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Translating and Localizing eLearning Courses

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Companies operating in more than one country often have to factor for the cultural and linguistic differences of individuals they deal with. They need to translate and localize marketing or communication collaterals to suit the target audience. The same is true with eLearning courses as well. A course meant for the American employees may not be appropriate for their workforce who is located in say Malaysia or Japan. There are many reasons for it. Some of them are as follows:

Cultural differences: When you have employees spread across different countries, you know you are dealing with people from different cultural backgrounds. You need to consider these cultural sensibilities while designing courses – be it the choice of language or images used. For example, if you have an image of a young CEO in the American version of the course, it may not be appropriate in certain countries where the average age of a CEO is 50+. For maximum impact, the image will have to be changed appropriately as required for this other audience.

Contextual & legal differences: Suppose you are creating a course about a manufacturing process that needs to be deployed across manufacturing plants located in different countries. You may have a segment that talks about safety procedures and the safety requirements as per the laws applicable to that country in a module. In such instances, you will have to customize the courses to include local laws and regulations. Only then will it be relevant to the target group of learners.

Differences in formats: Units and measurements vary from one country to another such as pounds or kilograms. Similarly, the format in which date is written and read differs. References to terms will have to be localized so that there is no ambiguity in comprehension for learners. Localization assumes significance in this context.

Linguistic differences: Certain terms are referred to differently in different places. It may be gas in America, but people in Europe know it as petrol. Similarly, there may be other differences in terms of language usage, slang and inappropriate or taboo words and these factors need to be considered while localizing eLearning courses.

Therefore, translation and localization becomes necessary for all forms of communication, including eLearning courses. What are the practices you adopt to ensure that all your eLearning courses go through a stringent localization process before being used in regions other than where it has been originally developed? Do share your experiences.

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