speech to text conversion can be easily automated to create transcripts. Machine translation (MT) technology can then be used to translate the transcript into the target languages. The MT output can be edited by expert linguists for accuracy and adherence to company style.

2. Subtitles are important to ensure accessibility, so that anyone who’s taking the course can access it successfully, irrespective of any reading disability or hearing problems they might have. Some eLearning management systems require you to enable closed captions (CC) to meet their compliance standards.

3. Closed captions are a type of subtitles that put the user in charge. They can turn on the subtitles when they wish and turn it off if they don’t need it. Most streaming platforms feature closed captions these days, so people have come to expect them.

4. If the learner is taking the course in their free time during a commute or in a public place, they can turn off the audio and read the subtitles.

5. Subtitles can also come handy when the audio quality is poor and the learner has trouble deciphering what’s being said.

6. If your eLearning program is hosted on the web, your transcribed subtitles will gain you SEO points. Google cannot crawl through audio and video content, so the subtitles will help Google understand the content and index it accordingly. This will increase the chances of people finding your eLearning material when they use relevant keywords on Google.

However, subtitling comes with its challenges, too:

1. If there are already too many on-screen elements like embedded text or too many speakers, it can be a little too much for learners to take in the subtitles in addition to all of this.

2. If your target audience happens to be German or Italian or some other locale where people are used to high-quality dubbing, remember that they are not going to take to subtitles quickly.

And then there are some common challenges to both dubbing and subtitling. For instance, if the original material has not been authored in a localization-friendly style, it’s going to be an uphill task for the translators. Embedded text will stick out in the original language and can be jarring. Highly local themes such as a festival or colloquial language, humor, and mannerisms, are quite impossible to translate. They would have to be adapted to the culture and language of the target locale. This is often time-consuming and requires the expertise of an experienced translator.

Similarly, if the eLearning modules are not internationalized, they might turn out to be useless at worst or confusing at best. For instance, if the alignment of on-screen icons and menu buttons do not follow the usage practices of the locale, readers will quickly drop out of the course.

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