Voice-overs in China today  

In our experience there are three main problems with many, if not most, English versions of Chinese voice-overs and advertisements.

  • Quality of English in scripts and advertising copy
  • Differing cultural approaches to advertising copy and promotional scripts
  • Sourcing of voice-over artists

These problems do not only apply to small companies with limited budgets – some of the worst offenders are multi-million dollar enterprises and government organizations!

  • Quality of English in scripts and copy

Most English voice-overs in China are translations from the Chinese. While there are many highly talented and professional translators in China, most of them do not have experience of the advertising or voice-over market in English speaking countries.
English is a continually evolving language and what may have been a 'cool', fashionable word or phrase just five years ago can sound very odd today. Many commercials in English rely on colloquial language, which is particularly susceptible to rapid change.
In addition, phrases that are perfectly acceptable in one context can cause hilarity in another. Ask any native English speaker living in China about 'funny' advertisements or signs - they will be able to give you numerous examples!
Beware - many words can be perfectly innocent in one context but have a different meaning in another, something which could cause embarrassment and ruin your project. No matter how experienced your translator you need a native speaker to check your script or copy!

  • Differing cultural expectations

Chinese and westerners laugh at the same things and react similarly to clever adverts and promotions, however there are important differences in what they expect from an advertisement or presentation.
In particular, the style used for corporate presentations is very different in China when compared to "the West". In China both the client and the company expect a much more metaphorical and literary style of language. When this style is translated directly into English it can sound very strange to western ears. A western client may even suspect you are trying to hide something by using this style.
The western style is much more pragmatic and direct (though, admittedly, far less beautiful!) When preparing a corporate presentation for western clients this point should be remembered. It may sound bare and uninteresting to you, the Chinese listener, but it will have much more effect on a western audience.
Editing of such scripts often entails more work than the Chinese company may expect and may result in a much shorter finished product – but, if you want an effective presentation, it must be done. Remember if you are targeting a Western audience you will be more successful using a western style – to paraphrase Sun Tzu, "Know your market"!

  • Sourcing of voice-over artists

When producing English language versions of Chinese voice-overs many Chinese companies seem to choose the first native English speaker they can find. The result is generally a version of the original product which has inferior production values, sounds amateurish and, most importantly, gives a bad impression of both the company and the product. This is a problem we have come across over and over again!
Why spend good money on top rate copywriters, the best studio facilities, and the latest production techniques - and then ruin it all with a second-rate English language voice-over?
We can ensure that the English language version of your voice-over is comparable in quality to the Chinese original and gives a professional image that will impress your English-speaking target audience. What is more, using a professional, experienced voice-over artist will reduce those endless re-takes to a minimum, saving you both time and, in the end, money.

Whether or not you chose to use our services, we hope the above will be of some help to you in your next voice-over or marketing project – good luck!





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