5 Tips for Making a Google Hangout Bilingual

December 30, 2014

At the Community Innovators Lab, we’ve been experimenting with making our social media events bilingual. Read about our first-ever bilingual Twitter chat

Our most recent foray has been to make a Google Hangout bilingual.

In late October, in collaboration with our partner Manos Visibles, we hosted a Google Hangout for participants in our Innovation School, a project focused on community leaders in the Colombian Pacific. The hangout, aimed primarily at a Spanish-speaking audience, was conducted in Spanish and featured Michael Peck, the North American representative for the Mondragon Corporation.

A corporation and federation of worker cooperatives based in the Basque region of Spain, Mondragon is often cited and studied as a model for economic democracy, one of CoLab’s key thematic foci.  Because many of the individuals and organizations in our network are interested in learning more about the Mondragon model, we knew that making Michael Peck’s Spanish language Google Hangout also available in English was important. In pulling this off, we learned a number of things along the way, including how to make a Google Hangout bilingual. Five of our lessons are below:

1. You can make a hangout bilingual by liveblogging it in a different language.  

This is a simple yet brilliant idea that my social media colleagues suggested. We tried it, using Etherpad, the live note-taking platform, and it worked. Because of functionality Etherpad provides, we could track the numbers of people opening up the pad and reading it during the session.

2. Leverage the expertise and ideas of other colleagues working with social media. 

Here at MIT, we have a working group for staff who manage social media channels. This group is great for brainstorming ideas and though no one in the group had conducted a bilingual Google Hangout before, the core idea to produce a live English language transcript came from this group.

3. When liveblogging a translation, have at least two livebloggers. 

We were only able to find one bilingual volunteer who was available at the time we needed. He did a great job, but as with live blogging in general, it would have been ideal to have at least one other person helping, as the featured guest spoke fast!

4. Advertise the bilingual nature of the hangout by tweeting out the link to the liveblog while it is underway. 

By noting at the top of the Etherpad that this was an English language transcript of a live event, we were able to tweet out powerful quotes from the hangout and include a link to the Etherpad, without using up our 140 characters to explain the broader context.

5. Allow participants who are reading the live translation to contribute to the conversation. 

Unfortunately, we didn't actually do this, but we realized in our post-hangout debrief that it would have been a fairly easy way to invite listeners to contribute to the conversation. For example, we could have asked participants to note their questions on the Etherpad. Then we could have quickly translated them into the language of the hangout and posted them on the YouTube page for the presenter to respond to.