How smart do you sound in Spanish?

People make judgments about us by the way we speak. How proficiently we speak a language tells others (rightly or wrongly) how intelligent we are. It is important to keep this in mind when deciding to dub your broadcast to Spanish. The actor’s voice, pace, emotion, and word selection will tell the viewers a lot about the maturity of your ministry. More on this later… First, let me share with you a personal experience that can bring this to life.

When I was 30, I decided to move to Mexico. Up until then, I had been a professional, confident business women and leader in my church. I knew how to negotiate, speak in public, and resolve conflict using my ability to communicate. When I arrived in Mexico, my Spanish proficiency was that of a 6th grader – pretty good for a tourist, but not enough for someone with aspirations to work there. After all, people don’t trust a 6th grader to register a business, negotiate with a bank, sign contracts, and forge commercial relations. I remember screaming inside: “Really, I am smarter than I sound!”

So, what does this have to do with dubbing? A lot.

Much of the Christian programing dubbed into Spanish today unfortunately sounds like it was produced by a 6th grader, or worse. Here is why:

Free Translations

Often ministries accept the help of someone who loves the mission, leadership, or resources that the organization provides, and is willing to translate all for free. Not too long ago I was asked by a large ministry in the USA to give my opinion of one of its DVD series, which had recently been dubbed into Spanish free of charge. Besides the fact that it took 18 months to complete (whereas it would have taken us 6 weeks), there were many other areas in which the production quality fell short: there was frequently no lipsync, the Spanish voiceover was done by someone with a strong accent, some of the phrases were translated using terms not understood in much of Latin America, and the audio quality made the auditorium sound more like a football stadium with bad acoustics. This was not an accurate image of this high-quality, well-known ministry. Unfortunately, I have seen this mistake repeated many times.

Hiring Non-Christian Translation Company

For many years, one ministry we work with had subtitles done as part of a package it was provided by the television station where the programming was produced. This was not a Christian station. While the price was right and they got the work done, there were many terms that were not used correctly, and the message was not communicated with accuracy. When translating messages for ministries, our team frequently discusses amongst ourselves, and with the ministry, the best translation to use from different theological perspectives, and for the greatest understanding. Translation is difficult, it is an art form, and the accuracy of Biblical terms, names and references is crucial in faithfully communicating a message.

I know that Christian broadcasters desire to communicate in Spanish with the same maturity, credibility, and influence that they have in English. The only way to achieve this is through a high-quality dubbing process – equal to the standards of major secular networks. It is not easy, or free, but it is certainly well worth the effort if you want Hispanics to pay serious attention to the important message that they need to hear.

Wondering what professional dubbing sounds like? Watch this sample:

Leave a Reply