Follow TV Tropes


Voiceover Translation

Go To

A type of movie and TV series translation mostly used in former Soviet countries (including Russia, Ukraine, Baltic states and CIS countries), along with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Bulgaria. Particularly in the context of Russia, it's also called "Gavrilov translation", while the method used in Poland for instance is also known as "lektor". The original dialogue is still audible (though quieter), with voice(s) reading the translated dialogue out loud. The method varies across countries, with Poland for instance preferring a single monotonous male voice, Bulgaria preferring multiple male and female voices that match the original intonation, and ex-Soviet countries being more varied.

The advantage of this translation method is that it's much simpler and cheaper than dubbing, and still allows the audience to hear the original actors. Despite this, there are multiple disadvantages to this method compared to both dubbing and subtitles. Many viewers might not enjoy having to deal with the original voices being audible but noticeably drowned out by the voice-over translation. Things can also get troublesome if multiple characters are speaking over each other, although having multiple voices reading the voice-over translation can rectify this. The translated lines and the original dialogue also tend to be very out of sync with each other, sometimes by several seconds. Additionally, this method is still more expensive and time-consuming than subtitling (which unlike voice-over translation allows the original audio to be fully heard without any obstruction whatsoever).

Tends to sound very jarring and annoying to viewers used to dubbing and/or subtitles. Conversely, dubbing (or sometimes even subtitles) may come off as jarring to viewers used to hearing voiceover translations all their life; in Poland for example, proper dubbing is uncommon outside of animated movies and children's programming, and often but not always it may be considered childish in many contexts.

Almost always paired with Reading Foreign Signs Out Loud.

In Russia specifically, the tradition may originate from closed-door screenings of Western hit movies for Soviet elite, where an interpreter provided real-time translation during the movie; Andrey Gavrilov was a prominent one. These interpreters later would lend their voices to pirate videocassettes of Western films.


