The Expert Guide: 5 common eLearning translation mistakes to avoid

Posted: 5 Mar 2024
eLearning translation mistakes to avoid

Translating your eLearning content is the first step to democratising learning and ensuring the best outcomes for everyone. But if you’re not an eLearning translation expert, some common mistakes can complicate or slow down the process.

What are the most common pitfalls when it comes to eLearning localisation, and how can these be avoided?

Mistake 1: Building your content in a non-translation-friendly format

Content with embedded text such as images and video is not difficult to translate but will add additional time and cost to your eLearning translation project. If you’re creating a project destined for translation, consider captions for your images and video instead, as this text can be easily pulled out in an authoring tool export and quickly translated with the rest of the project.

If you do want to include images and videos with embedded text in your project, make sure you keep hold of those editable design files!

Mistake 2: Writing for a UK- or US-based audience only

Whilst the growth of social media and streaming platforms has popularised English-speaking cultures, it’s important to remember that tailoring your eLearning content to a specific market may confuse or even alienate others.

For example, including a non-binary character works perfectly for an eLearning module written in English, as various gender-neutral pronouns exist in the English language. However, in other languages, gender neutrality is a complicated concept, as gender is often hard-coded into a language’s grammar. Translators are often obligated to either assign the male gender as a gender-neutral default or include both genders, which can not only exclude other gender identities, but can also look clumsy, especially when space is limited.

Beyond gender, there are things like the use of colour, idioms, and even a sense of humour, all of which are incredibly culturally sensitive. If you’re not considering these during eLearning translation, then at best you’re not being as engaging as possible, and at worst you might cause offence.

Cultural audits are the best way to quickly get a read on how suitable your content is for an international audience.

Mistake 3: Leaving insufficient time for eLearning translation

There are always ways to balance challenging deadlines with translation quality, especially thanks to new AI tools such as machine translation and video generation tools.

However, it’s important to build enough time for translations into your delivery schedules, including any quality assurance checks and reviews by your client or in-market teams.

For eLearning translation and proofreading, typically we estimate 1 day for every 1000 words, which leaves us plenty of time to complete all necessary checks to make sure our translations are good to go! Extra time can then be built in for additional services such as image localisation and authoring tool implementation.

Mistake 4: Not making the best use of your in-market experts

A final review by internal subject matter experts is a critical stage in the overall translation process. It ensures that any local knowledge and expertise is captured, with specific feedback on terminology, style and tone.

Aside from supporting the review process, your in-market colleagues or clients can also be an invaluable asset in briefing translators, ensuring that your eLearning translations deliver exactly as they need to. By asking them the right questions on their preferred style and tone, and requesting any previously approved translations or resources (e.g. glossaries) to use as reference, your translation partner can ensure that your localisation project is on the right path from the very beginning.

Mistake 5: Having only one pair of eyes on your eLearning translation

It’s unlikely that any English content won’t have been proofread by at least one other person, so why would you take a different approach when it comes to translation?

Additional proofreading allows for a second experienced pair of eyes to review the eLearning translation, ensuring a high level of quality and adapting the messaging to be appropriate, effective and engaging for audiences in the target market.

Our top tip: Work with an eLearning translation expert

Getting advice from localisation and translation experts doesn’t have to cost as much as you think, and it might end up saving you a tonne of time or money. It will certainly produce better learning outcomes.

Comtec is an expert localisation agency with a deep specialism in the eLearning, L&D and HR industries. We’ve been working with clients in this space for over 40 years, and have built an entire range of services to meet the challenges of eLearning translation:

from subtitling to dubbing, translation to copywriting, we have a solution for every budget and use case.

Get in touch for a no-obligation chat about how we can help your business grow. We’d love to help!