Learning and Localization Blog

Communicating with Your Multilingual Workforce

Published on Apr 26, 2021

How Subtitling & Voiceovers Enhance eLearning Programs

Capitalize on your Multilingual Workforce

The future of business is global. In order to compete successfully, businesses must embrace multilingualism and learn to communicate effectively with a multilingual workforce. Subtitling and multilingual voiceover (VO) are key services that will enhance your ability to effectively train your personnel no matter their native language.

According to an article in the World Financial Review, “the global economic engine cannot run without global communications being translated.”1 With more companies looking to expand to global markets, diversify their supply chains, and move their operations online, language services will “serve as the foundation”2 to a resilient global economy. In other words, multilingualism is an asset to capitalize on, not an obstacle to overcome.

Prevalence of Workforce Language Barriers 

A recent Forbes Insights survey reveals the many benefits to investing in a multilingual workforce. In fact, Forbes surveyed more than 100 executives at large U.S. businesses and found that “organizations with a high degree of multilingualism—not to mention, an understanding of and respect for other cultures—will commit fewer mistakes and increase efficiency, productivity, and quality.”3 However, 65% of the executives surveyed said that their company faced language barriers between management and other workers.

Data Source: Forbes Insights, Rosetta Stone Report

Consequences of Language Barriers

When asked to identify the most significant consequences of these language barriers, respondents pointed to a number of areas, including increased inefficiency, inability to collaborate, decreased productivity, compromised customer service, difficulty attracting and retaining talent, and unsafe work environments. Respondents also believed language barriers led to a lack of respect for management. However, this belief could easily be a consequence of misinterpretation. In fact, language barriers are the most common communication barriers which cause misunderstandings and misinterpretations between people."4 By simply removing language barriers, these misunderstandings often resolve on their own. 

Data Source: Forbes Insights, Rosetta Stone Report

One of the best ways to minimize these consequences is through fully localizing your eLearning programs complete with accurate subtitles and professional, multilingual voiceover.

Multilingual Communication Can Lead to Global Expansion

While it is true that miscommunication can compromise productivity, Forbes’ report reminds us that “the flip side is also true—communicating in a native language can increase productivity.”5 To put this into greater perspective, more than 80% of respondents agreed that workers were more productive when their managers communicated with them in their native language.

Additionally, multilingualism is likely to have “indirect, long-range benefits stemming from the development of executives better equipped to oversee international organizations.”6 World-class leadership requires a worldwide approach. A global perspective is vital for international firms to effectively compete against major global competitors.

Subtitles vs. Voiceover: What is the best way to reach your target audience?

When preparing eLearning materials for a multilingual audience, you will have to think about the best way to effectively communicate with your employees. What languages do they speak? What countries are they from? Are they visual or auditory learners? Which is more common in their culture: subtitles or voiceover? We all learn differently, and language and culture play a significant role in determining how our minds work. Additionally, each medium (subtitles and multilingual VO) has its own pros and cons. Determining which tool is right for your project will depend on your specific needs and limitations. 

Subtitles

Subtitling is a two-part process, involving the addition of source-language subtitles to the narration of the course, and the translation of those subtitles into the target language. Special consideration must be taken concerning spacing and timing, as subtitles are primarily a visual medium. The subtitles should match any visual aids presented in the video, and must not fall behind the speaker, otherwise the video will be unclear. 

Pros

  • Subtitling is often more economical than voiceover production.
  • No changes need to be made to the original audio track of your training course.
  • Your learners may have a basic understanding of spoken English but might require help with more advanced vocabulary. Subtitling helps with this.

Cons

  • Subtitling affects the course visually in terms of screen space and must be limited to about two lines at a time.
  • Language expansion makes spacing more of a challenge.
  • Subtitling becomes more difficult if the original video has a lot of onscreen text and graphics or multiple speakers.

Multilingual Voiceover

Alternatively, you can choose to re-record the audio files into the target language. With the help of native-speaking, professional voice actors, your eLearning program will be fully localized for your target audience. These multilingual VO artists are adept at recording voice narration to fit a video’s needs, acting and enunciating as required.

Pros

  • The seamless addition of multilingual VO tracks gives your localized course a polished, professional look, reducing friction for the learner.
  • You can choose from three different voiceover options to meet your specifications and budget: off-camera narration, UN-style narration (in which the original audio is still audible at a lower volume, underneath the VO track), and lip-synching (dubbing).
  • Voiceover is the best option for eLearning courses that have multiple speakers or a lot of on-screen text.

Cons

  • VO recording is often more expensive than subtitling.
  • While lip-synching “provides the most relatable audio... it also requires more work with timing and engineering...”7
  • VO recording involves the translation of a script; and “if the text expands, so might the length of the recording”8, affecting audio synching and timing

So, how do you know which option is best for you?

The experts at eLearning Industry recommend that you “consider expectations, budget, and quality. If your budget is lower, then you may want to look at subtitling.”9 Additional clues can be found in the course itself. If it has a lot of on-screen text or multiple speakers, voiceover might be a better choice for you. Ultimately what is most important is finding the right fit for localizing your eLearning courses in order to ensure “that your content is both seen and heard in the most effective way possible.”10

Removing Barriers

One consequence of remote work is that eLearning content must now compete with at-home distractions, making the localization of eLearning programs even more vital. After all, learning in one’s native language is “crucial when it comes to proper understanding and comprehension.”11

The work-from-home revolution — in addition to increasing globalization and the power of the internet — has dramatically reduced the distance between international businesses and their multilingual employees. However, it is time to break down the final barrier preventing your company from fulfilling your overall potential: multilingual communication. Investing in multilingual subtitling and voiceover for your eLearning programs might just be the secret to successful international growth through increased engagement, retention, productivity, and a safer workplace.

At Ingenuiti, we specialize in helping our clients train their global workforce with our full suite of eLearning language services. Whether you require eLearning localization, subtitling, or voiceover services, our turnkey, personalized services are second to none. Communicating effectively with your multilingual workforce will prepare your company for success in an increasingly competitive international market. 

Partner with Ingenuiti today and enhance your employees' eLearning experience through multilingual subtitling and voiceover. 

For more information on the benefits of eLearning localization, check out our article entitled, eLearning Localization: Training the Workforce of the Future.


REFERENCES 

1, 2  “Post COVID-19 Globalization: Will Translation and Localization Still Be Relevant?” World Financial Review, May 1, 2020. https://worldfinancialreview.com/post-covid-19-globalization-will-translation-and-localization-still-be-relevant/

3, 5, 6  Rubin, James Peter. “Reducing the Impact of Language Barriers.” Forbes Insights. 2011 https://images.forbes.com/forbesinsights/StudyPDFs/Rosetta_Stone_Report.pdf

4 Businesstopia. “Language Barriers to Communication.” Businesstopia, 15 Feb. 2018, www.businesstopia.net/communication/language-barriers.

7, 8, 9, 10 Nicholson, Caitlin. “eLearning Localization: Voiceover vs. Subtitling!” eLearning Industry,  eLearning Design and Development. June 6, 2014. https://elearningindustry.com/elearning-localization-voiceover-vs-subtitling

11 Amani, Serge. “Voice Over As An Investment: The New Essential Of Employee Training.” eLearning Industry, Localization. February 9, 2021. https://elearningindustry.com/voice-over-investment-new-essential-of-employee-training

In addition to:

https://images.forbes.com/forbesinsights/StudyPDFs/Rosetta_Stone_Report.pdf

https://elearningindustry.com/elearning-localization-voiceover-vs-subtitling

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