  • News broadcasts and documentaries will often translate the responses of interviewees by having the translator speak over the original person, often jumping in a second late so that it's audibly clear that the translation is not the original person's voice. This is not the case in all countries however, with many countries opting to use subtitles in this context instead.
    • The English dub of the original Iron Chef does something similar — every person not speaking English is dubbed by a different actor, but the timing is just off enough to remind you that this is a dub. Chairman Kaga is a special case, in that he only received a dub actor when the US distributors couldn't get the rights for some of the music playing under his narration.
  • Bulgarian TV also uses this a lot, but usually with no less than four voiceover actors.
  • Similarly, the French-language Canadian channel Musique Plus uses this with some of their reality shows. Lowered original vocal track, but different actors dubbing over the top instead of just one.
  • Some Latin American studios dub foreign reality shows and documentaries this way. An example is The Joy of Painting.
  • Something similar happens in countries like France, Germany, Spain and Italy, where dubbing is customary for all TV. In documentaries and foreign reality shows (such as Love It Or List It or Dog Whisperer), off-screen narrators are dubbed, but whenever someone is interviewed, a voiceover is used.
  • Poland (whose version of this method is called lektor in Polish) is notorious for using this method to translate most foreign-language films and TV series on television, home media releases and streaming services. Specifically in Poland, one single emotionless narrator voice (typically a deep male voice) reads all character dialogue in a monotonous manner while the original audio is still audible underneath, with little to no attempt to distinguish between individual characters. On-screen text is often but not always read the same way by the translator as well. However, theatrically released films are never voiceover-translated (subtitles are the norm for those). Additionally, proper lip-sync dubbing does in fact exist in Poland, with most foreign-language animated films and children's programming generally being fully dubbed rather than voiceovered (although historically, many such titles generally tended to be voiceover-translated in the past); in particular, the Polish dubbing of Shrek is a notable example of Superlative Dubbing.
  • This is the preferred method of foreign adaptation of movies and TV series in Georgia. A notable example of this is the Georgian version of SpongeBob SquarePants. However, with direct sponsorship of the Georgian Prime Minister, Encanto became the first Disney movie to receive a full Georgian-language dub rather than a voiceover.
  • Vietnam traditionally prefers this method, though it used to be much common with children's series such as VeggieTales, Little Einsteins, Pororo the Little Penguin, and Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, which all feature a woman reading the dialogue. Recently, though, when Rio was dubbed in Vietnamese, Vietnam mostly switched to dubbing: examples are Doraemon, Cyborg Kuro-chan and SpongeBob SquarePants and Pokémon: The Series.
  • While Denmark otherwise exclusively uses either full dubbing or subtitles for programs aimed at children, voiceover translations have traditionally been used instead to translate the live-action TV series and movies based on Astrid Lindgren's books from Swedish to Danish. This is actually a third-person narration where the narrator actually voice acts and mimicks the original intonation. More recently however, many such titles have been properly dubbed, which sounds weird to all the people who've grown up with the voiceover.
  • Infamous in the Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water anime where the original Streamline dub had Carl Macek personally doing a voiceover over the original opening voiceover (because he couldn't get the materials to dub that section).
  • Made as an homage to this trope in the Russian version of the game The Suffering with the narration provided by Leonid Volodarsky, another well-known voice-over translator of the pirated VHS-era (it's even listed as a feature on the front cover of the game's disk case).
  • The movie adaptation of With Fire and Sword uses this for characters speaking Ukrainian.
  • YLE, the Finnish national broadcaster, used to do this for children's shows in the 1980s. As with the Danish translations of Swedish -language Astrid Lindgren live-action films and TV series (see above), the translation combined third-person narration with occasional character voices, all done by a single narrator. This was played straight with The Wonderful Adventures of Nils and Tao Tao Ehonkan, but Maya the Bee and the Il était une fois... series had proper dubs (albeit with only a few actors).
  • The short-lived Ukranian dub of Seasons 1-4 of Thomas & Friends was done this way. These dubs only aired from 1998-1999 and weren't very well-received. As a result, the Ukrainian dub was canceled, and Ukraine started airing the Russian dub, as the Russian language is still fairly predominant in Ukraine.
  • Used in the Communist propaganda film I Am Cuba, which takes place in Cuba. The film was made by Russians, but all of the dialogue is spoken in Spanish and English, depending on the character. A male voice translates all of the dialogue and the Spanish narration into Russian.
  • The US release of Otaku no Video featured subtitles of the original Japanese, extending to subtitling the Japanese voiceover translation of an interview with a person speaking English. Presuming that the subtitles are accurate, however, they clearly do not match up with what the English speaker is saying, making him out to be far more of a weeaboo than his answers would suggest.
  • Parodied in the Strong Bad Email "other days" when Strong Bad checks an email from a Polish fan. A voiceover in Polish translates his speech.
  • Historically, Norwegian television used this for dubbing children's programming a lot until the late eighties, but has nowadays completely abandoned this method for such programs altogether in favor of proper dubbing or subtitles. Most of these programs are long forgotten now, with one notable exception: The Czechoslovak/East German fairy-tale film Tři oříšky pro Popelku (Three Wishes for Cinderella) from 1973 was voiceover-dubbed into Norwegian (with Knut Risan himself voicing all characters) for a Christmas Eve broadcast on NRK in 1985. It became so popular that it was requested for a rerun the next Christmas Eve, and before too long it had become a holiday tradition in Norway. It's still being shown on TV every Christmas Eve. When the film was released on DVD in Norway, an original version with Norwegian subtitles was not included as an option, because it was assumed that the buyers were only interested in the voice-overed version anyway.
