Misunderstandings can arise when an educator and a learner have different mother tongues. Having helped professionals all around the globe, we know that there is no “one-fits-all” approach when it comes to effective eLearning voiceover localization.

But no need to stress! This doesn’t mean sending a huge amount of time and money researching. This article will help you nail the selection process easy and fast.

Know Your Audience

You might think that you’ve found a killer voice-over artist for your eLearning, but will your audience agree?

Let’s say you’re working on an eLearning module about management focused on women aged 35 to 55. Which voice would appeal to your target group? A little research on your audience can work miracles. The right voice actor will make the message easily communicated, quickly understood, and extra compelling.

Where do we focus on?

Social & Cultural information

1. Social status

In some cultures, you can “hear” social status in accent, pitch, or vocabulary. Research the culture and decide how (or whether) social status should be expressed. For example, in Japan, an accent is taboo. Why is that? Accent reveals one’s social class and this goes against the long-lasting Japanese culture of modesty.

2. Language and accent(s)

Based on your target group you should define the language you’re going to use or even the accent. In Spain, for instance, there are 4 co-official languages. Countries like Switzerland or Luxembourg have strong multilingualism. Which language/accent best resonates with your audience?

3. Age/Generation

Age matters for certain cultures or age groups. An old, mature voice will resonate better with GenX learners, but GenY might find it out-dated.

4. Taboo Topics, Symbols & Colors

Religion, sexuality, politics, or social status are taboos in many cultures. As a result, you need to review and alter your content accordingly.

Look for words and phrases that have unacceptable references or associations. Omit them from your script and brief your voice actor. Let’s say you work on corporate training about networking and relationships. Perhaps you should change phrases like “Suggest going out for a beer” to “Suggest going out for dinner”.

5. Gender selection

Should you choose an assertive masculine voice, an attentive female one, or an upbeat neutral one?

Times have changed and societies are, more than ever before, engaged and directed towards inclusion and diversity. But have in mind that this does not apply in every culture.

According to cultural and educational researches (carried out by Geert Hofstede), masculinity and femininity differ in the social roles in different countries. To this day, some cultures have still strong gender restrictions. For example, learners are separated in classrooms according to their gender. This might mean that men can only teach men and women only women. Research the “openness” of your targeted culture before deciding on voice gender. And remember: always be gentle and respectful of customs and traditions.

Educational Approach

1. Information Process

What is the educational approach of your target country? Does it focus on following the pace of the slowest or the fastest learner? This will impact your eLearning voiceover.

Learners in Japan, where modesty is highly valued, follow the pace of the slowest no matter what. Germans are brought up in the belief that easy educational content is boring and below competitive standards.

How would you localize content coming from Germany to maximize Japanese engagement? Select a voice that sounds authoritative and direct. Alter your script by having the lowest knowledge level as a starting point.

2. Individualism in classrooms

Buddhist cultures have the principle of “no-self”. As a result, learners are familiar with and prefer to work in groups. This is different for countries like Canada, where the focus is on individual work. This can affect your script and voice personality.

3. Power and Ignorance of the Instructor

Are educators traditionally regarded as powerful and all-knowing? Are teachers and instructors referred to with their title or profession?

Different cultures have different approaches. Thai learners address the educator as “Ajarnor” or “Kru” (=professor in English). Contrary, Danish ones use always first names – no matter the age or status differences. The Thai instructor should introduce himself as “Kru” and sound authoritative, formal. On the other side, the Danish one should use their first name and be friendly and approachable.

Another example is spotted in Japanese companies. Subordinates often say “Yes, I understand” to any instructions from the boss. Then, they would find out from elsewhere whatever wasn’t understood. So, the Japanese actor should be explicit, thorough and avoid asking direct questions.

Voice-over Trends and Tips

This category has to do with the skills and abilities of the voice talent. eLearning projects are long and demanding, so they need specific voice skills. To ensure a relaxed and engaging learning experience pay attention to:

  • Tone of voice
  • Speed and pace
  • Stamina
  • Voice talent’s portfolio, reputation, and demos
  • Brand voice characteristics
  • Regional Voice trends

Before you begin your next voiceover project, here are 3 additional things to consider!
You can also take a look at our previous eLearning voiceover work here at our website, or in our LinkedIn.

In need of voice-over services?

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Anna Sticken

Head of Sales, DK & DACH

Serge Amani

Head of Sales UK, IE & US