Voice-over for Elearning: How to Localize Audio At Scale

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The voice-over audio in your eLearning videos can be an important element to create an engaging experience for your learners. But localizing voice-over can be a complex and costly process.
Converting eLearning voice-overs for your international markets is a question of scale. You are likely to have a narrator voice-over in each video and multiple courses. You may also have videos with voice-overs within your courses. If you are localizing your courses into several languages, the amount of voice-over localization can quickly mount up.
Thankfully, there is a lot you can do to optimize your voice-over localization process. By asking yourself some key questions before you create your eLearning content, you can considerably reduce the time and cost. There are also some very useful technologies, like text-to-speech, that can help you optimize even further.
Here's how to localize your eLearning voice-overs at scale…

Why voice-over for eLearning is important for global reach

A localized voice-over can be invaluable to ensure that your eLearning content is engaging and effective for learners speaking in other languages. When you are trying to grow your company's international presence, properly localized eLearning content can be the difference that leads to a successful, engaged workforce and customer base.
A Unesco report on learning outlined that people should be taught in their mother tongue, as this has a positive impact on learning across the board. Although the report focused on children, this is also the case with your adult learners — they will learn better when they fully understand the learning content.
Voice-over allows your learners to hear the content in their own language. It makes the learning more engaging and reduces the need for them to read text. Reading has been found to be one of the least popular forms of learning.
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The balance between localization cost and learner experience

The challenge for your global company is that localizing voice-over audio can be expensive. There are mulitiple steps involved including translation of the script, rerecording in the target language, and potentially video engineering to retime the on-screen action to the new audio, plus quality assurance steps.
There's no denying that voice-over localization can be costly, especially when you scale up production. It's up to you to strike a balance between the potential cost of localization and creating a good learner experience.
For example, do you know that a localized voiceover is required? Are your learners listening to it? One survey found that 75% of people keep their phones on mute while watching video on mobile. If this was the case with your learners, the cost of localizing the voice-over would have been wasted.
On the other hand, the learner experience can be greatly enhanced by localized voice-over. Learners who listen to someone talking feel more engaged than those that just read, as one research study into students found.
Providing localized voice-over can show to your learners that you are committed to communicating with them in their own language. It shows that you value them as much as you value learners in your home market. Your company's international learners will then feel more engaged with your brand and your learning content.

5 key questions to ask yourself when localizing eLearning voice-over

In our recent Rubric roundtable discussion on eLearning our eLearning experts raised some questions that you can ask yourself to make better decisions about localized eLearning voice-over.
Here are 5 key questions to help you make better decisions:

1. Do you need localized voice-over at all?

If voice-over doesn't add value to your eLearning videos, don't localize it at all.
How can you find out if a voice-over adds value? By working to understand your learners in your international markets.
Perhaps you do your research and discover that most learners in a market will watch videos on mute while traveling on public transport. Here, translated subtitles would be a more valuable and less costly way to engage with those learners.

2. Can you use text-to-speech instead of voice actors?

Text-to-speech (TTS) technology can be a scalable and cost-effective tool for voice-overs that require little emotion or engagement with the learner. They allow you to automatically generate spoken audio from a translated script.
Rebecca Metcalf, Rubric's Global Content Business Analyst, says:
"I think there's more of an acceptance nowadays of text-to-speech voice-over. It's improved in leaps and bounds in recent years. We have a lot of clients who use text-to-speech rather than using acted voice-overs. It makes a huge difference to the cost on a project, but it's always a balance between cost and your learner experience."

3. How many voices are in the video?

Videos with multiple people speaking can be very engaging, but they are also more costly to localize. Each voice may require a different voice-over actor, which bumps up the recording cost.
If your video must have multiple voices, this type of video can be a good candidate for TTS technology where you can select different voices. Just remember that artificial voices can sound robotic and lack emotion. For example, if your use case is a roleplay where tone of voice and delivery are vital then human voice-overs are likely more suitable.

4. Is your language as concise as it can be?

With localization, words cost money. If your voice-over script is long and contains unnecessary words, this wasted cost will multiply as you localize into more languages.
Make sure that your voice-over scripts are succinct. Engage your learners without being long-winded.

5. Does the localized voice-over add value?

A key question is whether localized voice-over provides more value to your eLearning videos than the cost. Quantify the value that voice-over brings in terms of increased engagement, comprehension, and retention of knowledge.
Sometimes, you may find that the cost did not match the value. For example, if the narrator audio simply repeats what is shown on-screen, is it worth localizing? Or if you have a tiny number of learners in a particular market, the overall value of adding localized voice-over might be too low even if it's valuable to an individual learner.
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How to localize voice-over audio at scale

Ultimately, voice-over for eLearning requires careful consideration of cost versus value. It's worth considering all available options before you decide how (and whether) you will localize eLearning voice-overs.
By taking advantage of the available technology, such as TTS, and collaborating with localization experts, you can create engaging eLearning videos that can be scaled to reach your global audience.
To learn more about voice-over localization, check out our eLearning roundtable video where experts from our team discuss how to create engaging, scalable localized online learning.

Best Practices for Online Learning Localization

In this report, we share our best practices for writing, designing, and translating high-quality online learning material cost-effectively. Technology advances have made it easier than ever to create high-quality online learning courses, but translating instructional content can still be prohibitively expensive if it is not authored with localization in mind.