Every tv and streaming app in my house is set to show subtitles — I’m not hard of hearing, but I like keeping the text showing on the screen. It is an extraordinary boon, of course, when I’m watching something in another language — I know French, but it’s nice to be able to see it written in case I miss something, and there are differences with French & Québécois. So, if you’re presenting something to a group that includes members with a second language preference — or just are not that strong with spoken language — here’s a cheap, free & easy way to do it: PowerPoint! And it’s in both the desktop & online versions (again for free). Accessibility doesn’t mean only accomodating for known challenges — it’s using a ramp instead of stairs to make everyone’s lives easier.

In PowerPoint’s SLIDESHOW menu (or the VIEW menu in the online version … but only if you turn Simplified Ribbon off) you can set your subtitles to always show. If you just want subtitles, leave it English spoken / English seen but you can choose your words to be automatically translated to a different target language. Be sure to click ALWAYS USE SUBTITLES otherwise they won’t appear! (In online PowerPoint, it only says “Use Subtitles” … consistency would be helpful here).

When you start the presentation, PowerPoint will ask for access to your microphone. As always, practice speaking slowly, and with enunciation. PowerPoint Coach (the AI speaking coach built into PowerPoint — see link) would be helpful here! And if you’re in Presenter View, the 3-dot menu will give you access to change the location and language of the subtitles (language is available under “More Settings…”).

Me saying “So this is how you get automatic translation subtitles in PowerPoint”
Me saying “So this is how you get automatic translation subtitles in PowerPoint”

I think just using English –> English subtitles can help your participants (if you practice speaking slowly, clearly and with anunciation — use a Snowball or get an over-the-ear wireless microphone — like an aerobics instructor! — if you’re a regular presenter (50-150$) because the clearer the sound going in to the subtitle/translation system, the better the quality coming out.

Now, PowerPoint has another option for subtitles/translations where the individual viewer can pick their language of choice on their device — but that starts to up the cost on both presenter & participant. I’ll cover that in another post — but I wanted to share a quick-easy-and-free way to get subtitles on your presentations.

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