Yesterday I accidentally discovered a feature on YouTube that had been in testing for a while and was made widely available in February 2023. It's the selection of different audio tracks that can be used to customize the language of the video. Of course, the creators and uploaders have to create and embed these audio tracks first, but if they do, they can reach a much larger audience. And those who watch or listen to the videos have the advantage of not having to read subtitles or use third-party translations. This is particularly useful if you have poor eyesight or reading disabilities.
Chapter in this post:
Multiple audio tracks in YouTube videos
From improved accessibility for viewers to larger audiences for creators, the relatively new feature offers several benefits. I got them myself yesterday at the new video by Tom Scott discovered, where in addition to the English subtitles for Japanese spoken content, there is also an audio dubbing of the same.
During my research I found out that the "Multiple Audio Tracks" for videos on YouTube were already a topic in 2021 - for example here at Lifewire. At that time, the feature was only tested to optimize the integration. However, it was immediately noted that it can be of great benefit to all parties, and this is reflected in the current implementation.
YouTube itself introduced the matter in February 2023 together with one of the biggest content creators, namely Mr. Beast. You can find the post on the official YouTube blog with this link. Prior to the launch of the new feature, Mr. Beast had already had his videos dubbed and uploaded in their respective languages to separate channels targeted at their respective audiences.
If you now look at his English main channel, you will find videos there, some of which have seven audio tracks and ten subtitle languages to choose from. So it's no wonder that he has over 137 million subscriptions and the video views are sometimes even higher (here's an example). If you can watch videos in your own language, or at least with subtitles, they are often more accessible than just the original language.
How to Select Audio Tracks for YouTube Videos?
To select an alternative audio track for an appropriately equipped video, click on the YouTube website in the Browser on the small gear wheel of the video player. In addition to resolution, playback speed, subtitles and the like, you can also select the new function called "Audiotrack". The number of audio tracks available is shown in brackets. So the Tom Scott video linked above says "Audiotrack (2)" and the Mr. Beast video says "Audiotrack (7)".
In the YouTube App on the iPhone you proceed in a very similar way. There you will not find the gear wheel for the video settings in the bottom right, but in the top right of the video player. If you tap on it, a menu with various setting options will also open. In addition to subtitles, playback speed and the like, you will find the audio track selection at the bottom. Depending on the orientation of the device and the size of the display, you may have to scroll down to do this.
As noted above, different audio tracks are only available if the video creators also make them available themselves. YouTube does not (currently) offer automatic translation with machine audio creation and computer-generated voice tracks. However, I can imagine that this could be an additional function that could build on the audio track feature in the future. After all, this would help smaller channels that don't have the time and budget to organize and fund dubbing.
After graduating from high school, Johannes completed an apprenticeship as a business assistant specializing in foreign languages. But then he decided to research and write, which resulted in his independence. For several years he has been working for Sir Apfelot, among others. His articles include product introductions, news, manuals, video games, consoles, and more. He follows Apple keynotes live via stream.