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Q: We have a series of safety training videos we’d like translating into 19 languages for our overseas plants.

Because this is a large number of translations I need to keep costs down on this project.

We’re an international manufacturer with plants in UK, Europe, Americas, Middle East and Far East.

Health & Safety Manager
International Manufacturer

A: Translating and producing English videos into foreign speak, sometimes called localising, has changed over the last few years due to improvements in digital technology.

The recording process in particular has seen considerable change.

But before we look at this let’s go to the start of the process, with a weather eye open to keeping tight control of costs.

The reason for tight cost control is because of the number of languages required.

Save a £1,000 and multiply this saving across the 19 required languages and there’s a £19,000 saving to be had.

Even a £500 per unit saving adds up to a worthwhile £9,500 – the cost of a whole new video production!

Here’s a some reference material on foreign language production to support this article


If you know an English video is going to be translated, then avoid fancy graphics and captions, and stick to voiceover or interviews as a video production style.

Reworking captions so they look good in foreignspeak takes time and is therefore expensive when multiplied by a factor of 19.

So the advice is to make minimal use of captions.


This is a three stage process:

1 – the UK production company will have to produce a master doc for translators to use. This keeps everything to a common system throughout,.

Typically this is a table, with the left hand column holding every English phrase or sentence, and a right hand column left blank for the appropriate foreign language to be inserted.

2 – Agency translation of the english script takes place

3 – Local safety advisers in foreign plants then check the translated scripts, and approve them.

This all sounds fairly easy but mistakes are common.

For example the agency translators are often students or people with little knowledge of safety or manufacturing processes. Their efforts are frequently naive, but of course nobody knows this. After all, can you tell if a Japanese script is wrong?!

Also the local technical and safety expert who verifies the translation often skimps the job.

This is surprising but true. I have known safety advisers who’ve let the most appalling gaffes slip through!

Voice Production

The voiceover production agency will need a timecoded DVD supplying.

This is so that they can record the voice to fit the english video.

It’s worthwhile using a reputable voice production agency, as translation errors are common and the voice production agency will pick these up during recording.

They will probably charge for this too. But it’s better to pay a bit extra, rather than end up with a safety video that has errors in it

For example … the safety harness will ensure you fall

Yes, believe it. Translations errors can be unbelievably stupid.

If you’re translating into just French and German, and everyone is diligent, then the process is easier

But multiply by 19 and throw in half a dozen or more non-European alphabets, in countries where safety video is a new thing, then watch the errors start to creep in.

Final editing and mastering

There will be foreignspeak captions to dub, which means ensuring the video editor has the relevant character set installed on their keyboard.

With the correct character set, it becomes straightforward.

A word on mastering:

With a collection of 19 DVDs, you’ll need a number of DVDs to hold all this info. A DVD library starts to happen!

So allow a budget for DVD interactive menu building and mastering.

Of course , the simple low cost route is to distribute your safety video as an online flash or wmv video.

But not all countries have the high speed connections for this.

And often enough the video will need to be shown to a roomful of operatives, using a DVD player and TV screen.


So there it is, the quick guide to producing a safety video in 19 languages.

The best advice is to use reputable professionals as fixing mistakes will work out far more expensive.

Cheap agencies in my experience don’t use their brains. Brains need to be paid for.

Best of all, producing a safety training video in 19 languages should help reduce accidents around the world!

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