Is Google Translate’s Text-to-Speech Good Enough for Business Video?
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Is Google Translate’s Text-to-Speech Good Enough for Business Video?

Is Google Translate’s Text-to-Speech Good Enough for Business Video?

Text-to-SpeechHow many of you have visited YouTube after a recent web search? YouTube is the second largest search engine — bigger than Bing!, Yahoo! Ask, and AOL combined. And it’s useful for many. Whenever possible, consumers prefer video watching over reading the manual. And it’s because a three-minute video will help you complete the task or solve the problem much faster than reading a PDF file.

Unsurprisingly then, companies have stopped writing manuals and started producing instructional videos and robust video-driven support platforms. Adobe launched Adobe TV in 2008 to inform, train, and inspire users of its software. Microsoft does the same for users of its Office365 suite. So too for Google Apps and many other service providers and manufacturers.

It’s not just the companies themselves. There is also a lot of community-generated content. If you do a YouTube search on how to change a filter in your dishwasher, for example, you will find content from the manufacturer, yes, but also from housewives and small town handymen. Thanks to smartphones, camcorders, and webcams, this kind of video content has become cheap to produce and distribute on platforms worldwide.

Nevertheless, producing videos remains an expensive endeavor for global brands, especially in multiple languages. While many companies resort to dubbing or subtitling, there are some areas when even these choices are not applicable.

So how can companies find a middle ground that allows them to produce multilingual video content without breaking their bank accounts?

Save Money & Time with Text-to-Speech

Increasingly and with surprisingly improved quality, text-to-speech technologies are making it easier and less costly to produce and disseminate multilingual multimedia content.

For my recent webinar on voice technology and other drivers of multilingual content, I demonstrated how quickly and cheaply this could be done. I wrote the following text (see the screenshot), translated it with Google Translate’s free online tool, and then recorded the text-to-speech output using my computer’s built-in tools. The most difficult part was first finding how to record audio on my computer! The task itself was completed in about three minutes.

screenshot 09 05 2014 resized 600

Try it yourself.

1. Add text in your own language.
2. Choose your target language.
3. Click the translate button.
4. Then click the speech button to hear the translated text spoken aloud.

Don’t Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good Enough

Is Google Translate good for highly technical translations? Well, no. I did this presentation for a group in Bangalore. Judging from the feedback — the smiles on their faces, that is — there were some things that were more funny than correct. But for my presentation my goal was not to have a perfect translation, rather to be good enough and understandable. And for some of your content — say, content curated from your users — good enough may indeed be enough.

Although many in our translation and localization industry often see Google Translate and machine translation as the enemy to our livelihoods, I see it as something useful, especially in the multilingual “budget video” category. It is also something that underscores the value of our work — professional translation and post-editing of machine translation. Whether professional dubbing with local voices, text subtitling, or text-to-speech, as always, it’s best to let your content strategy guide you in selecting the right option.

But Don’t Forget …

Of course, when you are producing for commercial purposes, don’t leave it to Google Translate and “good enough.” Leave that to the professionals!