By John E Lincoln

A little while back, I was on a client call and I got stumped. Yep… It happens.

The client wanted to know how they should go about translating YouTube videos. 

After doing a little research, here’s what I came back with. 

What We’ll Cover:

First, What’s the Benefit of Translating YouTube Videos?

Well, there’s plenty.

And if you’ve ever toyed with the idea of international SEO, you’re likely already familiar with many of them.

The first and most obvious is that translated videos will allow viewers from other regions who speak different languages to understand and enjoy your videos. If your audience is international, or you’re thinking of expanding, translating videos is a no-brainer.

In fact, over two-thirds of watch time comes from viewers who are living in places other than the creator’s home area. This means that learning how to translate Youtube videos can really help you grow your audience substantially.

But keep in mind, adding subtitles -in any language – isn’t just for people who speak another language. It is also useful for the hard-of-hearing or deaf viewers. Making accommodations for viewers such as these really go a long way in generating more views and bringing in more subscribers (and help ensure you stay ADA compliant).

Translated subtitles can also be handy for viewers who are in a loud or noisy environment. Sometimes people can’t hear over all the commotion or maybe they forgot their headphones. Having subtitles will broaden your viewership by enabling people to read what’s being said while watching the video in noisy surroundings.

These days, many people access video content on their smartphones while they are en route to or at work. For discretion purposes, they prefer to watch them on silent mode with their captions and subtitles on.

YouTube now has a handy feature that allows you to automatically add subtitles in your own language. This is an easy way to broaden your audience with little effort on your part.

Now, you may find yourself wondering if translating your videos is worth it.

A good place to start is your YouTube Analytics. Under your “Build an Audience” tab, you’ll be able to see where your audience is watching from. If a considerable amount is coming from places outside your home country, it’s a good sign that translation could aid your video strategy considerably.

Translate Your YouTube Captions

You’ve more than likely come across these before.

Subtitles and closed captions (CC) are written translations of a video. These display in the language spoken on the screen. As a rule of thumb, it’s always a good idea to include captions in your videos as it can drastically increase your reach.

In fact, a study commissioned by Verizon Media and ad buyer Publicis Media reported that 80 percent of consumers are more likely to watch the full duration of a video when captions are available. 50 percent of those surveyed also said captions are important because they often watch videos with the sound turned off.

You can choose to write and upload your own YouTube captions, or use YouTube’s auto-generated captions (only available in certain countries).

You also have the option to add translated subtitles, which are translations of your captions in other languages. Again, you have the option here to translate your own, or you can use community contributions.

Enabling community contributions allows the YouTube community to contribute subtitles to your videos. If you go this route (which can save you a considerable amount of time), you will always have the option to review the captions they submit.

Keep in mind, this isn’t always the best way to ensure your videos are translated as accurately as possible.

If you’d rather create or outsource your own captions and subtitles, you can upload them manually to YouTube. Make sure that the files have been created in one of the accepted formats.

Get started by navigating to your YouTube Studio, and select Creator Studio Classic from the left-hand menu.Open the Classic Creator Studio

Open the Classic Creator Studio

To upload your file:

  1. Go to your Video Manager.
  2. Next to the video you want to translate select Edit. Make sure the video isn’t set to private and has at least one subtitle or closed caption track.
  3. Under the video, select the Subtitles and CC tab.
  4. Click ‘Add New Subtitles or CC’ and select the correct language.
  5. Then, click ‘Upload a File’.
  6. Choose your secondary language
Select your target language

And that’s it! You’ve successfully added captions and subtitles to your videos.

Translate Your Youtube Captions to English

Before we keep going, what happens if you come across a video that’s only available in a language that you don’t speak or understand?

To translate your video from a foreign language:

  1. Click on the “Settings” icon, select “Subtitles/CC,” and then click “Auto Translate.” A list of languages you can translate into will be displayed. Select “English.”
  2. You’ll see that the subtitles have automatically been translated into English. While everything won’t be translated with 100 percent accuracy, the whole idea is that you can at least get a rough translation so you can easily follow along.

Translate Your YouTube Titles and Descriptions

You also have the option to translate your titles and descriptions.

By translating this kind of metadata, viewers who speak another language will be able to find your videos in the search results, which will, in turn, increase your video’s discoverability and boost your organic reach.

To add titles and descriptions in another language:

  1. Go to YouTube Studio
  2. Scroll down the right-hand menu and select Subtitles
  3. Set the original language (if you haven’t already)
  4. Click the Add language button and choose the language you’d like to translate to.
  5. Under “Title & Description”, select Add.
  6. Enter the translated title and description
  7. Click Publish

And you’re set!

