Alconost provided professional voice over content for the WRD — Learn Words app in 10 languages. The texts for voicing were more than 2,000 words in each language, common vocabulary words. This case study will show what Happymagenta thought of our work, and explain how working on this project made Alconost even better at what we do.
Why an app needs native speaker voice acting
WRD — Learn Words is an iOS and Android app that helps users expand their vocabularies and learn to pronounce words correctly. Key functions and content are available with a paid subscription.
"People using a language app need more than simply words and their translations," explains Eugeny Maroz, Chief Product Officer. "Effective learning requires memorizing how the words sound and how to correctly pronounce them. At first, we thought we could get by without voice acting, or use automated voiceover to synthesize speech. But we realized that we couldn't make those compromises if we were going to offer a high-quality product users would pay for."
Why Happymagenta chose Alconost for voiceover services
"We looked at several voice over agencies at the start," Eugeny says. "We chose Alconost because it's the company so many developers were talking about. I had at least heard about Alconost before we needed voiceover for the app. We knew Alconost by reputation. We also liked the fact that when we started discussing the project with Alconost, their team was willing to recruit additional voice actors to meet our requirements. We needed the search to be quick, and for the voice over actors to be native speakers, and it worked out just right."
One of the languages the client needed most was Lithuanian. Alconost didn't have Lithuanian voice over talent available at the time. But we asked what the client needed — a young, female voice — and we set about finding voice over actresses. The demo recordings that met the preliminary requirements were then reviewed by another native Lithuanian speaker, so we could be confident the actresses used correct diction and didn't have foreign accents.
Then we passed on to the client the female voice over demos that met our standards. A couple of days after the end of our search, Happymagenta confirmed a Lithuanian voice over actress for their product. And the client didn't have to pay for the recruitment and testing process, because that's included with Alconost's service.
Organizing and evaluating audio files for a large project
"We sent Alconost a spreadsheet with the terms for voiceover in the four languages we needed for our soft launch: English, Spanish, Russian and Lithuanian," Eugeny recalls. "We had already assigned every lexical unit a sequential number. For example, "think" in English had the same number as "pensar" in Spanish. We asked Alconost to slice up the voiceover recordings so we would end up with one word per file and to use the number we needed in the file names. We also asked them to provide us the files in WAV format with no compression. Then, separately, we experimented with compression to reduce the size of the app and optimize CDN usage."
Naming files with a pattern agreed to in advance simplifies navigation through a huge number of recordings. The numbering immediately told us what word the file contained without even launching an audio player. That kind of solution also simplifies checks to make sure all files have been received, and makes inserting voiceover files into the app simpler.
Another way to simplify quality control, in a project with hundreds of files of the same type, is to use the simple trick of sorting files by size. Voiceover of one word in WAV, without compression, takes up about 600 kilobytes. If you sort all files by size, it's easy to identify anomalies like empty or incorrectly cut files where there might be several words saved rather than the single one we need.
Product development: more languages, more voiceover
After a soft launch, Happymagenta came to Alconost for voiceover in a new language for the app: German.
"The German voiceover passed our quality control quickly and with fewer corrections. Obviously, Alconost had analyzed its experience working with the first big voice over batch for us and had learned how to avoid some typical errors in a project of this size," Eugeny notes.
Later, Happymagenta added support for French, Italian, Polish, Ukrainian and Belarusian to the app. Alconost also provided the voice acting for those languages.
"When we received the voiceover files for those languages, we had really minimal comments about the makeup of the file sets and what they contained. I have to hand it to the team at Alconost — out of more than 2,000 files for each language, we only had to make corrections to maybe 20. We had zero complaints about the rest," says the WRD product director.
Does professional voice over cost a lot?
"We started making inquiries about voiceover rates about 9 months before we released the app," says Eugeny. "Of course, we were worried that buying professional voiceover services — especially in the volumes we needed — would demand a huge investment in the product. Fortunately, the voice over rates turned out to be totally appropriate. Voice over costs are nothing that would startle developers who know the price of programmers' labor.
Voice over rates depend on the volume of recordings, the language, and the specific voice over actors employed, but those are not the only factors. Here are some other things that influence an audio project's budget:
Whether you need voicing that matches your characters, or neutral voice over narration.
Whether the text needs translation or proofreading before voiceover.
Whether timing matters (that is, whether voiceover needs to fit within specific time limits).
Whether additional audio effects are required (Does the voice need to sound like it's inside a spacesuit? Does it need to sound like a robot? etc.)
Whether the voiceover needs to be split into files, and if so, whether the files need to be named a particular way to simplify their insertion into the product.
Examples of voiceover in 10 languages for the WRD — Learn Words app
Alconost is grateful to the Happymagenta team for its constructive feedback and for its high expectations for quality sound recordings. Thanks to our work on voice over for WRD — Learn Words, Alconost was able to perfect our processes for working on large-scale audio projects and improve quality control.
One year after its release date, the app had over 14,000 users motivated to improve their foreign language skills. For WRD — Learn Words, professional voice over was a competitive advantage, one that helped convince users to pay for a subscription.
Do the leading apps in your niche have professional voice over? What about your direct competitors?
If your product needs voice acting in any language, Alconost is ready to help.
Examples of other Alconost audio projects
Voiceover for games
Voiceover for software
Bonus: More about WRD — Learn Words
As of summer 2022, WRD — Learn Words contained 12 languages. Two of them — Norwegian and Swedish — are voiced with voice synthesizers for now, while developers evaluate the prospects for investment and promotion in Scandinavian markets.
How Happymagenta chose languages for its app
The app's first release supported English, Spanish, Russian and Lithuanian. Those were the languages the developers wanted to study. Yes, they made the app partly because the available alternatives for the languages they wanted to learn, especially Lithuanian, didn't live up to their expectations.
To expand the app's language pool, the developers conducted their own research. For example, they studied the most popular languages and calculated how many people in particular countries were native speakers of that country's official language and how many were not.
How the words to be learned through the app were chosen
To select words that could be studied through the app, Happymagenta examined the frequency with which words are used in each language. Aside from frequency lists, the developers also analyzed huge selections of actual texts. For the English language, that included texts published in The New York Times and The Washington Post, for example. So the developers focused on authentic language that users would encounter in real life, and filled the app with genuinely useful vocabulary.
You can download WRD — Learn Words from the App Store and Google Play.