4 Tips for Translating PowerPoint Presentations

Need a PowerPoint presentation translated? Not a problem! Most, if not all, translation software can handle the .ppt file format. But there are some elements that may still lead to problems. Here are a few things to keep in mind while creating your PowerPoint presentation to ensure a smooth translation process.

power point presentationMicrosoft’s PowerPoint might not be the only presentation software on the market, but it clearly dominates the field. It’s estimated that Microsoft’s presentation software PowerPoint has been installed on no fewer than 1 billion computers and that some 350 PowerPoint presentations are given each second around the world. With that many presentations, you can be sure that a good number of them end up being translated.

Translating a PowerPoint presentation, however, can be problematic. The vast majority of translation software can handle Microsoft’s .ppt file format, so that isn’t the issue. In fact, the issues that come up aren’t specific to PowerPoint and actually apply to all translation projects. But the nature of PowerPoint magnifies the importance of a few key issues:


#1 Provide reference material

In a good presentation, slides may actually contain very little text. Sentences are short; text is kept to a minimum. While this may be good for audiences, this can pose a challenge to translators. Translators don't have the benefit of all the verbal portion of the presentation. Therefore, when possible, include notes in the presentation where applicable, or provide reference materials related to the presentation.


#2 Consider text expansion and contraction

Presentations are visual, so how the appearance of the text is important. Too many words and the slide looks crowded, impeding comprehension. Translation made lead to text expansion or contraction. For example, translation of English to Spanish typically causes the volume of text to expand by 20%. This is therefore something important to keep in mind when creating a presentation that will be translated. Text contraction is less of an issue, since a sparsely-worded slide is usually a good thing. Text contraction may be an issue for formatting.  


#3 Keep text modifiable

A translator can only translate text that can be modified. Therefore, make sure that text in your PowerPoint presentation remains changeable. Text that has been inserted as an image cannot be translated directly. Users sometimes transform text boxes to images using the 'Save as Picture' option. They might do this because they are using a special non-standard font, and they want to preserve the ‘look’ of their presentation even when the file is viewed on a computer that doesn't carry that particular font. However, this renders the text non-modifiable. If necessary, use the ‘Save as Picture’ option after the translation has been produced. Microsoft Word Art is OK.


#4 Save in an appropriate file format

Microsoft allows you to save your presentation in a number of formats. Saving as a ‘Presentation’ is the default option. Saving your presentation in this format allows you to modify all elements of the presentation. You should not save your presentation as a ‘Show’ or as an image (such as a .gif or .jpeg file) or as a PDF file.


#5 Avoid automatic translation

In the 2007 and later versions of PowerPoint, users can translate single words, phrases, sentences or paragraphs by a simple click of a button. But these translations are generated through Microsoft’s automatic online translation service, Bing Translator. As we’ve explained before, automatic translation still has a long way to go before it can produce quality sufficient for use in a business context. Use these tools sparingly and with care.


Have other questions about translating PowerPoint presentations? Send us your question in the comments section below, or e-mail us.