E-learning translation – i.e. translating your digital training content for a global workforce – is not just about translating text word for word. It’s also about localisation, making sure all your translated e-learning content is relevant and engaging for employees in different regions.
Localisation includes language translation, but also considers customs, graphics, colours, fonts, number formats, and other elements to ensure that the material is not simply understandable, but usable, culturally appropriate, and meaningful.
So is localisation necessary for your next e-learning translation project? Let’s find out…
Here’s an example of where localisation is needed:
A multinational company uses an interactive quiz to train staff on customer service procedures. When a trainee answers a question correctly they get a ‘thumbs up’ to let them know. However, if the same quiz is to be used in some parts of Africa, The Middle East, Latin America and Southern Europe without localisation, that ‘thumbs up’ could cause offense to trainees in those countries. Instead a different graphic will be needed such as a ‘tick’ or ‘cross’ to indicate correct and incorrect answers.
Having this cultural knowledge is therefore really important if you don’t want to upset the people your e-learning content is aimed at.
Here’s another example where localisation is essential:
An e-learning course on business ethics has a module called ‘Accepting Gifts’. It provides various illustrations on when it is appropriate to accept a gift, what gifts are acceptable and how to handle different scenarios. The source content includes an image of an employee accepting a bottle of wine, however one of the target languages the e-learning course is being translated into is Hindu.
In this scenario a bottle of wine is inappropriate and the image should be changed to show an Indian employee accepting a more appropriate gift, reflecting cultural differences.
Localisation also applies to language. There may be various translations available for different words or phrases that are region or sector specific. For example in retail the customer service desk may be referred to as a ‘help desk’, whereas in IT companies it is often called the ‘service desk’. The same can be true in different languages and so to avoid confusion it is important to know what is in common usage and is widely understood by your target audience.
Don’t forget audio recordings either! If you plan to translate content into Spanish for mainland Spain, Argentina and Mexico, you may require three separate translations, including voiceovers. There are regional variations in the way Spanish is written and spoken, as well as distinct differences in accents.
Engaging your international workforce requires translating e-learning content for their specific needs. A one sized fits all approach may make employees feel undervalued, and can result in your content being less effective overall.
Getting started with localisation and e-learning translation
If you have already created your e-learning content and now it requires translation for various markets, here’s what to do:
- Get a cultural review – an English speaking colleague in your target market can review the source content and feedback what works, and doesn’t work, in their region. This review should also look at the learning cultures in your target markets. Some regions are used to a rigid learning environment, so an interactive, scenario-based adventure might not be a good fit.
- Identify changes to be made – reduce the cost of your translation by making changes before handing the project over to a translation partner. For example, replace culturally specific images with more appropriate imagery and rewrite text if that includes inappropriate cultural references.
- Agree a glossary of terminology – liaise with your in market reviewers to agree on a list of company and industry specific terminology. Make sure you’re using the most relevant terms consistently across your e-learning content. This reduces the risk of misinterpretations and also saves time and money, as the translated content will not need as many edits later on.
If you’re starting a new e-learning project from scratch and are planning to have it translated at some point, plan for localisation now!
Understanding the localisation requirements before you start the project will affect your visual, language, and audio design choices. Using simple language and short sentences can really help make the translation process more straightforward and less time-consuming, saving money and unnecessary confusion. Avoiding slang and idiomatic expressions that can be difficult to translate (or may lose their meaning completely when translated) is also helpful.
At this stage it’s also worth thinking about how you intend to visualise your message. Some symbols and pictures are universally understood and can be an excellent way of helping you to get your message across, but beware again of any imagery that can be misinterpreted in a particular culture.
Getting the right people on board from the start is paramount. Assess who you have in your own company and encourage input from content authors, in-country colleagues, trainers and assessors – essentially anyone who has anything to do with your training courses. By communicating with them from day one you’ll be able to keep on top of any issues with content and language, saving both time and money in the long run.
To find out more about e-learning translations and how to manage these complex projects, read this post that shares our experience working with e-learning provider Sponge UK and their multinational clients.