Another partnership announcement today from WebEx (on the Webinar Success Industry News page as always). I think this bundled service option is pretty cool. They are working with Language Line Services to let customers record a webinar event and then ship the audio track and files for translation into one of 8 non-English languages. The Language Line guys translate the text on the slides and re-record the audio, then slam the pieces back together to create a complete translated recording that viewers in other countries can watch on-demand.
The concept is a great one, and is absolutely necessary in a global business environment. There is a lot of North American (or at least English language) egocentricity in the web conferencing biz, and companies who figure out a smooth and convenient way to open new markets for their customers are going to do well.
I certainly haven't tested this service (it was just announced today!) but I have used other slide translation services in the past. You've got to be very careful with that kind of work. If you have embedded graphics with text, you're probably out of luck, since the normal translation routine deals with native PowerPoint textboxes. And sometimes these companies have a hard time ungrouping items for translation, regrouping them, and re-applying animations (especially if you use a lot of overlays and fancy PowerPoint tricks). There's also a potential problem with formatting, since the new text is never the same length as the original. You can have a tough time shoehorning the translated words onto a chart or table. The principles of good PowerPoint design should apply to all versions of your presentations, and this means you should demand the right to review and reformat your slides before the final reassembly with the audio track.
I have found that translation works best with the worst kinds of PowerPoint creations... boring sets of bulleted text on slide after slide.
None of this is a dig at Language Line. They might be incredible at their work. I have no idea how they go about their business. But if you are planning to take advantage of this new offering, I hope I have given you some hints on what questions to ask beforehand and what to review before accepting the output. If any of you try this, let me know how it comes out!