This is part three in a series of posts about running multilingual webinars. Today I will look at the approach taken by Webinato (the recently rebranded name of the company and product previously known as omNovia).
I have a great deal of familiarity with Webinato, as I have used it quite a lot with various clients. The company doesn't do much (any?) advertising, so it is not as well known as other names in our industry, but it has been around for more than a decade and has a great deal of functionality and flexibility.
Webinato first announced the availability of multilingual operation in August 2010. The fundamental approach is much the same as I wrote about in my last post… Designated interpreters have the ability to listen to one language channel in their computer headphones and speak into a mike that is broadcast to listeners of an alternate language channel. Interpreters can choose to listen to the presentation "floor language" or to a translated stream to act as a pivot language for relay interpretation.
There is no provision for alternate viewing materials… All participants see the same slides, movies, white boards, or other content. So if you want participants to be able to follow along with translated materials, you need to make the documents available in the online "downloadable documents" folder in the conference room and invite participants to open them for independent viewing while they listen.
Webinato offers full-featured front end and back end registration and administration features for webinar participants, which means lots of screens and lots of text prompts sprinkled around the system. Depending on how an administrator configures their account, people may be able to see a list of upcoming events; see detailed descriptive information for a single event; register with a combination of standard and custom fields; invoke payment processing for fee-based webinars; receive confirmation, reminder, and follow-up emails (in text or HTML); login for a webinar; and see greeting and prompt messages inside the conference room.
Webinato has attempted to make all these features accessible in a number of languages. Users find a language selection list in the upper right corner of registration and login pages.
There seems to be a randomness to the sort order and I know just enough Russian to know that the translation for that language name is incorrect (they spelled out "Russia" instead of "Russian" as in the language).
What happens next for non-English languages is wildly inconsistent. I get the definite impression that alternate languages have not been a priority area of concentration for Webinato and have not been tested in a comprehensive and methodical manner. Depending on the selected language, some phrases are translated and others remain in English. I found login prompts that actually mixed alphabets in the same sentence ("Enter as an Посетитель").
I tried to see what would happen when selecting Hebrew, which reads from right to left. It didn't work very well, but that may be because my computer was not configured for Hebrew as the language of operation. I think things like input fields might be controlled at the operating system or browser level, rather than directly by the Webinato interface. My input boxes still showed typing progressing from left to right. I did notice that Webinato switched the label/field order so the labels showed on the right of the input fields, which was proper positioning for that language.
When I tried to enter the conference room in Hebrew or Arabic, nothing ever displayed in my browser window… It was completely blank. Other languages showed the display area correctly, but with random and inconsistent combinations of English and selected language. For instance, it seems bizarre to me that the cancel button would be translated to my German selection while the phrases differentiating reloading the webinar room from exiting the webinar remain in English:
Emails in Webinato are completely customizable, and administrators could copy and paste any text or alphabet they want - but all registrants see the same email. So if true language-specificity is your goal, you would probably need to build web pages in each language with the desired text and instructions, and then send out a multilingual email with links to each language's page. Note that Webinato adds a few things in English, no matter what… Emails come from "<your company> Events" and get an English language "Add to calendar" and footer message that you can't override.
The fact that Webinato allows language selection and multiple interpretation streams for attendees is great. They need to spend some more time going through all their languages and all their text on screens throughout the system to make them consistent before I can recommend it unreservedly as a multilingual business tool. Something is better than nothing, and I'm sure audiences appreciate the fact that they can at least listen in their desired language. By the way, Webinato will add an additional language upon request, in return for a customization fee. They provide a list of phrases for their master database and it is the requesting company's responsibility to provide translations.