Localising Audiovisual Content: Transcription

If you need to translate audiovisual content, but don’t know where to start, this series of blog posts is for you. We will break down the different options for localising audiovisual content and give you a general idea of how it all works so you can make the right choices. Today we start with transcription, but this series will also cover subtitling, dubbing and much more.

In this series, when we refer to “audiovisual content”, we are referring to promotional videos, films, series, documentaries, short videos for social media, e-learning courses, etc. – of course, video games are also audiovisual content, but their translation process deserves a series of posts of its own (one day!).

The best approach to audiovisual translation depends entirely on what your needs are, which languages you need to translate into, for which audience, and for what purpose.

Transcription: when you need audio/video in text format

In this case, you need someone to listen to the audio and write it down. Depending on the purpose of the transcript, you might need a different type of transcription:

  • Verbatim transcription: this type of transcription will include everything the speaker says, including “erms, hum”, ungrammatical sentences, etc. This transcript type is used mostly for legal purposes.
  • Intelligent verbatim: the most common format, the transcript won’t contain any “ahs, erms”, unnecessary repetitions, “kind of, sort of”, slang, etc. Often circulated within a corporation, this transcript type is meant to give a good impression.
  • Edited transcription/paraphrased transcription/summarised transcription: different names for the same thing. The transcriptionist will transcribe what has been said word for word and then change the transcript to make it more concise. Not only will “erms, ahs” be taken out: paragraphs and sentences will be restructured and edited, while keeping the meaning and tone intact. This type is good for social media, as it’s easy to read.
  • Discourse analysis: on the opposite end of the spectrum to edited transcription, discourse analysis includes every “erm” and also comments on changes in pitch, tone and emotion, length of pauses, and any other elements which aren’t conveyed by the words themselves. It can be useful in legal work, or for research purposes.

Transcription is charged per hour of work – and transcribing is hard work: the rule of thumb is that 1h of audio will take 4h to transcribe. Of course, the length of time it takes also depends on other factors, such as the quality of the audio, how many speakers there are, how much speech there is, what type of transcript you need, and so on.

Ideally, transcription should be done by a native speaker of the audio content’s language.

Transcript translation: when you have the transcript, but need it in a different language

Unlike transcription, which is best carried out by a native speaker of the language of the audio content, the translation of a transcript should be done by native speaker of the language being translated into (the target language). As with any translation, proofreading by a second native-speaking linguist is recommended.

A transcriptionist with a good command of the target language may also be able to also carry out the translation work if the translated transcript will be used exclusively in-house for informational purposes only. There isn’t a real benefit to this, as a native speaking linguist working on the translation would also be provided access to the audio content and so would therefore have an understanding of the tone and any nuances that may not appear in the written transcript.

Translation of a transcript is charged per word.



Timestamps can be added to a transcript or a translated transcript to provide a point of reference as to which text passage corresponds to which section of audio. However, if you are looking for a thoroughly time-coded transcript of a video, then you are actually looking for subtitles, which is a completely different story to be told in the next blog posts in the series.

We hope you enjoy this series of posts – let us know if there is anything about audiovisual translation that you’ve always wanted to know, we’ll do our best to provide an answer!