Voiceover - Translating interviews with non-native speakers. How far do you go?
Thread poster: Nicole Schnell

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:43
English to German
+ ...
Feb 11, 2009

I am translating a series of brief interviews with exhibitors and representatives at an international trade fair. None them is a native speaker of English, the language they were interviewed in.

Those exhibitors are of course top-notch business people, however, due to the lack of language skills the communication maintains a 4th-grader level at the most.

How do you deal with such extreme cases? Subject of the interviews is global marketing.

How far do you go, in terms of giving the interviewees an entirely new voice, which includes the use of established marketing terms, that were paraphrased (sort of, in a naive manner, due to language problems) by the interviewee?


Here is an example>

At the same time, we are here because we think it´s the best place to come to know what the market wants, because what we do is market driven. It´s not that you just do anything you want, but it´s what the market wants, so you need to know the market trend to be able to do exactly what the customers want.

[Edited at 2009-02-11 22:51 GMT]


Óscar Delgado Gosálvez  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:43
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...
check with the client Feb 11, 2009

Check with the client,
he/she probably wants it as a marketing tool, so it should sound nice.

I don't think the idea is to translate it as if they were Court transcripts. I guess I would ask for a few sales brochures from the company and "create" something along the style lines, using the interviews as a base.

Your work would fall somewhere in between the work of a translator and of a copywriter.


Giuseppina Gatta, MA (Hons)
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
It depends on... Feb 11, 2009

...how these texts will be used, who will be the target reader and so on.

I agree with Oscar and would check with the client.


Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:43
English to German
+ ...
Thank you, Óscar! Feb 11, 2009

Not an option, unfortunately. The agency is fast asleep by now and awaits the translations in their mailbox first thing in the morning, like any other press release or news broadcast.

I never had such an extreme case though, plus, the interviewer's voice is hardly audible and the transcript is crawling with gaps.

Ah, sigh.

I will take the utmost liberty to provide a proper text suitable for TV and online. Also, I will literally fill in the gaps, and I hope that nobody will rip my head off. This is a gray area.


United Kingdom
Local time: 06:43
English to German
+ ...
Enhance! Feb 11, 2009

I always improve the language in marketing texts, (badly) written or spoken, native or non-native, most of it is bull anyway and they're happy if it reads well later. I even correct obvious and embarrassing factual errors.
If you try to emulate bad writing or broken English in your translation, everybody will assume you're incapabale or had a very bad day.
Sometimes you get quotes from hoi polloi about a certain product, they should of course be translated in the same style and register; otherwise they don't sound convincing.


Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:43
English to German
+ ...
One more question Feb 12, 2009

What do you do if there are embarrassing / awkward breaks while the obviously annoyed interviewee is searching for words? Do you stretch your text to bridge the silence?

I am only used to well orchestrated voice overs - those hastily taken, language-problem-loaded and embarrassing-for-the-interviewee thingies are new to me.


Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:43
Italian to English
+ ...
Speaking as a "consumer" Feb 12, 2009

I've never done any voiceovers, but I'd imagine that the client wants something that conveys the professionalism of the speakers rather than their lack of language skills. I'd say taking the utmost liberty is justified.

WRT the gaps, I know that on TV documentaries and the like here in Italy, the Italian voiceover will often add an interjectory "beh" if the original speaker pauses or uses um/er. I think you could do the same, perhaps trailing off if it's a particularly long gap.

[Edited at 2009-02-12 08:01 GMT]


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Voiceover - Translating interviews with non-native speakers. How far do you go?

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