JBI Studios' Blog on Voice-Over, Dubbing, and Multimedia Localization.

4 Crucial Tips to Recording Voice-Over & Dubbing for India

1.3 billion people. This is reason enough to localize your voice-over and dub your videos for India. But now that you’ve made that decision, what next? The localization options can be daunting, and the right choices for your audio and video may not be obvious. For starters, there are over a hundred languages in India with 10,000 or more speakers – so where do you even begin?

This post will provide you with 4 crucial tips to help you navigate voice localization and dubbing recordings for the Indian market.

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Why localize for India

Aside from the sheer population, India is also a very attractive business locale for several reasons. Its rate of economic growth has been spectacular, averaging at almost 6% for the past 20 years. The country has the second largest workforce in the world, at almost 500 million workers. And its middle class is growing – McKinsey expects that by 2030 India will have the world’s fifth largest consumer market, and a 500 million-strong middle class. The combination of investment opportunities and a strong market means that translation is a must both for companies looking to move operations into the region, and for producers looking for new customers.


Here are four tips to help you navigate localizing for India.

1. India’s language diversity is daunting – but also an opportunity.

41% of India is made up of native Hindi speakers – over 400 million people. And another 12% are second- and third-language speakers – meaning that over half of India speaks the language. Hindi VO and video translation will get you a large percentage of the country – but this isn’t the whole story.

For starters, even languages with a relatively small percentage of speakers in India will still have huge populations. Gujarati speakers make up approximately 5% of the country’s population, but that’s still 46 million people – or roughly the number you’d reach with Spanish voice-over recorded for Spain. Likewise, some areas of increased economic activity are largely polyglot. Case in point: Mumbai, which is in the state of Maharashtra, and in which you’ll hear Marathi, Hindi, English, Gujarati, and various other languages. In fact, videos in this locale sometimes feature multilingual subtitling.

2. Analyze your locales & audience profiles.

Because of this linguistic diversity, it’s crucial to look at what languages your locale speaks. If you’re localizing e-Learning courses for a regional office in Kolkata, you’d probably need Bengali VO work. Same with products looking for a market in this city – after all, even though Bengali speakers comprise only 9% of the Indian population, that’s still 91 million speakers. Look also at your audience profiles – you may find that a particular linguistic subset within your locale is a lucrative marketing target, for example.

3. English is an option – with caveats.

It’s not a terrible idea to use English for some content, especially if you have academic or service-sector materials. In fact, in some industries like high finance English can be a lingua franca, particularly in multilingual locales like Mumbai. But remember two things – first, you can’t just re-use your US English voice-over tracks. You must record an accented English speaker, and transcreate the script. Second, avoid this with interactive marketing videos or TV/radio spots, which work best in a viewer’s first language.

4. Reach out to in-country managers.

True for every localization project, but especially so for India. Aside from helping you pick languages, your in-country marketing managers or heads of production will be especially useful in determining what multimedia content is most appropriate. For example, whether dubbing or transcreation is a best fit for a particular TV spot, or what employee terminology should be reflected in e-Learning translation projects or corporate presentations.

Do the research and prepare a strategy

Ultimately, this is the key to localizing for India – to research your target locales, the different audiences in each one, and develop a strategy for reaching them. During this stage it may be good to not think of India as a single entity, but rather as a collection of populous states with distinct cultures, histories, and unique linguistic make-ups. You may find that your workforce requires a specific set of languages that doesn’t quite correspond to locale, or that your product is particularly popular within a smaller linguistic group. Being open to these surprises will ensure a successful localization effort, and a stronger local brand or corporate presence.

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Topics: Voice-over & Audio Dubbing Translation & Localization

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