Creating Multilingual Presentations: Conversation with Jude Barak

Creating Multilingual Presentations: Conversation with Jude Barak

Created: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 posted by at 9:30 am

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As an expert with broad experience in data collection and presentation, Jude Barak understands to what extent companies need data as a backup support. Collection and analysis of data and preparation for proper display are critical processes to the success of young and well-established companies alike. Based in Israel, Jude speaks 4 languages, which provides her with a broad perception on the importance of multilingual awareness. Jude is the owner of ExcelLeader.

In this conversation, Jude discusses creating multilingual presentations.

Geetesh: Jude, can you tell us more about the challenges faced in creating presentations that need to be multilingual?

Jude: First and foremost – is awareness. I think that most presentation designers design in their own language – often unaware of their client’s need to present in other countries and other languages.

There are 3 main issues: Culture, Direction, and Written Language.


Many times I see a great template that shows an image from a football game. American football. I’m sure that the designer looked very hard to find that image – the one that shows a “fumble” in order to express something that is an undesirable outcome. The problem is that outside North America – a large majority will not understand this.  Or the other way around – to show a clock with 5 seconds left before 90 minutes is up – only people that know regular football (soccer) will understand that image as a “now or never” concept.

Football or Soccer

Worse than just not understanding the message – some images might be considered offensive in some cultures.


Most languages are written Left to Right and therefore most templates are not suitable for languages that are written from Right to Left such as Hebrew, Arabic, Pashtu, Farsi etc. Chinese and Japanese have their own rules – they can be written horizontally or vertically.

PowerPoint (and Office in general) can work with different fonts and direction. However, a Left-to-Right template will not look good using a Right-to-Left language – it will all be misaligned and ultimately look terrible. The same goes for animation: it will work in the opposite order – showing the result before showing the components….

Written Language

Try typing a simple phrase such as “Click to add Title” in “Google Translate” and see the results in a few languages such as French, Portuguese, German and Spanish…. all of them are Left to Right, all of them Latin fonts. The number of words in each language and their length are so different.

PowerPoint Headers in Different Languages

The same original content, same font name and font size – will look totally different in a text box. Due to that, the size of the text box will be totally different.

Additionally, different languages use different characters: Latin, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese – and each one is built differently: Hebrew, Cyrillic & Chinese are somewhat rectangular. Arabic is very flat with very high stroke in some letters. Latin has Upper and Lower case. All these characteristics affect the way a text looks in a text box.

PowerPoint Text Boxes in Different Languages

The same content in various languages can look so different that it changes the whole look and feel of the presentation.

Geetesh: Are there any tools or add-ins you use to make the task of creating multilingual presentations easier?

Jude: I don’t currently know of any add-in that can help with this issue.  One of my goals in attending the Presentation Summit, other than raising awareness about multilingual presentations, is to ask Microsoft to make it easy to reverse the order in which animations are played so that I can apply animation in a Left-t0-Right language and easily have them play Right-to-Left.

As for tools, I send my clients a questionnaire to find out if a template or presentation will be used in other languages and specifically, what languages.

I use Google Translate – not for the actual text (that should never be done!) but to get a sense of what the language looks like, how long are the words, how many words in a sentence, etc.

I believe the best solution is to consult with people who speak those languages and get their ideas and suggestions.

When it comes to images – I will always prepare a slide with placeholders that allow the image to be changed and I send a “readme” file that explains what is the impression/atmosphere I wanted to create. That will assist those who need to use the template to find and insert an alternative image to create the desired impact if my image doesn’t work well in their culture.

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