Overcoming cultural blind spots in global training

Posted: 11 Sep 2023

Over the last few years, due to the shift towards remote working, there has been an explosion in the growth of learning and development. We are more accustomed than ever to delivering learning in virtual environments that can be rolled out anywhere in the world.

Still, the cultural responsibilities that come with this need to catch up.

This lack of cultural awareness is causing many professionals in the training industry to be unaware of their own cultural blind spots—meaning we’re not getting the most out of learners or creating inclusive environments for them to thrive.

In our recent webinar, Comtec’s Head of Partnerships, Emily Decker, sat down with Comtec’s Cultural Services Partner, Jessica Rathke, to explore how we can better understand cultural nuance to improve training and learning.

Here’s a summary of the key points we need to know to deliver the highest quality localisation.

Culture and the digital world

“Diversity is increasingly important for facilitation and delivery of online learning,” says Jessica, “The digital world actually amplifies cultural characteristics and differences, so for virtual training, it’s so important to understand it.”

Whilst tailoring the delivery of your content is important to ensure it lands with your desired audience, it’s also essential that your content is culturally sensitive to the target market.

To maximise learning potential, we must create materials that speak to learners as individuals. If learning content is packed full of unfamiliar sayings, jokes that don’t land, or examples we cannot relate to, we risk creating a barrier to learner engagement.

Getting some perspective: Real-world localisation examples to learn from

Putting these ideas into practice, Jessica shows us the difference in cultural opinions on the same subject matter.

In this instance, it’s the USA.

“From the cultural perspective of Japan, they think Americans are relaxed, friendly, spontaneous, emotional and impulsive, whereas Mexicans think Americans are always in a rush, serious, restrained, methodical and composed.”

Here, we gain some perspective on how differently two cultures can view the same thing. They are essentially opposite opinions, of which neither one is factually incorrect. It comes back to how the USA’s culture differs from theirs.

In a learning environment, being aware of the nuances and habits of different cultures can help you avoid any significantly off-base content.

As Jessica puts it, “We can’t be all things to all people, but we can tweak things to make online learning much more relevant to different cultures.”

How the Hofstede model can help

But how can we learn enough detail from each culture worldwide?

It’s easier than you might think, thanks to the Hofstede Model.

The Hofstede Model identifies six social dilemmas that all societies face and how different countries resolve these social dilemmas. These six dilemmas are:

  • How do we deal with power inequality in society?
  • How do we relate to the group?
  • What drives our motivation?
  • How do we relate to uncertainty?
  • What is our relationship to time?
  • How do we relate to pleasure?

How we relate to these values affects how we behave on every level, big or small—from what religion we have to how we run a work meeting. Using this model, we can read the value systems of multiple cultures and tailor our learning material accordingly.

How to notice blind spots early on

Thankfully, you don’t have to be a cultural mastermind to foster culturally-inclusive learning environments. General awareness can be enough to present, create and roll out your eLearning content in a far more inclusive way.

As Emily puts it, “Having that cultural awareness that the way we do things in one culture isn’t necessarily the way we do things in another goes a really long way.” Once we know this, we can take a pause and ask the right questions to neutralise or adapt content so it doesn’t lean too heavily towards one cultural norm.

The best way to ensure your content is culturally appropriate for your target audience is having these conversations early on in the process.

You will get better results from learners if your content is created with cultural diversity in mind rather than trying to make it diverse retrospectively. You’ll find this not only saves you time, it also results in content that truly speaks to the individual.

It’s a win-win.

How Comtec can help

We love sharing our knowledge and expertise on this and other language, culture, translation, and localisation-related subjects.

We’ve been providing multilingual eLearning localisation for over 40 years, and have become industry experts in the eLearning and L&D fields. We’ve spent a long time understanding culture and how it interplays with localisation, specifically when it comes to learning.

With a network of over 4,000 linguists, plus an in-house team of highly experienced project managers and a tech support team, we can support any project and help our clients produce the most effective localisations. We love helping our clients grow.

Please get in touch; our friendly team is always very happy to help.
Call us on +44 (0) 1926 335 681 or email info@comtectranslations.com.