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E-learning Translation – Should You Localize or Internationalize?

Now that organizations are operating from various corners of the world, their training resources are also being translated into the native languages. I agree that translation is a tough job, but I bet translation of e-learning courses is tougher. Why is that?

  • You can never really comprehend the changes in the meaning of the content. However, it does not end with simply translating the text in the course.
  • You must also consider the various elements you add into the course, such as pictures, symbols, and multimedia.
  • You might not know if the symbols and images you used convey the exact meaning in other languages as well, and not convey something else, especially not something abusive in any nature.
  • You may also end up cluttering the screen as you might be ignorant of the fact that the same sentence in different languages vary in length.

So, instead of trying to localize the e-learning courses, internationalize them.

What is Localization?

Localization, which is sometimes written as l10n, refers to the process of making a product specific to a region. You might think it’s just the about translating the language used in the product into a native language. May be that is the reason why the words translation and localization are used as synonyms. However, translation is only a part of localization and deals with other aspects as well apart from the language.

Let’s consider this in e-learning. When you localize an online learning course, apart from translating the language, you also change other aspects such as images and accent of the narration to something more relevant to the region that the course will be delivered. For example, if you are localizing a course of your employees in China, then you would use images with Chinese people and their environment and also choose which kind of Chinese it would be – traditional Chinese or simplified Chinese. You also change the symbols used in the course, in case they have a different meaning, which is not what you want to convey.

What is Internationalization?

Internationalization, which is sometimes written as i18n, can be defined as making something potentially adaptable globally, without the need to change much. For example, take a look at the evolved Starbucks logo.

Logo of Starbucks

The first logo of Starbucks needs translation of its name for every region. But, the evolved version needs nothing. I mean literally nothing. This is what internationalization or globalizing means.

For e-learning, content is everything; you cannot replace it with images and expect learners to understand. Translation here becomes essential; you cannot avoid it. So, for internationalizing you e-learning courses, you must use all the images and symbols that are globally accepted. In place of real people who belong to a particular race, region, or religion, you must use images of people culturally diverse. If you find it difficult get such images, you can create silhouette, which do not depict any race, region, or religion. Also, you must use symbols that are globally recognized.

So what do you choose? Localization or internationalization?

I guess it would depend on the stage of e-learning you are in. If you are freshly building your online learning material, you must consider internationalization/globalization as it would make your future work of translations easy. But, if you already have your online courses built, you have no other option but localize each and every element of your course. So, are you localizing or globalizing?

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