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How to Handle E-learning Translations: Lessons from Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

Imagine, you are in a foreign country and logged on to an e-commerce site to order groceries. The e-commerce site is in the local language and you use Google Translate to figure out the names of the vegetables, groceries, and dairy items. Let’s say one of things you ordered was 15 eggs and instead 15 crates of eggs are delivered to your home. What would you do?

The chef responsible for cooking for the Norwegian team at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics faced a similar predicament earlier this month. The only difference – he ordered 1500 eggs for the 100 odd team members and received 15,000 eggs! Here is the image from the Twitter post by Trønder-Avisa, a regional newspaper in Norway – with all the crates of eggs.

Lessons from Winter Olympics

Image credit: Trønder-Avisa, Twitter

Luckily for them, the supplier took back the excess eggs. Apparently, South Koreans order eggs by the crate (each crate containing 30 eggs) and perhaps the chef tried to translate the term used for eggs in Google Translate and missed the part that indicated that 1 nos= 1 crate of eggs.

There are two key things to be noted here – Translation & Localization.

Translation of the term eggs is one part but knowledge that restaurants order eggs by the crate and that each crate consists of 30 eggs requires native knowledge. This is what is called localization. Both translation and localization are critical, not just for websites but also for e-learning courses. So, when getting e-learning courses translated, it is important that translators understand:

  • Content of the course (familiarity with the subject domain)
  • Context in which the course is used (to understand the learning objectives)
  • Continent where the course is being accessed (for the cultural differences)

You may consider translating e-learning course at two stages:

1. When you already have an e-learning course in English and would like to get it translated into one or more languages – In this case, having the source files of your English course makes the translation process easier. Your translation vendor will also take a look at the English course and assess the quantum of work that is required. For example, if there are images with text on it, there would be an extra job of re-creating the image all over again and then getting the text translated separately. Other aspects such as cultural sensitivities, terminologies, accepted formats for dates & currencies and the local context of the content also have to be taken into consideration.

2. When you are planning a new e-learning course – It is always best to plan for future translation needs. Even if you do not require your courses to be translated now, you never know, there may be a need in future. So, it is prudent to plan ahead and make sure that courses are created keeping in mind best practices for internationalization and translation of courses. For example, it would be wise to budget for whitespaces in the text as some languages may take up more space for the same content on translation. If you have already decided that you need the courses to be translated into multiple languages, it is best that you assign the job of e-learning development to a vendor who can take up both – e-learning development as well as the translation of your course.

Once the prototype for the English course is completed and approved, your vendor can simultaneously work on the translations. When you assign translations to e-learning developers, they will be in a better position to handle the content cost-effectively as well as smoothly, without any omissions that are likely to arise because of multiple vendors or handlers of content.

Whichever stage you consider the translation of your online course, it is best that you assign the job to a professional e-learning developer who also takes up translations. They are experts and follow a tried and tested process to ensure that there are no goof-ups similar to what our Norwegian chef experienced.

The State of Learning: 2023 and Beyond