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Bilingual Voice Actors Meet Double-Lingual
Challenges In Gaining Their Clients' Trust
January 8, 2014

By Linda Joy
Bilingual Voice Actor

'We bilinguals' who voice in two languages (not to mention multilinguals) seemingly have it 'double easy' - but we actually often need to work double hard to gain a client's trust in each language.

That path requires patience, and solutions can be surprising.

For instance, one of our challenges is to establish trust by showing credibility.

The ILR Interagency Language Roundtable developed a standard grading scale for language proficiency, just as the CEFR Common European Framework of Reference for Languages provides a method of assessing language competency.

Bilingual voice talent must also prove proficiency in their languages. World Voices, a non-profit member-driven international association of voice actors, recognizes that need. 


‘Lost in translation’ is not just a result of word choice, it happens because the culture of a language is written between the lines. For voice talent ‘between the lines’ determines our emotional attitude, our inflections, our dynamics.

Bilinguals develop that skill for each language they work in. Bilingual voice talents must be "double-linguals" - which means that talent will have separate marketing materials, email templates, CVs, and demos in each language they work in.

They have multilingual social network profiles, and often different agents for each language.  


A double-lingual talent might also have a different specialty in each language they work in.

In my case, German is a much deeper, guttural language so I record more technical reads in German than in English - it seems to fit better.

Likewise, when I have developed a specific style (or character) in one language, I will try to cross-pollinate that into the other language, and am fascinated by the personal spin it generates.


When it comes to marketing, double-lingual can mean double-effort. A client needs to trust that you really do speak ”that other language,” and since ever-helpful bilingual voice talent Liz de Nesnera can’t be recommending all of us all day long, my advice is:
Promote your experience rather than your ability to be everything to everybody.
For instance, I list my clients for both languages, followed by a ‘voice of’ list for each language, regardless of the project’s target-language.

Getting client recommendations in each language can really help. Whenever you have a chance, pick up the phone and speak to clients - I once had a German client ask me how I sound in English …. "Well, I sound like I am sounding now” (the conversation was in English).

Since then, I work for that client in both languages.   


A double-lingual will bring "Meet me, Trust me, Hire me” to a different level: As a lead becomes a prospect, über-trust is needed to make that a client-relationship.

But from that point on, possibilities can really be double.  

Oh, and the word "double-lingual"? I just made that up.
Linda Joy is a bilingual (English and German) voice talent based in Loveland, CO, performing voice overs for clients on both sides of the Atlantic: about 50% of her work is in German and 50% in English. She holds a European Bachelor’s in Acting from the prestigious Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, and an American Associates degree in Communications. Linda is the ‘reigning’ German voice of Baby Miss Piggy, and is also the German voice of Brighteyes in Poundpuppies, Joey in ‘Dennis the Menace’, Helen Lovejoy ‘Simpsons’ (not all episodes), Wilma ‘Flintstone Kids’, and Josie Pye ‘Anne of Green Gables’. She has currently been voicing projects for Harley-Davidson, the iPhone 5, TJ Maxx Europe, MacBook Air, Chilly Talk and Avon, Lindt Chocolate and Jaguar; and is particularly proud to have voiced part of the ‘Fuzzies’ crowd for ‘Ice Age IV’.


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Comments (9)
Roxanne Hernandez Coyne
1/13/2014 at 9:35 AM
I really enjoyed your article, Linda. Thanks for giving me a better understanding of how to market myself! I've always felt I have a split personality. One for Spanish and one for English. As far as delivery style goes, Janet really nailed it. Commercial reads in Spanish are quite different than those in English. It's a whole different ball of wax!
Thanks for bringing our issues to the forefront, Linda!
Linda Joy
1/10/2014 at 11:16 AM
Thank you so much for all your wonderfully insightful comments - it is encouraging to know this is a familiar topic to many of us.

Reuven, I agree: we do not easily fit in the ILR and CEFR scales as voice talent, since so much is in the ear of the beholder.

Simone, you are a consummate professional yourself!

Elizbeth, I am so glad you found this article helpful!

