Introduction to content localization: Creating videos in multiple languages

Table of content
  1. Introduction
  2. Subtitling
  3. Dubbing
  4. Voice-overs
  5. Content Localization tools
  6. Linguistic challenges that hamper localization efforts
Link Copied!
90 Seconds
8 years ago・4 min read

A company can expand its client base significantly by branching out and marketing in foreign countries. However, global marketing presents a great many challenges when it comes to accommodating the cultural, linguistic, social, and legal differences between countries. These challenges must be overcome by content localization efforts.

Content localization is the process of adapting marketing content to a foreign market. Translating written and verbal information is often the most challenging part of localization. Yet, it’s important to note that localization efforts are necessary even when reaching out to a new market that operates in the same language.

If a video is placed on a company website to explain the company’s products and services, it will typically be created with an audio track of dialogue in the home language of the company.

However, it might also include clips where the written language is displayed. The first step to video localization is usually translating the spoken and written language into a new target language.


Subtitling is typically the easiest way to localize a video. It allows content to be translated via written translations run at the bottom of the screen.

Depending on how much spoken dialogue is put in a video, subtitling may simply require that a few brief phrases be translated into the target language.

From there, it is usually a simple matter to have the video footage edited. As such, the translated lines run at the bottom of the screen simultaneously as they are spoken in the video.

Subtitling is not only a cost-effective means of handling content localization. But it’s also a good idea if you want to connect the product or service with its home country.

You may want to very blatantly allow the company product or service to be identified with the home country or home language if that country has some particular prestige in the industry in question.


If on-screen speakers provide the dialogue in the video, dubbing will be necessary to allow for audio localization of the video.

This can be done most affordably when the audio track of the video in the source-language is faded into the background. Meanwhile, dubbing in the target language is laid over the original track.

The more speakers there are in the video, the more voices need to be found to create the dubbed track. This makes it somewhat challenging and costly to dub a video in which numerous actors faces are shown as they speak. Another challenge of dubbing a video is coordinating the mouth movements of the visible speaker with the audio track.


If the speaker in a video is located off-screen, a voice-over track provided by one speaker speaking in the target language will allow the video to be localized in terms of language.

To do a voice-over a video, a company needs to have the original script accurately translated. They should also find a narrator whose native language is ideally the target language.

Voice-overs are appropriate when the video source file is separate from the voice-over track. This voice-over situation is ideal because – unlike with dubbing – the quality of the resulting video will be just as good in terms of quality as the original video. Viewers will not be able to tell that the video was not originally created to be run in the target language.

Content Localization tools

Companies sometimes assume that branching out into foreign markets is impossible because the language barrier will create too many forbidding expenses. However, a professional translation is surprising affordable thanks to the existance of online translation services. These tools are becoming a vital part of the content localization process.

One such service is Gengo. Gengo is an online translation service that hooks those needing a translation up with native speakers located around the world. Rates for a site like Gengo start at just $0.05 per word. With rates this low, companies can have scripts of 400 words translate for only $20.

Linguistic challenges that hamper localization efforts

Some foreign markets will be more difficult to target than others depending on a variety of linguistic factors. Let’s take one language in particular that’s known for causing probmes: Arabic.

Arabic is often considered to be one of the most difficult languages to target. It is a language prone to ambiguity and mistranslation. In part, Arabic poses a challenge. It can be broken up linguistically into many regional dialects that are unintelligible from one another.

Even written Arabic poses a problem because it is written from right to left, unlike most of the world’s languages.

Interestingly, native Arabic speakers have a hard time even navigating the Internet because there are no search engines that run on the language.

There is not even an existing spell check program for typing Arabic. Let alone software that allows for optical character recognition in Arabic.

When considering the difficulty of content localization in a particular language, think about these factors that make Arabic difficult. The prominence of regional dialects, the language’s written form, and the language’s adaption to Internet technology.