  • The Italian dub of the Tom and Jerry short "Johann Mouse" is done like that, for some reason (other shorts were not dubbed like that)
  • Hungarians have historically dubbed all sorts of foreign media, but documentaries and reality shows almost always use voiceovers. Lowering the original volume is optional, though most voiceovers don't bother doing so. There have also been random cases of the original voices remaining audible in otherwise fully dubbed productions (for example, the dialogue in Tom and Jerry or Popeye shorts was dubbed as normal, but when a character yelled, you could still hear English words). Other dubs would remove the original voice-work completely but still "dub" the dialogue as if it were a voiceover, paying little to no attention to Mouth Flaps, leading to a Hong Kong Dub (many early, non-pirated VHS releases of animated shows or movies did this). Voiceovers are also commonly used when translating subtitles is impossible—if a character speaks in another language (or plain gibberish), the translation is provided either via their voice actors or a narrator talking over them.
  • In Babylon 5, this is how Vorlons talk — they speak in their native language, and the encounter suit they're wearing provides a simultaneous translation.
  • Parodied on Sesame Street in the sketch A Message from Your Local Chicken where Gordon translates the chicken's cluck into human words.
  • In the Nickelodeon game show, Nickelodeon Global Guts, contestants who don't speak English will have a voiceover translator.
  • Kung Fury received one in Russian from Leonid Volodarsky, another prominent bootleg translator (and probably the most memorable one, with his nasal voice).
  • In some cutscenes of the Russian translation of Beyond Good & Evil, English voice can be heard.
  • Some Italian cartoon dubs from the late 90's-early 2000 such as Dexter's Laboratory or earlier seasons of SpongeBob SquarePants, while voicing regularly most of the cast, used instead voiceovers for animals, overlaying realistic-sounding cries with voice actors doing cartoonish renditions of the same cries. This could also count as a variant of Non-Dubbed Grunts.
  • CLW Entertainment: The fandub of the Doraemon 2005 theme song keeps Doraemon's Japanese voice in the background and dubs on top of it.
  • Used to comedic effect in an episode of Father Ted, where a visiting priest from Cuba, Father Hernandez, is staying at Craggy Island parochial house, and converses with Ted in his native Spanish while a voiceover translates. The emotionless performance by the translator adds to the absurdity, even going so far as to translate Father Hernandez's bawdy laughter as a dry "heh heh heh".
  • Albania is notorious for this, but generally they actually dub as much as voice-over, especially Disney.
    • On a similar note, sometimes the songs are dubbed but sometimes they are not.
  • While Estonia and Latvia have moved on to dubbing, Lithuania is still doing voiceovers commonly.
    • Latvia does this to some extent sometimes too, but Estonia has (except for TV) officially moved on to dubs.
      • The Latvian translation of Ready Jet Go! is just one man voicing over the show. Only the theme song is properly dubbed.
    • However in all Disney movies, Lithuania dubs.
  • When the Italian dub of Dinosaucers first premiered on the Italian TV syndicate Odeon, they used the original intro but had the Italian voice actors do a voiceover translation over it. When the show was moved on Italia 1, this theme was ditched in favour of an Alternative Foreign Theme Song.
  • This used to be very common with children's shows in Romania from 1989-1999. However, some private television channels began to produce Romanian dubs in the late 1990s, and the introduction of Fox Kids in Romania killed off this practice altogether.
    • Examples include anime such as Sailor Moon and the Dragon Ball franchise. The latter was voiced over the Japanese audio until the Cell saga in Z, when the translators started using the Latin American Spanish dub as their base.
  • When The Elite Squad was shown at the Berlin Film Festival, a mix-up made the screening for the international press be of the copy with German subtitles (intended for the audience screenings) instead of English ones. The solution was to put a woman translating the subtitles out loud, which the director pointed out to be flawed (the headphones to hear the translations faultered, the amount of voiceovers scrambled the "dubtitles" with the audio on screen, translation mistakes were made, and given the woman was only reading, the monotone intonation removed any emotion that the original dialogue had) and led to both stumped reviewers going after him for clarification, and an arrangement for an extra screening with the correct version.
  • The now-defunct Ukrainian dub of The Simpsons has fully-voiced dialogue, but will sometimes use this trope over songs. An example of this is the mock sitcom intro in the "Steamed Hams" skit, voiced over by Skinner's voice actor.
  • Former Yugoslav cartoon dubs tend to fiddle around with this trope: during the 1980s the country had 4 separate Serbo-Croatian dubbing centers (one in Zagreb, Croatia, one in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and two in Serbia: one in Novi Sad, the province of Vojvodina and one in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia and Yugoslavia as a whole). The first three centers used traditional dubs done over blank background tracks as is usual (including the Novi Sad center's Serbian dubs of Robotech and Bosco Adventure). The Belgrade center, however, was guilty of the voiceover translation all the way until 1991 and the start of The Yugoslav Wars. The quality ranged from pretty darn awful to solid-but-technically-poorly-mixed. Why "solid"? Mostly because of the voiceover scripts which were laced with Woolseyisms of the highest order. To this very day, if you were to ask a Serb which cartoon dubs were the best, you'd immediately get the "old dub" answer. Indeed, despite the fact such voiceovers as Looney Tunes or the 1987 Ninja Turtles were absolutely terrible in terms of sound quality, many people would simply not trade them for any sort of a better quality dub just because so many quotes from these cartoons got ingrained into the public conciousness.
  • The Spanish dub of Inai Inai Baa!, ¿Donde estoy? Aquí!, does this to the segments following the "U-Tan Puppet Show" sketches that feature real kids, where a woman's voice describes what is going on in the clip shown.

Alternative Title(s): Gavrilov Translation