Dustin, thank you for being one of my clients for whom I work in both languages :)

Rosi, thanks for confirming that building relationships with our clients are paramount.

Jane, I love your story. I can just imagine the 'required shift in emotions' as you go from one language to the other … I can hear the 'inner chuckle' that must create :)
Liz de Nesnera - Bilingual English/French VO
1/9/2014 at 3:31 PM
What a great article!
Having a different specialty & "sound" in each language is something I have also found to be the case. It is almost like a split personality! (hmmmmm....that may explain A LOT! ;-)

And thanks so much for the kind words.
With so many talented friends - like YOU! - who are bilingual, I have become a foreign language resource for my clients...and you all make me look really good! :-)
Jane Ingalls
1/9/2014 at 12:08 PM
Hi Linda,
Thank you for sharing your voice with us as a writer. One difference I have experienced voicing in Spanish and English has to do with how much emotion the client wants in a commercial session. They almost always welcome more emotional expression in the Spanish read. It's a small detail, but one I find fascinating (and fun!)
Rosi Amador
1/8/2014 at 11:25 PM
Wonderful article Linda! I too resonate with so much of what you've said and appreciate the time and effort you clearly spent crafting this, as it really captures my own experience as native bilingual voice talent.

I couldn't agree more on the topic of building trust and how useful the phone (or Skype-voice) is in this regard. Particularly when I'm just beginning to work with a new client, they are always pleasantly surprised when my partner Brian or I call them and they hear our accent-less speaking voice in either language.

It also more naturally leads to new client recommendations, which are critical to building trust in the future from prospects. Excellent that you brought that up as well as it serves as a great reminder to us all to keep them fresh. I have been trying to be better about using the LinkedIn request for referral feature for that, and while I'm making that request, I also obtain permission to use some of these on the testimonials page of my website.

I love "double-lingual". Thanks for the new vocab! ¡Muchísimas gracias y feliz año nuevo!
Dustin Ebaugh
1/8/2014 at 2:23 PM

This is a GREAT article! Thank you for writing it and thanks to John for posting it.You have some very good guidance for bi or multilingual talent, of course. You and Liz are two of my favorite people. I'm so glad you took the time to do this. Thanks!
Elizabeth Holmes
1/8/2014 at 12:53 PM
Excellent article, Linda! Thank you so much for your perspective on this aspect of voice over. I found this particularly helpful:

"‘Lost in translation’ is not just a result of word choice, it happens because the culture of a language is written between the lines. For voice talent ‘between the lines’ determines our emotional attitude, our inflections, our dynamics."

This is helpful direction for those of us who are not yet fluent, but may be able to borrow these elements to create a credible character accent.
1/8/2014 at 11:09 AM
Excellent article! I feel so much identified with practically all the points that Linda shares here. We Bilingual Talents unfortunately compete with many others who guarantee they're 100% native in other languages, when they're not. And that doesn't just happen in terms of Voice Over, but also in terms of Translation Services.

I'm so, so happy to belong to World Voices and help the Industry to create ways to support those who really provide serious, proven experience and reliability in their services. And I'm so glad I had the chance to meet Linda personally a couple of times. You can tell that she's a true professional in what she does, and that her experience is real.

All the best,

Reuven Miller
1/8/2014 at 3:57 AM
Great topic, Linda. I took a look at the ILR and CEFR scales, and it's hard to know exactly where I fit in. For some of the languages I speak with some degree of proficiency (Spanish, Russian, French, German) I have been mistaken for a native speaker on more than one occasion, even though my knowledge of the language may be quite limited.

A video producer with whom I work (a native of St. Petersburg) jokingly tells his fellow compatriots that I'm the only Russian he knows who's managed to completely lose his Russian accent in English! That said, I'd never dare to advertise VO services in Russian - although, I've worked in Spanish several times, as my fluency in that language is on a much higher level (and my accent and intonation are basically native - even though the closest I've ever come to living in a Spanish-speaking area is the South Bronx!).

Oddly enough, although I've lived in Israel for over 30 years, my American accent is spotted every time.
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