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E-learning Translation and Localization: The Why and the How

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E-learning Translation and Localization: The Why and the How

We live in a vast world – many different languages, customs, traditions, lifestyles, and mindsets. Businesses that are spread across countries are also spread across diverse cultures, with each culture having its own set of peculiarities. Although English is a global language and understood by most, different backgrounds can greatly impact the style in which people learn. An e-learning course designed without considering cultural sensitivities can leave users with unpleasant experiences such as the following:

  • A real-life scenario in the e-learning program might seem okay to you, but someone in another part of the world might find it offensive due to their culture.
  • The accent of English used in the voice-overs is difficult to understand for some people.
  • For a non-native English speaker, understanding a course in English can become a problem.
  • Learners from a different country might not be able to relate to the visuals used in the course.

All of these factors make localizing an e-learning program vital for its success on a global scale. Translating and localizing an existing e-learning program can become a big challenge due to many reasons. Here are a few tips and tricks to ease the process:

1. Think Ahead

It is best if the need for localization is identified in the early stages of development. This will help save a lot of time and resources. The various parameters of the course can be constructed according to cultural and linguistic guidelines. Design elements will be superior in such a case, and not just something roughly put together. Videos and voice-overs will sound genuine and be in sync with the graphics or animations on the screen. If a course is to be designed for a specific region, say South East Asia, then its look can be made more appealing, considering their aesthetic taste.

2. Plan Well

Well before the actual localization process can start, it’s best to have on board an in-country reviewer or language expert. Hire people who are aware of the customs and lifestyle of the country, along with being adept in the language. Let the expert review the entire course and point out areas that might be inappropriate for new target audience. The language expert can be the link with the translation vendor. Together, they can identify challenges arising during the translation process. Provide them with the actual source material with which the final product has been developed. The closer they both work together, the quicker your localization task can be over.

3. Technical Considerations

When translating, text can expand up to as much as 50%, depending on the language. Ensure that the design elements are scalable, according to the increased or decreased word count. If you are using a Learning Management System, then it should be capable of supporting multiple languages. A change in language means a change in font styles, characters, date and time formats, and measurement units; the LMS should support these changes as well. Repeated elements such as buttons or instruction snippets should be maintained in a common repository so that they just have to be changed once.

4. Localization is More Than Translation

Don’t view localization as just changing the language of all textual elements, it goes a level deeper than that. Changing the language is just the first step, it is followed by design and visual modifications. A Chinese national might interpret a visual that might mean one thing for an Indian employee, in a completely different way. For e.g. the ubiquitous thumbs up sign is considered offensive in Middle Eastern Countries. Voice-overs and videos are to be changed or modified as well. At the end of it all, your course shouldn’t be lost in translation, it should have the same impact and usefulness as it had in its original form.

The above are considered the best practices for any e-learning localization. If it is done in an organized manner, the hassles arising out of it will be minimized. Always rely on subject matter experts to make your e-learning program flawless in any language. This will help in maintaining a global standard for all training programs. Go step-by–step and before you know it, the e-learning program will be speaking exactly what you want it to say.

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