It goes without saying that one can understand better in their native language and one can relate better to their own cultural context. But most often, the official language in the corporate world is English and hence most of the training modules are developed in English too. The solution to this issue is to translate the content into the employee’s desired language.
But is translating the content enough to provide a better understanding? The answer is NO. You also need to ensure that the content is localized. Here is how Cambridge dictionary defines localization – “to make a product or service more suitable for a particular area”.
So basically in e-learning, localization is the process of adapting the content to a particular region or cultural so that the learners can understand and relate to it better, thus resulting in efficient learning. As the global economy is growing day by day, the demand for translation and localization of the content in the e-learning industry is growing too.
Why Translation and Localization?
Imagine that in your course, you have an image of two colleagues bowing to each other as a gesture of greeting. Also imagine you are delivering your e-learning course to a US-based company. Can the learners relate to the course? The answer is no.
For the course to have an impact, you need to change the image to probably a handshake as that is how the citizens of US greet each other. You thus need to make sure that the content you choose adheres to the cultural sensibility of the target audience.
Difference in formats
In India, the unit of currency is rupee, but it is dollar in the USA. While pounds might be the unit of weight in one country, kilograms might be in another. Even dates are not written in the same format in all countries! This shows that the units of measurements and formats are changed according to different countries. Thus translation and localization ensures that the formats are changed according to the necessity.
I am sure that all of you are aware that different languages have different terms for the same concept. For example, what is called as ‘gas’ in America is called ‘petrol’ other countries. Can a learner from America relate if the course uses the term petrol instead of gas? No. The process of translation and localization thus ensures that these linguistic differences are corrected and taken care of.
To make it easy for the translator to do his job, you need to keep a few things in mind while developing your course. Now let us look into a few of these strategies that should be used to develop a translation-friendly content.
Strategies for Creating Translation-Friendly Content
Make it culture-neutral
You need to ensure that the content of your course is culture neutral. You may often notice that two different countries might prefer two extreme ends. The western countries usually prefer an open and intuitive structure and course design but if you move toward the east, you will find that they prefer a more rigid, orderly, and structured design.
A few decisions you need to make before you input your content is between: information heavy vs. no information overload, artistic and aesthetic vs. utilitarian design, individual assignments vs. group assignments. Take these aspects into consideration and you will succeed in making a fairly culture neutral course.
Use globally accepted English
While developing an e-learning course, always make sure you do not lean toward any particular type of English. Be it American, Scottish, or British. Using a particular type makes it hard for the translator to understand the exact context and translate into other languages easily. Also make sure you do not incline to a particular accent or misspell a word.
Let us imagine one would have to translate the Idiom ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’ into German. Can the translator translate it? Maybe. But would it convey the same meaning in the German context? No. This is exactly why you need to make sure no idiomatic expressions are used in your course.
Ensure enough white space onscreen to accommodate variations in text length
When translations are done from one course to another, the text sizes are likely to differ. The translated text might expand or contract depending on the language you are translating to. Let’s say a course which is in English needs to be translated into a character-based language such as Chinese. This might take up very less space in your screen as compared to English language.
But if the content needs to be translated into languages such as French, more space will be needed since the text is longer than the English text. So always make sure you leave enough white space so that you do not end up having a shortage or abundance of space.
Be careful while using humor
What is considered funny in one country may be considered offensive in another. But while the translators do their job, if you include a statement of humor in your course, she/he has no choice other than translating that into the preferred language. Trouble alert! The entire credibility of the translated version of the course is lost. Hence always keep in mind to be extra careful while adding humor.
Avoid embedding text in images
It is always better to avoid embedding text in an image as it will be a trouble to extract the text separately during the translation process. Make sure you create a separate file for texts that are inside image files.
Use neutral humanoid images
Humanoid characters can be very useful and effective while designing a learning module. Always make sure you use neutral humanoid images if you need to translate the course into another language. If the learner cannot relate to what she/he is learning, the learning will not be effective.
For example, if you use the image of a Vodafone ‘Zoo-zoo’ everybody can relate to it. The reason? Because these humanoid characters are not identified with any particular culture.
Keeping these strategies in mind while developing eLearning courses will definitely make the content translation-friendly. What do you think? Do let us know!