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       Protecting a Company's Image during
       Foreign Language Video Translation

How to guarantee image preservation during video translation, avoiding ridicule and loss of profit.

In Turkey, two men were killed as a result of a missing dot over an “i” in an SMS message – a letter missing on their cellphone. In a documentary, “Vietnam vet” was translated as “veterinarians from Vietnam”. In a video, the "Society of Concerned Scientists" was translated in German as “Society of Worried Scientists”, and in Russian as "Society of Horny Scientists". In an HR eLearning project, the expression “Quit upon reasonable notice” was translated as “Leave with a reasonable reason” by a professional translator with a PhD. When asked about his discrepancy, the translator stated that he had considered the (correct) possibility, but dismissed it as being ridiculous, because people cannot just quit…” Then he gasped in shock, “Americans can just quit their jobs?!!?”

According to an SDL survey, translation and localization errors cause lost revenue in 80% of global firms. And 40% reported delayed product launches or fines for non-compliance. According to @International Services with 30 years in translation of major media, television, and corporate projects, over 90% of independent video directors and producers risk their entire reputation – and that of their clients - by placing full responsibility for foreign versions upon the shoulders of one single translator or voice talent. The “burn rate” is 30% or higher, all because the media professional cannot control their project in a language they do not speak. Yet there is a way to slash the burn rate from 30% to 0%.


Even 5 minutes of googling a culture to make a lifestyle comparison against a proposed advertisement or commercial will avoid many common faux-pas. Examples: the shipping company’s promotional video translation promised that any 200-pound purchase will be delivered by courier in a country where couriers ride bicycles, or the sales promo for giant screen TVs depicting blond children watching a massive home entertainment center in a country where everyone has black hair and no one has an entertainment center. Countries without stock options or money market accounts are confused by translations of financial terminology, and if your advert sells homes or property, a bit of research clarifies that people in China cannot actually own land and thus may not comprehend the basics of real estate.

Mirror reflection may be muddy

Double-meanings and potential negative impacts of translated marketing messages and product names merit consideration. An “EnviroMist” campaign touting a product as the “Breath of Good Health” may fell apart in Germany where “Mist” is a crass word for excrement renowned for its stink. And the principles touted in corporate ethics training videos may be destined for cultures that do not have a word for “ethics” in their language and live daily on bribery. And a colloquial translation, such as a Southern dialect video script that “might could have been” charming in its original form, may cause international investors to fear that the entire town is illiterate due to the incorrect grammar.

Protecting the company image

Every marketer, trainer, and videographer has only one chance to communicate, one first impression, one opportunity to be perfectly clear from the viewer’s perspective. Yet so many creators take a “hands-off” approach to translation, placing entire trust into one pair of hands. When image is paramount, repeated exposure of a translation to focus groups or individuals can be very helpful. Yet on the downside, there will be as many opinions as there are people in a general audience, and a high percentage of those opinions may be wholly misleading.

There is one almost sure-fire way to guarantee protection of a company’s image: by obtaining the opinion of a translation from at least one – preferably three - persons who obtained their PhD’s in a variety of fields from universities in the target country. PhD’s tend not to have personal agendas; they think seriously, carefully, and clearly before reaching rational conclusions. These traits make PhD’s unemotional reviewers and therefore reliable. Then listen carefully to the smallest detail in their report. A PhD will often be low-key in their expression, and many company executives gloss over soft comments such as “the video edits may be too quick” or “it sounds a bit exaggerated”. PhD reviewers will use conditional tenses, because they rarely think in absolutes, yet every word in their reports will carry weight. These details – often ignored – may become the exact cause of poor feedback from the target audience. Thus, although it may not be easy to find a great translator or translation company, it is easy to prevent damage from an erroneous translation. Not cheap, but easy.


Sue Reager is CEO of @International Services, with 30 years experience in media and video translation for major film, television, advertising, and corporate projects. Sue Reager speaks 10 languages, has worked in 17 countries, and regularly records narration and lip sync in 70 cities. Reager’s expertise is coupled with special skills in media adaptation for the target culture and music localization. Her firm develops language software for media professionals including Web subtitle software and real-time voice translation software that translates voices and narrators as they speak.


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Participate and direct global sessions in almost any country right from your laptop! See, hear, talk and text chat directly into the studio. The common language is English, everyone is friendly and very professional. Direct in Paris during breakfast, in Germany over lunch, and in Beijing or Tokyo before you go to bed. Invite as many people as you wish to join you, including colleagues and clients. Just go to a web page. Nothing to download, nothing to install. Because there are no firewall troubles, large corporations can easily participate. More on global directing.

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We make our home in the multimedia universe. @International Services has developed innovative techniques for controlling translation online and for casting foreign language voiceovers – tools and techniques that offer more possibilities than ever before.   In response to requests received from multimedia directors and producers to provide an improved way to audition foreign language voice overs , a way that will increase their success with the global projects and customers, @International Services developed a software specifically for this purpose.    The requests for support also included desire for assistance in casting foreign language voice over talent side by side with clients who like to participate in the process.   To meet these requests, @International Services created the Director Center.   The Director's Center is an online software specifically geared toward foreign language voice talent auditioning plus very special presentation materials for directors and producers to use to help them close more deals with global corporations or international clients.    

The Center includes tips on mixing the tracks you receive of the foreign language voice talent.   The tracks will be perfectly timed, to just drop into your project.   But after inserting those tracks, there are a variety of mixing techniques that may enhance your impact, plus certain other multimedia localization techniques such as music localization and special effects that may make a difference in the final impact. Combined with a fine translation of the script and screen text, you will look great in your customer's eyes.

The ability to personally direct international recording sessions around the world with your chosen foreign language voice talent is also taking a major turn for the better.   If you desire to direct or participate in foreign language voice talent voiceover sessions in any of 90 countries, @International Services is developing the online software to enable you to direct anywhere in the world – in English.   And your clients can join via the web in the foreign language voice recording session exactly as they happen “live” in their native country.   Clients can join you at your studio to watch via computer monitor, or join via their laptop.   You'll be able to comfortably direct sessions with the @international Services talents and studios located in 90 countries around the world for about the cost of a phone call to Chicago.

We live for multimedia translation, providing perfectly timed voice tracks of foreign language voice talent, subtitle edit lists and graphic files, plus lip sync recording. Our multimedia translation team translates scripts, training, presentations, Flash and subtitling. Another team records voices for technology and product demos. Multimedia translation is our passion. The experience we bring is only the groundwork from which we have all learned what works - and what does not work - when translating media and casting foreign language voice talent. Each and every one of us prefers corporate work to major media. We all see the enormous benefit that corporate work adds to the world economy. Corporate multimedia adds to global sales, to training, and to communications between leaders and branches. The combination of audio, visual and message makes our world go 'round.

Our promise is to make you look good in the eyes of your clients, employees and audience. You'll enjoy working with our professionals. You'll get outstanding customer service, attention to detail, and wise advice. We care about your success. We can work with your client's translation, or we can translate the script and graphic screen text. You choose what is best for your needs.

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