One Webinar, Many Languages: Delivering Real-Time Webinar Translation
As a result of the 2020 pandemic, an online business environment that seemed like it was still a decade away became standard overnight.
The new normal has opened doors for global business. Presentations that might once have been delivered to a localized trade show audience are now streamed all over the world as webinars. People who were never able to travel to attend a seminar can now learn from – and interact with – presenters on another continent.
The benefit of this global reach is clear, but it’s not without its complications. One of the more vexing questions is how to bridge the language gap when presenting live information to an international audience. After all, global reach is meaningless if the audience doesn’t fully grasp the material.
The percentage of people who prefer learning in their native language is as high as 90 percent, even if they are multilingual. Audiences more easily absorb and engage with content delivered in their mother tongue. The challenge to companies, then, is to present webinar translations that provide value to their entire audience.
Less than optimal webinar translation options
The first solution to this challenge is the most basic. Pre-record webinars, then dub or subtitle them before streaming. This conveys accurate information, but turns the audience from active participants into passive observers. Since the webinar does not take place in real time, the audience is unable to ask questions, share insights, or interact with the speaker as well as with one another.
Another option is consecutive interpretation, which has its own drawbacks. In this model, the speaker delivers a part of the webinar while an interpreter listens and takes notes. The speaker then pauses while the interpreter repeats the information in the target language.
Consecutive interpretation allows for engagement, but it’s a cumbersome process. It at least doubles the length of the webinar, and interrupts the speaker’s natural rhythm and flow. Constant interruption and lengthy pauses during which they can’t understand what is being said are frustrating for both speaker and listener.
Webinar translation using RSI
The most effective solution is a revolutionary interpretation model called Remote Simultaneous Interpretation, or RSI. With RSI, webinar translation occurs in real time as the presenter is speaking. Unlike consecutive interpretation, audiences only hear the audio in their native tongue.
With RSI, the speaker delivers the webinar in his/her native language. The audio is streamed to a remote interpreter through a cloud-based platform designed specifically for interpretation. As the audio stream is received through a headset, the interpreter translates the material into a microphone.
The video and audio streams merge for the audience end of the webinar. The audience sees the speaker but hears the interpretation. The combination of a reliable RSI platform, a skilled interpreter, and a high-speed Internet connection makes delivery feel seamless. Its speed and efficiency have made RSI the go-to option for making webinars available in multiple languages.
How RSI platforms work
Some RSI platforms are designed to work in tandem with online meeting programs like Zoom or GoToMeeting. The event platform hosts the webinar, and the RSI tool delivers the translation via a separate browser tab or mobile app.
Other RSI tools, such as the technology deployed by Interpro, are event platforms in and of themselves. Interpro’s RSI solution supports traditional webinar functions such as screen sharing, Q&As, polling, and document sharing. This easy-to-use platform can be accessed through a computer or smart device, provides high-definition audio and video, and is protected by high-level security.
The burgeoning global economy is fueling the demand for webinar translation. To compete, event platforms are trying to integrate interpretation into their own software. Zoom, for example, now allows meeting hosts to designate up to 20 participants as interpreters.
When the Zoom host turns on the interpretation feature, the interpreters each translate on their own dedicated audio channel. Participants select the language they want to experience the webinar in. They have the option to mute the original audio or run it at a low volume behind the translation.
The Zoom feature is still in its infancy, and has several downsides. Cloud recordings record only the original audio, so audiences who wish to go back and watch a webinar again cannot hear it in their native language. Zoom interpretation cannot be used with Personal Meeting ID, and must be enabled at the time the webinar is created. Interpreters must be panelists, and cannot be hosts or participants. It also requires a more expensive Zoom license, which may not make sense for all organizations.
Zoom also introduces some challenges for the interpreters. It has no handover or relay features, so an interpreter cannot hand off the interpretation task to a backup should he/she be unable to complete the webinar. The interpreter also has a less reliable audio stream for the original material. Overlapping conversations, unmuted mics, and poor sound quality can all negatively impact the interpreter’s ability to deliver a high-quality webinar translation.
It makes sense to use a tool designed for the job. Forcing a meeting platform to act as an RSI tool is like driving nails with a wrench: it gets the job done, but not as easily or as well as a hammer would.
With the availability of high-quality RSI platforms, there is no compelling reason to deliver a webinar translation through a platform not designed for it.
Think beyond vocabulary
Delivering a high-quality multilingual webinar involves something besides the right technology. It needs the right interpreter. An interpreter with expertise in the subject matter will deliver the most accurate webinar translation. For best results, provide your interpreter in advance with as much reference material as possible.
In addition to live interpretation, supporting materials covered in the webinar – such as handouts or PowerPoint slides – should be localized to give users the best experience. Localizing goes beyond word-for-word translation. It takes into account cultural nuances and context. It eliminates the confusion that may be caused by unintentional use of colloquialisms or idioms.
For example, an English-speaking Interpro client wanted to market a seminar to affiliates in France. The English marketing materials said the seminar would make something “easy as pie,” resulting in a “recipe for success.”
The idiom “easy as pie” doesn’t exist in French. Translating the material as-is would have made it nonsensical. Interpro worked with its French team and the client to develop French marketing materials with the slogan, “easy as saying hello.” This got the message across to a French-speaking audience.
Ideally, localization should begin before the webinar is even streamed. During the webinar planning stage, translation experts should be consulted to ensure both the content and visual elements will be understood. Signs, symbols, and colors often vary in meaning across cultures. Using inappropriate visuals to support your content could elicit reactions ranging from amused to offended.
Bringing it together
In conclusion, teaching, meeting, and interacting with global audiences in an online format will only become more commonplace. It’s critical that organizations who are taking the lead in the global economy be prepared in order to ensure that their content is understood the way they intend it to be through Webinar Translation.