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6 Tips for Starting Multilingual Podcasts

A man wearing white headphones smiles as he sits in front of a podcast microphone

With the growth of podcasts comes a demand for non-English content on multilingual podcasts. It’s a natural progression, considering the racial breakdown of podcast listeners in the United States reflects the overall population, whose diversity is growing exponentially. It’s also not surprising when you realize that more than 70% of consumers spend most of their time online engaging in content in their native language

Multilingual podcasts can also help attract advertisers, whose spending is expected to top $2 billion in 2023

But while brands are eager to find podcasts that tap into audiences with diverse backgrounds, companies like iHeartMedia, Vice Media Group, Tinkercast and MundoNow are scrambling to keep up with demand. If you’re looking to fill the niche with a multilingual podcast, there’s never been a better time.

6 tips for planning multilingual podcasts

Consider these tips as you begin your podcast planning and development.

Determine the podcast format

Unless your host speaks multiple languages — or you have hosts for each language you’re targeting, you’ll probably need to rely on translated audio or subtitles. Both options have their advantages.

Translated subtitles can retain the podcast’s authenticity if the podcast is also produced with video recordings. Viewers can see the natural interactions, facial expressions and body language of the hosts and guests. But this format requires the viewer to read during the show, which removes many of the benefits of podcasts, like the ability to listen while you drive, exercise, fall asleep, or do chores.

For many multilingual podcasts, the sweet spot of success seems to be verbal translation. Often done using voice actors trained to “act” through emotion, pauses, laughter, dialect and inflection, this approach allows for the podcast to be released in multiple languages. The downside is that the authenticity of organic conversation is often diluted.

Another option is to recreate the voice-over from scratch, but with the original speakers in the background. Often done with a one-second delay, this interpreter-type format is commonly heard in educational and informational podcasts.

Regardless of which format you choose to produce a multilingual format, be sure to use native-speaking hosts and translators to help ensure that the conversation sounds authentic linguistically and culturally.

Put your transcriptions to work

As a complement to verbal content, a written transcription or translation can greatly benefit your listeners and your marketing efforts. 

Because search engines can’t “read” audio files, your episodes should be transcribed and translated for publication on your website, blog, or social media sites. This will increase your chances of turning up in search results. It will also provide multi-language options for those who normally wouldn’t share the content in its original language.

Invest in language software on your sites

Modern technology allows users to switch languages on a website with just the click of a mouse. By providing a seamless transition for users to toggle between languages to listen to or read transcripts, podcasters can diversify their offering to fans in multiple countries.

Localize your content 

Just because listeners share a common language doesn’t mean they’ll experience your content in an identical manner. A Spanish-speaking listener who lives in Mexico will likely have different cultural references — including music, TV shows, jokes, and figurative language — than a Spanish-speaking listener in Portugal. 

Investing in hosts, guests, voice actors, and translators who understand cultural nuances will be worth the investment to earn listeners’ trust and time. It may also save you some embarrassment by helping you avoid cultural faux pas from mispronunciations, wording and cultural insensitivities.

Choose the right platforms

While choosing a platform you’re familiar with can make launching a multilingual podcast easier, it may not necessarily be the best platform to attract listeners in foreign countries. So while Spotify may be the most commonly used podcast-listening app in the United States, it only launched in South Korea in 2021. If you’re targeting a foreign audience, be sure to do your homework first to ensure they’ll be able to easily find and listen to your podcast.

Likewise, promoting your podcast to foreign listeners will require you to research and understand which social media platforms are most popular in other countries. 

If you’re trying to reach German-speaking listeners for your podcast on business networking tactics, for example, LinkedIn might feel like the natural choice to promote it. But XING is a popular alternative for business professionals in Germany and Switzerland. 

If you’re trying to reach Chinese listeners, look beyond the most popular social media platforms of the Western world — Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. From a traffic perspective, WeChat, Douyin and Weibo are the most popular platforms in China. 

Use multilingual hashtags in promotion

A survey of consumers in eight countries found that 75% said they are more willing to buy a product with information in their native language. Promote your podcast with hashtags in multiple languages to make them searchable and recognizable to potential listeners.

It’s worth investing your time in planning before launching a multilingual podcast. Reaching customers to impress them with authentic, organic, or well-translated content will help ensure they return to your podcast; done right, your listeners may become your biggest promoters.