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Do I need a translator for my voiceover?

With the use of the internet, many small companies from fashion brands to apps, sell and advertise on an international scale. But what does translation have to do with advertising?

Translation matters.

Translation fail

It’s the difference between KFC’s “Finger Lickin' Good,” and “Eat Your Fingers Off.”

While not all translation mistakes are on that grand of a scale, it is a good embarrassment to keep in mind.

A mistake like that can make a huge difference to your customer’s and your brand reliability.

Firstly, I would never suggest using Google translate to translate an ad. While Google translate is a great way to get the general idea of a foreign piece of text or even to get your general idea across, Google translate will not do your brand justice.

So your other two options are either use a translator or to do the translation yourself. Firstly, know your level of bilingualism.

ILR Scale

According to the Interagency Language Roundtable (IRL) scale, there are 6 levels of language proficiency.

0. No Proficiency

The speaker knows occasional isolated words and may be able to ask questions or utter short statements.

1. Elementary Proficiency

The speaker can articulate basic needs and write simple sentences but speaks with a strong accent and limited understanding of sentence structures.

IRL Scale

2. Limited Working Proficiency

The speaker is confidant enough in the language to handle customers, but still may have the occasional lingo faux pa.

3. Professional Working Proficiency

The speaker can speak the language in conversations in varying from the practical to social and in the professional. Can speak a normal pace of speech within the language and rarely needs to search for a word.

4. Full Professional Proficiency

The speaker is fluent on all levels of conversation but may make minor grammatical or pronunciational errors.

5. Native / Bilingual Proficiency

The speaker has the speaking proficiency of an educated native speaker and may have a minor or no accent whatsoever.

Levels 0 – 2

If you find yourself or your marketing team at levels 0 – 2, you need to find a translator. While you may be able to communicate your ideas, your brand will not be appropriately represented in the translation.


Even if you are able to communicate your ideas and the details of the company, your word choice may not be relating the correct audience bracket.

As you may recall from “The Three Pillars of Spoken Communication,” the sounds embedded within the spoken words matter as well. Choosing words that would come naturally and don’t sound clumsy is vital to representing your brand.

Levels 3 – 4

If you or your team are at a level 3, consider finding a native speaker to give feedback. While you may nail the communication of the message and general sentence flow, you may still be missing on some cultural lingo.

voiceover translator

Level 5

You go right ahead! You know the culture and the context of your audience. Just make sure you are thinking about all three pillars of communication and consider asking your voice over artist for some feedback. It’s always good to have that second screening – just in case.

Pro Tip:

As a final word of advice, make sure you find out your VO artist’s level of proficiency as well. If they speak the language with a strong foreign accent it may hinder the voiceover. Native speakers will ensure a native accent, so just make sure you always ask.

Good luck and happy writing!


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