By Stephanie Ciccarelli
July 20, 2007
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Der Sprecher, also known as Christian BÃ¼sen about his mother tongue, German.
Curious to know more?
Gain an interesting perspective on what makes working in voice over different in Deutscheland in comparison to North America and other European countries at VOX Daily.
Stephanie: What role on the world stage does German play in the world of voice over? Is your language in demand in places other than where you are from?
Christian: What an interesting question. I had to consult Wikipedia to discover that German is spoken in Namibia for example. German is one of 3 languages in Belgium, is spoken in Switzerland, Austria, parts of France, Luxembourg, Italy, and in Germany :-)
There are German speaking minorities in many countries - partly because of emigration during World War II. There are about 100 Million native speakers worldwide. The German language plays a big role in the world of voice over, as Germany is an export nation and has economic relationships with many countries.
Stephanie: What makes the German language special?
Christian: Some people say, German sounds a bit harsh. It can, as there are more hard consonants compared to Italian or French. But the variety (about 300.000 to 500.000 words) and the rhythm, supported by these consonants of the language are unique. The culture of German language is immense, and many famous writers are to be found in Germany. If you listen to a poem written by Rainer Maria Rilke, you will find it sounds like music.
Stephanie: What is the North American market like for your language or dialect. Have you found much success with North American clients? What kind of jobs are you most hired for by North American companies?
Christian: I work a lot for North American clients. When starting my business, I never thought that it could become that much. I first did my marketing in Germany only and was quite astonished what happened when I submitted in international voiceover marketplaces. Most of the jobs are corporate videos for companies who act worldwide. Seldom a radio play where English with German accent is required e.g. is among the jobs.
Stephanie: When you invoice a client who is not from your native land, what currency do you quote in?
Christian: Sometimes in EURO, sometimes in USD. I always use the Yahoo! Currency Converter. As North Americans mostly pay with PayPal via credit card, I have to pay 4 percent of each transaction.
Stephanie: Do you enjoy greater success marketing your voice online or offline to clients? What are the major differences where your efforts are concerned?
Christian: Definitely online. In the beginning I sent CDs to the customers, now this is done even in Germany by internet. My homepage http://www.dersprecher.com is the source for clients from Germany, the talent databases are important for International business. But I also like to go to a studio and work together with other people.
This is the disadvantage of all the online business:
You may have a nice email conversation with you clients, but you have never met and talked about your children or grandma or pet while drinking a cup of coffee during a break. There are too many clients that I don't even get to talk with on the phone and have no impression of their voice, look, behaviour or who they really are. On the other hand it is exciting for me to work with people from other cultures and I try to imagine how their working situations are.
Stephanie: How would you describe your experience finding work online?
Christian: I couldn't do my work without it. I don't have any agent (except myself :-) ) and really enjoy doing all the promotional work by myself. Some people help with SEO questions. A few weeks ago I started an English version of my website because of the growing International demand. I don't really have to knock on doors anymore. My online presence works by itself and I have many returning clients. New German clients find my website due to a good ranking in Search engines (that was hard and tedious work) while International clients find my site by Google (German voice talent) or via marketplaces.
Stephanie: Do you have the ability to speak more than one language? If so, is this a great advantage for you?
Christian: Well, some English, which is absolutely essential for all International communication. Once I worked for a studio in Bombay, and this guy phoned me a lot and talked about details of the project. The English accent was hard for me, in fact I didn't understand a word and he didn't understand me either. But it was fun and somehow the project was finished with flying colours.
Stephanie: Are you ever asked to mimic styles of English recordings by International clients?
Christian: Yes, I often get a link to the American recording as a reference.
This is funny: The VO style in France or USA is very different. The German audience is more used to understatement and the foreign VO style would be rated as overdone by the German listener if I were to copy the style. I always talk to the client about that and try to find a balance between the original and my recording. By the way, I always upload a linear voice recording and one with a multiband compression to my server, so the client can choose what he likes more.
Stephanie: How does the voice over business differ in Germany when compared to North America from the perspective of a voice talent?
Christian: The VO market in USA is much bigger. So many books about making money with your voice... we don't have that in Germany. Talking to and cooperating with International voice talents is something I enjoy very much. By the way, the only male German native speaker I work together with from time to time is based in the States.
Stephanie: That's very interesting! While we're on the subject, what is the difference between a native speaker of your language and someone who is a descendant of a native speaker living abroad?
Christian: I can't really judge about this. I am sure the dialect will change with the time. I only moved from Northern to South Germany and when speaking privately, the melody of sentences became different (and some words also). I can only say, that even in Germany the dialects are very different. If you bring two Germans together from different areas who speak a dialect only (which may happen in the countryside) they won't be able to communicate.
One example: "It is all because of the boy" in standard German would be "Das ist alles wegen dem Jungen" and in the Swabian dialect it is: Des isch ois wÃ¤ggn dÃ¤m kloa and "Dat is wengdem LÃ¼tten" where I was born. As you can see, they are totally different words.
Stephanie: How do you market yourself to North Americans? What do you have to give them as a native speaker of your language that no one else can?
Christian: Longer formats as corporate videos, educational texts or audio books are the field where I feel comfortable. Many of the texts have a commercial character, but I very rarely do radio commercials. To stress the right words for me is the base for understanding the text. If I donÂ´t get the context, I ask the client. Also I can offer an absolutely dialect free German, as I studied speech communication at the State University of Performing Arts Stuttgart, where we were trained well in phonetics. Often I get translations that are very bad. In this case I talk to the client to find a better solution. This makes me aware of the fact that German is a very sensitive language. One word, which might not even be wrong, can change the whole meaning. The projects where I am in good contact with the client to get the best solution are also much more satisfying for me as a voice talent.
Learn more about Christian BÃ¼sen by visiting his websites:
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