Voice-Over vs. Subtitling Services: Which Is Better in e-Learning Localization?

Posted by Gummy Tran on December 23, 2021.

When you are planning to localize your online course, whether to opt for subtitling and dubbing will be raised. The answer does not come easy, though. If you’re localizing e-learning for multiple courses, you might require both voice-over and subtitling services to match your learners’ expectations.

You can’t produce high-quality e-learning products with a one-size-fits-all approach in this sector. It mainly depends on the type of online lessons you want to translate and your target audience’s preferences. The important thing here is to provide a user-friendly online course so that you can get the most out of your localization efforts.

In this post, we’ll go through the pros and cons of voice-over and subtitling services, as well as when to employ them in your e-learning localization project. But first, let’s see what subtitles and voice-over are and how they affect e-learning content quality.

The Differences Between Voice-Over and Subtitling Services

The Differences Between Voice-Over and Subtitling Services

As you may be aware, the audio component of any online course is critical to its success. It can either create a welcoming learning environment or distract learners from your lessons. When it comes to e-learning localization, you want to ensure all audiences have access to the same high-quality audio, regardless of the language they prefer to study in.

Subtitling services and dubbing are two choices for audio content when translating and localizing online courses.

When working with subtitles, the translation is displayed as text at the bottom of the screen. Every line is automatically written in the target language when the narrator speaks or during dialogue. The viewers can hear the original voices while reading the translation at the same time for a better understanding. 

Dubbing, on the other hand, will need one or more voice-overs. Voice-over artists/voice actors will create audio tracks in the target languages. Resultantly, your foreign learners only hear the translated version of your audio content, not the original voices of the narrators and performers.


The Pros and Cons of Voice-Over in e-Learning

Subtitling services


Before delving into the benefits and drawbacks of using voice-overs, keep in mind that lip-synching (dubbing) should always be the first option when it comes to e-learning localization.

With a voice-over, the on-screen speaker’s voice will be replaced by another actor’s voice, who will deliver the same message in the target language. And spoken words come synchronized with the way the on-screen speaker’s lips move.

Experts in the industry use two more forms of voice-overs, but they’re less fitted to e-learning: 

  • Off-camera narration: used for online classes where the narrator does not appear, the voice-over will speak over the images.
  • UN-style narration: The learner hears both the original speaker and a narrator reading the translation in the target language. It might cause confusion and slow down the learning process, but it’s seldom used in e-learning.

Dubbing offers e-learning courses with a personable and welcoming tone that creates professional-sounding courses when done correctly. Learners can concentrate on content rather than getting distracted by the extra text. Furthermore, people are more likely to absorb and recall new knowledge when they get instructions in their native languages.


Voice-overs are great for localizing e-learning, but only if you can afford high-quality services. First and foremost, you must identify the appropriate voices for your online courses. If your voice-over artist sounds like a salesperson, you’ll receive a cold narrative, and your learners may struggle to understand what you’re saying.

Before hiring a professional voice-over, make sure you ask for samples. Thus, you can save time and money by selecting the best voices for your online class right from the start.

You’ll also want to collaborate with a group that knows all the technical details. The script can extend as languages rarely use the same number of words to express concepts, and voice-overs are forced to talk too quickly to keep up with the original pacing.

In this case, linguists must translate the content to fit into the same time frames as the original video. You can create the illusion that the on-screen lecturers/actors speak the target language. Then, in order to get the balance of music and voices, the quality of the translated version should match the original recordings.

Voice-over also needs collaboration with translators, voice artists, audio and video editors, and other experts. Resultantly, recording is more expensive and takes longer to complete than subtitling services.


The Pros and Cons of Subtitling Services in e-Learning

Subtitling Services


Subtitling services have several advantages that can’t be denied. First, you can keep your content’s original voices, as well as the tone and styles. No one can replace the actual teacher, no matter how professional the voice artists are.

Subtitles also beat voice-overs in faster turnaround times and lower localization costs. Subtitles are less expensive to make than dubbing since they require fewer workers and less technical skills.

Last but not least, subtitles make it easier to add more languages in the future, lowering localization expenses even further in the long run. Subtitles are a cost-effective way to make your online course available in many languages in a short amount of time.


The drawbacks of using subtitles are most noticeable in two situations. The first one is when your visual content has a lot of text. Adding subtitles will disrupt the image: text ratio, which may distract learners or make it difficult for them to read everything and remember what they’ve learned.

It’s also possible to end with the same information subtitled twice, making it even more difficult for learners to follow along.

The second case is when the target audience is uncomfortable with receiving content in this format. Dubbing is common in movies and television in Germany and Italy. As a result, people are not used to following the subtitles and learning at the same time. It’s an annoyance for many of them, and it could drastically slow down their learning.


Which Solution Works for You?

It depends on your audience and your budget. If your target audience is used to subtitles and you want to reduce costs, you can easily select subtitling services.

It all depends on your target audience and budget. You could choose subtitles if your target audience is familiar with subtitles and you want to reduce costs.

However, if your audience has trouble reading and listening at the same time, you should look into voice-over options to ensure you give a product that they are comfortable with.


Choose a Pro Company for Your Voice-Over & Subtitling Services

Have you found a suitable agency offering dubbing or subtitling services for your upcoming projects? If you are still unsure, talk to one of GTE Media’s localization experts

Subtitling services

GTE Media has a deep network of experienced transcribers, subtitlers, and voice talents to meet your diverse demands. With experiences accumulated through numerous projects, we know how to find the best resources at the most competitive rate for your media localization plans. 

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