How to increase learning outcomes with thorough localisation

One digital asset that has been making a big impact in recent years is e-learning content. National and international companies, big and small, are able to provide employees with highly engaging learning and development tools to increase the effectiveness of training employees. The global e-learning industry is predicted to reach $275.10 billion by 2022 growing at a CAGR of 7.5%.

Multinationals are keen to utilise their e-learning tools across their global workforce, standardising training and getting more value out of their resources. However to do this, e-learning content needs to be translated for each target market, and to be really effective it needs to be localised not standardised.

Localisation goes one step further than translation. Instead of just translating e-learning assets, it looks at the entire e-learning content and tailors all elements (where necessary) for the target audience. It goes beyond verbal and text content to include document design, formatting and colours, and it also involves analysing semantics and cultural aspects to make sure that the translated content is appropriate and relevant.

What happens if you don’t use localisation for e-learning content?

To be effective, e-learning content needs to engage employees. Content that doesn’t resonate with them and retain their attention, is ineffective. In many cases the type of e-learning content used within a company will differ between departments or management levels. That’s because what engages one group of people, doesn’t necessarily engage everyone across the board.

For more on creating engaging e-learning content, read my blog – The key to successful e-learning materials? Engagement

The same is true when you look at your multinational workforce. While your source training material may have been developed for the sales team, for example, not every aspect will translate effectively between different markets. Here’s a simple example. A sales e-learning video shows the sales team being rewarded for hitting target with a bottle of fizz. In the UK even most teetotal sales reps understand the gesture and appreciate the message the video conveys.

However, your sales team in Qatar – a country where alcohol is prohibited – would not appreciate the sentiment and would probably feel alienated by it. At best your Qatari sales team might disengage from the e-learning exercise, at worst they might feel insulted, disrespected and undervalued by your company.

How to get localisation right

It’s important to understand which elements of your e-learning content are effective in different markets, and which are not. We recommend that if you have existing e-learning content created for the UK market, to assess it with in-market reviewers to get their initial feedback. Colleagues in an overseas market can do this for you, identifying any aspects of the content that is culturally irrelevant or inappropriate.

As with any translation project this is also an opportunity to discuss terminology, style and tone of voice at this point. By creating brand / translation guidelines and a glossary of terminology, the translated content will be more consistent and accurate.

When creating new e-learning content that ultimately will be translated and localised for different markets, there are some simple things you can do to make the localisation process easier:

Leave space for text to expand – Text can expand by 20-30% when translated into other languages so ensure there is enough space on pages, tables and in text placeholders for this to happen.

Avoid embedded text – an image or graphic with embedded text presents a number of problems. The text may need to be translated and / or the image may need to be localised for the market. Instead use layers in graphics so individual elements can be localised and translated where necessary.

Consider cultural sensitivities early on – planning ahead and avoiding culturally sensitive elements in your source e-learning content will save time and money later on. For example, in some countries certain colours can be problematic – red in Korea is considered unlucky – so avoid these where possible.

Internationalise dates and phone numbers – you can save time by internationalising dates and phone numbers from the start, so they don’t have to be localised later. Spell out dates – 26 April 2018 – and use the international phone number with country code – +44 (0) 1926 335 681.

It may be tempting to try to develop e-learning content that is ‘globalised’ from the start. By avoiding any cultural or location specific elements, you won’t have to find alternatives when the content is translated. However, in my opinion, that approach is not effective because your master copy loses the ability to really engage employees in each market (including the UK).

Instead you should aim to create content that includes cultural references when appropriate, if they make the content more engaging and relevant to your employees. However, those elements should be handled in a way that makes it easy to replace them with an alternative version for each market.

For more support with e-learning translation and localisation projects you may like to download our guide that provides plenty of advice for ensuring your e-learning content engages your multinational workforce.

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