I have been working with a client to deliver a webinar in Dutch to audiences in Belgium and the Netherlands. That is easy from the content side, but surprisingly tricky from the standpoint of audience communications and registration controlled through the webinar platform.
We are using a full-featured webinar solution that includes support for various languages, allows customization of registration fields and emails, etc. For a small nominal fee, the vendor agreed to add detection and support of Dutch. They produced a file of text elements used throughout the system, which we translated into Dutch and returned to them for uploading.
We added our own custom fields to the registration page, with labels and answer choices in Dutch. We created custom emails in Dutch for registration confirmation, reminders, and follow-up. Then we started testing.
Problem number one came with the emails. Our custom email text showed up in Dutch, as we had entered it. But the webinar vendor added an automatic footer on each email with an “Add to Calendar” link and a standard notice saying “Do not reply to this email.” Those phrases are always in English. The transition from our Dutch content to the English footer information is jarring. This is a very common practice for webinar providers. They like to put a little extra “wrapper material” in the system-sent emails, and this must be in a single language. There is no way to translate an email at read-time based on the user’s language settings.
Then there is the registration page. The standard fields for Name and Email were translated beautifully, based on the browser’s language settings. But the custom fields are “dumb text” that always display as typed in during event setup. The webinar software doesn’t translate the custom fields and answer choices. It would be a tedious burden for clients, since we would have to create label and answer choice translations for every potential target language.
Therefore users who have set up their computers to run in English see the registration page in two languages. Name and Email are in English, followed by custom fields such as “Job Title” and “Company Name” in Dutch. Very confusing.
It’s even less standard than that… The display language used in Internet Explorer is based on the type of Windows installation that was done. You can’t simply change your browser’s operation to suddenly run in a test language. Other browsers such as Chrome allow you to change the language of operation on the fly without a reinstall. So users in Belgium with the same type of Windows setup may see different versions of our registration page based on which type of browser they are using and how it is configured.
I am not aware of a vendor who has attempted to solve these problems to allow for true seamless multilingual operation, with all text translated no matter where it might appear in registration pages, login pages, and attendee communications. It could theoretically be done, but would be a serious hassle to use. Still, as webinars become more widespread in Europe and Asia, I can see a growing demand for this kind of functionality. The target audiences are much more likely to use a variety of language settings on their computers, and webinar hosts could easily conduct webinars in a language that their audiences understand, but which is not the primary language for their everyday work.