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Worldly Voices : German Voices

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

July 19, 2007

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German VoicesDoes globalisation play a role in the spread of languages?

Both Doris Lauerwald and Armin Hierstetter of Germany can see the connection.

From the land of Neumann microphones and Black Forest Cake, learn about the impact globalisation is having on this glottal and very distinct Germanic language of German.

Germany, known for The Brothers Grimm, storybook castles, chocolate, Bach, Beethoven and the Boys, and the Rhine is one of our focal points this week as we learn more about the languages spoken in the global marketplace and the native speakers who give companies a voice through various applications using audio.

When chatting with German voice talents Doris Lauerwald and Armin Hierstetter this week, I learned a great deal about just how global the voice over marketplace is and how profound a recording can be to help bridge relationships and strengthen ties between nations and corporations.

Doris remarked, "I think in terms of globalisation every language plays it's own special role. Germany, for example, is well known for different products, and as we're being interviewed on a blog that reflects the voice business: Who doesn't know Neumann Microphones? ;-)"

Along the vein of International relations, Armin offered, "Surprisingly, I get about as many job offers from outside Germany as from German based companies. It's mainly foreign businesses that need presentations for potential partners and clients in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and International Enterprises that have training videos, for example, that they produce for their staff all over the world, including Germany, of course. Recently, I recorded a documentary for the Ministry of a state in India that wanted to strengthen their efforts with a German speaking country."

When it comes to learning the German language, it is a tad more difficult to learn than a Romance language, as is the case with most Germanic languages. English falls into this category too, so you can imagine what it must be like for people coming from other backgrounds to have to learn how to speak a language that we very much take for granted.

Aside from others recognizing that German is a language that one needs to work at, Armin suggested, that even the German say it is difficult. In fact, there is a saying that goes like this:

"Deutsche Sprache, schwere Sprache" which means that German is a pretty difficult language. Perhaps that's why there are fewer operas written in German than in Italian, French and Spanish!

The linguistic barrier presented is by far the language's biggest weakness, Armin admits.

There are less people speaking German compared to English and therefore there is less need for German voice overs. One benefit though, and I'm sure he was smiling as he wrote this, is that there's not as much competition. Armin confides, "Just look at the numbers of German voice over talents on Voices.com compared to German websites."

Upon asking the question of how North America treats German voice over talent, Doris identified globalisation as key to the success of voice actors from Germany in the global marketplace.

She answered, "Yes, and again I've to mention globalisation and companies spreading into foreign markets. Many companies are acting and recruiting on an International base, and e-learning projects, for example, are produced in many languages. These provide International voice talents with a lot of work, especially on websites likes Voices.com, as you've found a way to bring talents and talent seekers together - thinking globally and acting locally."

Armin, concurring, shared that the bulk of the work for International voice over talents is in business presentations targeted at potential new clients in North America and of course training videos. Sometimes, there are English commercials that allow for an International accent which Armin quotes for from time to time. As German and English are very close to each other in both root and form, it's definitely a benefit for a German voice over talent to be able to do voice overs in English as well.

That being said, like most native speakers of a language, Doris Lauerwald confirms that there's a large difference in the pronunciation of words and how they are interpreted.

"I sometimes hear productions with non-native German voice talents, and from my experiences with German clients and customers I can say, that nobody is willing to listen to a non-native speaker for too long when it comes to serious business presentations or e-learning. It is strenuous to hear the talent 'trying to sound native' to native German ears. Sorry to say, but I think we all should do what we are educated for. I think it might be strenuous to American talents to read my English scripts after a while ;-) That's why don't sell myself as a native American talent either."

Armin concurs, referring to those born of native speakers abroad, "Compared to a native speaker and a non native speaker, the descendant would probably end up somewhere in the middle. Some jobs actually ask for an audible colour of that kind but it's fairly rare. A few weeks ago I was asked to do some quotes for a US documentary about Martin Luther where I had to do the voice over in English but with a German accent. So far, this was a one timer."

The US Dollar is again a favorite for quoting International clients followed thereafter by the Euro for European clients as is to be expected.

While invoicing is one thing, marketing is quite a bird of another feather, whether online or offline.

Doris relates that as an actress and voice talent who started her career as a child, living in the "media-city Unterföhring", a city where many of Germany's largest television stations are located, she has gathered a substantial amount of offline clients over the years, however, the Internet and its possibilities have always fascinated her and Doris sees using the Internet as a good way to gain more contacts and make impressions on the International market.

Armin HierstetterArmin shared, "In my case clearly online is the winner. That's because I mainly use portals like Voices.com for this purpose. Also, with the demand of quick turn around, it's the most efficient way."

To elaborate, most of Armin's jobs come through portals like Voices.com.

The interesting thing in Armin's opinion is that to the best of his knowledge, there are no voice over portals like Voices.com in Germany with a focus on German voice over talents. He acknowledges that there are many studios that have their own talents of choice who are listed free of charge, but he feels these appeal to top shelf clients coming through agencies, producers and so on. The good thing about portals like Voices.com and others of this kind is that these attract a wider range of voice seekers.

Both Armin and Doris have the ability to speak languages in addition to German.

Doris is able to record in English with a slight accent. In Germany, she is the corporate voice of several different telecommunication providers who regularly hire Doris to record for their on-hold and phone greetings, IVR and advertising in native German and English with a slight accent. She has also done some Spanish language courses, able to speak very basic Spanish.

Armin's English skills are pretty much above average and from time to time he does quote for jobs where the client allows for non-native speakers. But then, Armin shares, there are many talents out there with an International accent, so there are fewer jobs where he hits the "jackpot".

When it comes to a little something extra for hiring her specifically, Doris is quick to volunteer her experience and passion as something that differentiates her from other German voice actresses. She loves giving a special note on every project and aims to be authentic in what she is doing. A self-professed "studio nerd", Doris loves delivering pristine sound. Her professional recording studio consists of a soundproof sound booth, Neumann U87 microphone among other state-of-the-art technologies.

"I receive positive feedback about my recording quality from around the globe very often - and I love to work with talents that provide high quality recordings myself when I'm hiring them as a producer."

Last but not least, Doris' clients appreciate her versatility. Many clients love to get the whole "package" and need Doris' voiceover services as well as her audio production services, even songwriting skills, session singing and royalty-free music - they love getting the package from one person.

Armin says, aside from his voice that makes him unique, it's his "Singing and composition makes me stand out a bit. Well, at least that's what I thought ... ;) But hey, I just started about two years ago. There is still plenty to learn."

To discover more about Doris Lauerwald and Armin Hierstetter, visit their websites:

Doris Lauerwald
Doris Lauerwald

Armin Hierstetter

Related Topics: Accent, booth, child, French, German, how to, Microphones, soundproof


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