Translating your tour

Once your tour has been published in English, with the help of our editors, you can start translating it into other languages. Our user interface supports eleven of them at the time of writing, and there are more on the way. (For a full list, go to and take a look at the filters.)

When you translate a tour, it’s important to ensure that the experience is consistent across languages. To do that, you need to pay close attention to the maximum audio length of each location, how you give directions, and the voice of the narrator.

Maximum audio length and word counts #

You’ll recall that the length of a location’s script is determined by its distance from the next location.

This is worked out by using the average travel speed of a tour. For example, the speed of a walking tour is set to an average of 5 km/ph, or about 3 m/ph. This gives us a maximum audio length that matches the travel time and, in English, a maximum word count based on the average talking speed of 150 words per minute.

When you translate an audio tour from English into another language, it’s that maximum audio length that is most important. Average speaking speeds vary greatly from one language to the next so the word count isn’t relevant.

For example, if a location’s maximum audio length in English is 1min 30sec, then the translation of that location can’t exceed 1min 30sec. But this is only important when the listener is moving. If the listener has stopped, the maximum audio length doesn’t matter.

If the translated script can’t say everything that is said in English and stay under the maximum audio length, you’ll need to use your discretion to trim content from the translation. If you’re in doubt about what to trim, please check with your VoiceMap editor.

Giving directions #

It’s best to avoid literal, word-for-word translations. Rephrase the content instead, using idiomatic language. But pay attention to how the listener is told where to look or where to go in English because we use a number of conventions that make things easier for the listener — and in these cases, it’s often best to stick to the original as closely as possible.

This is especially true when you’re pointing something out, and you should always tell people where to look before you tell them what they’re looking at.

Compare the following two sentences for example:

Example 1

The enormous granite and sandstone landmark that comes into view on your left, as you turn this corner, is Table Mountain.

Example 2

On your left, coming into view as you turn this corner, is Table Mountain. This granite and sandstone peak is Cape Town’s most famous landmark.

In example two, the listener knows to look left as they turn the corner, and is looking at it by the time you tell them what they are seeing.

For more on this, take a look at the part of this tutorial that deals with giving directions.

The voice of the narrator #

We encourage our publishers to introduce themselves and include their own anecdotes, opinions and observations in their tours. If you’re bilingual enough to translate your own tour, and do the voice over, then you can leave the translated script exactly as is. But if someone else is doing the voice over, it’s best to acknowledge this in the recording, for example:

My name is Yao, I translated Corey’s Frye’s script into Mandarin and will be narrating as Corey

To make the most of this, we can include the first 5 seconds of the original tour in English before fading that out and introducing the narrator of the translated script. This can be done again at the end of the tour, by fading in the last 5 seconds of the original English audio. This gives the listener a better sense of who created the tour. If this is something you’d like to include in your translation, let us know and we’ll add it in for you during the audio editing process.

Providing an audio sample #

Before you record the translation, please send us an audio sample. This gives us an opportunity to suggest improvements without you wasting time on recording whole sections of the script that we can’t use. Once we’ve given you the go ahead to record the entire tour and you’ve sent it to us, we’ll also edit the audio for you.

For more on the recording process, go here.

Using paragraph codes #

If you’re working with a professional translator and voice artist, or the language you are translating into doesn’t use the Latin script — like Russian, Mandarin and Arabic, for example — then it is also useful to break paragraphs up using paragraph codes.

These codes allow for easy identification of each paragraph so that everybody involved in the project can refer to specific parts of the tour without needing to understand the language of the translation. It’s especially helpful for the audio editor.

When you export a tour from Mapmaker, the script already has the following:

  • Location title
  • Maximum word count in English
  • Maximum audio length

All you need to do is add codes to each paragraph. Here’s an example:

The Role of Fires
Words: 89
Audio length: 28sec

One of the bittersweet stories of fynbos are the summer fires that are fairly common around here. You might be able to spot the charred remains of one of these fires that can rage out of control for days and even weeks.

Ironically, these fires are crucial in the life cycles of fynbos. The seeds of many of the plants can only germinate after being exposed to the intense heat of a fire, and a fire every ten or so years is necessary for the survival of these plants.

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