Translate Your Playlists

I always recommend creating playlists for your YouTube channel.

They give viewers an easy way to navigate your content and find what they want. Plus it creates helpful content categories so you can make sure you’re covering your major topics thoroughly.

But this is another area where you don’t want to leave any international viewers hanging. Luckily, YouTube allows you to translate your playlist titles and descriptions as well.

To do so, you’ll need to navigate back to the Classic Creator Studio in the left-hand menu of your YouTube Studio.

From there:

  1. Select ‘Playlists’ from the Video Manager
  2. Click ‘Edit’ by the playlist you’d like to translate
  3. Click the three dots on the right-hand side and select ‘Translate playlist info’
  4. Click the settings and select “translate playlist”
  5. Under “Original language,” set the playlist’s primary language
  6. Then, Under “Translate into,” select or add your desired language
  7. Enter the translated title and description and then click Save.

Change the Default Language of Your YouTube Video

The language you choose under your video settings is important because it lets YouTube know what the primary language spoken in your video is.

If you accidentally set your language setting to the wrong one, you can easily change it to the language spoken in the video. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Login to YouTube Studio.
  2. Choose Videos from the menu on the left-hand side.
  3. Select the video you want to edit by clicking the title or thumbnail.
  4. Open the Advanced tab.
  5. You can then choose the appropriate language from the Video Language drop-down menu.

You should also be aware that if you change the original language for your video settings, all future subtitles will use this newly selected language to base their translations off of. Closed captions and subtitles from your draft will not be affected by the change.

So, What Do Translated Videos Look Like?

In case you’re wondering what your viewers will actually end up seeing after you’ve implemented the steps above, here’s a quick rundown.

The cool part is that the user doesn’t really have to do anything; videos will automatically play with the appropriate subtitles for a user’s given location.

YouTube is an advanced platform that uses certain triggers to match the video language to the viewer’s native tongue.

These triggers are based on the viewer’s chosen interface language, recently watched videos, and location. YouTube uses these signals to determine the language that is the best match for the current viewer.

If a viewer changes their chosen interface language on the site or through the app, they will not automatically be shown every video in their new chosen language. This takes time to reset.

If you just learned how to translate YouTube videos and you want to see what it looks like to you viewers, here are a few easy steps to follow:

  1. Using Chrome, Firefox, MS Edge, or Opera, open an incognito browser.
  2. Visit YouTube and scroll to the bottom of the homepage.
  3. You will see a drop-down menu labeled Language.
  4. Choose the language you want to check.
  5. Go to the desired video’s watch page.
  6. Run a search for it using the video ID or title. 

Should You Shoot New Videos in the New Language?

YouTube’s pretty advanced, but it can’t translate the actual video speaker for you. And unless you want to invest in some shoddy dubbing, it’s probably not a route you want to explore anyway.

So, should you invest, instead, in shooting a video in several languages?

The answer to this depends entirely on the ability of the people in the video to speak that language and the amount of time and resources you have, as well as how big your international audience is.

Let’s chalk that one up to a business decision.

YouTube Video Translation Tools

  • YouTube provides automatic captions, although these often come with a lot of errors that you’ll need to manually clean up.
  • You can also open your video metadata to your audience and allow viewers to make recommendations to your translations.
  • Rev is a relatively inexpensive translation service that will set up the translation file for you. You just need to upload it!

Wrapping It Up

Having a YouTube strategy in place is key to finding success on YouTube. If you’re investing in the channel, you may as well do the (little) extra work required to make sure your entire audience can enjoy your videos.

Set up is relatively easy, and remember, you always have the option to allow Community Contributors to help the process along.

Bottom line: translating your YouTube videos is well worth it. So get to it!

About John E Lincoln

John Lincoln (MBA) is CEO of Ignite Visibility (a 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 Inc. 5000 company) a highly sought-after digital marketing strategist, industry speaker and author of two books, “The Forecaster Method” and “Digital Influencer.” Over the course of his career, Lincoln has worked with over 1,000 online businesses ranging from small startups to amazing clients such as Office Depot, Tony Robbins, Morgan Stanley, Fox, USA Today, COX and The Knot World Wide. John Lincoln is the editor of the Ignite Visibility blog. While he is a contributor, he does not write all of the articles and in many cases he is supported to ensure timely content.


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