eLearning Localization: Voiceover vs Subtitling!

Voiceover vs. Subtitling: Which to Use for eLearning Localization?
Summary: It’s time to localize your eLearning course. You have on-text and audio. The text part seems pretty straight-forward, but what do you do with the audio? There are several considerations when localizing the audio component of your eLearning course. Do you choose voiceover recording or subtitling? Let’s start by explaining the difference between the two and then looking at the pros and cons of each one.

Voiceover vs. Subtitling: Which to Use for eLearning Localization?

eLearning Course Voiceover

Voiceover means re-recording the audio files into your target language.


  • Adding multilingual voiceovers makes your localized course look and sound complete and professional.
  • There are three different voiceover options to consider: off-camera narration, UN-style narration, and lip-synching (dubbing).
  • Voiceover is a great option when your course has a lot of on-screen text or multiple speakers in your audio files.


  • Voiceover recording is more expensive than subtitling your eLearning materials and you may want to match your studio-quality English recordings with similar quality for your localized versions.
  • Off-camera narration is most common in corporate training, and, along with UN-style, is the much more cost-effective than lip-synching. Lip-synching provides the most relatable audio component, but it also requires more work with timing and engineering, meaning more time and a greater cost.
  • Voiceover recording involves translating a script. If the text expands, so might the length of the recording, which might make the voiceover talent have to speak faster. All of this affects audio synching and timing.

eLearning Course Subtitling

Subtitling involves adding subtitles to the narration of the course, and then replacing these subtitles with another language.


  • Subtitling is cheaper than voiceover production.
  • Also, subtitling does not affect the original audio track of your training course.
  • Your learners may be able to understand the original audio, but they may not be able to read it – subtitling helps with this.


  • While it does not affect the audio track, subtitling affects the course visually in terms of screen space. Therefore, you have to try and keep the subtitles at about two lines apiece.
  • Language expansion might make the above bullet point more difficult. A lot of languages expand when translated from English, so while your English script might meet special requirements, the translation may not.
  • Subtitling becomes increasingly difficult with lots of onscreen text and multiple speakers as timing becomes very tricky.

So how do you choose?

Consider the following: expectations, budget, and quality. If your budget is lower, then you may want to look at subtitling. Also, look at the course itself. If there is a lot of on-screen text, voiceover might be a better option. How many speakers do you have in your course? When you start getting into 2, 3 or more voices, then subtitling becomes a challenge.

No Matter What You Choose…

There are, of course, dialect differences. When you hear dialect you automatically think of Spanish, French, Portuguese or Chinese. It is important that your learners understand both written and spoken components of your course. When localizing into Chinese, the text will need to be translated into either Simplified or Traditional (both written) dialects, but the speaking component could be Mandarin, Cantonese, or one of many others. The easiest way to think about is to ask yourself “who is my target audience?”

Finding the right eLearning localization solution for your courses will make sure that your content is both seen and heard in the most effective way possible.