5 Key Factors of Successful eLearning Translation

New markets mean new challenges.

If your company needs to train customers in Germany and Austria on how to use your equipment, translating your eLearning platform into their native language will build their confidence—and save you time and money when it comes to dealing with customer concerns.

Likewise, if you want to ensure that the employees in your new field office in Moscow follow the same processes as in North America, translating your internal eLearning content will set them up for success.

As COVID-19 limits travel and in-person training opportunities, many companies have discovered that a robust eLearning platform is even more critical than before.

However, poorly translated eLearning content which is not tailored to the needs of your target audience can make it difficult for them to understand the material.

A successful eLearning translation project takes these challenges into account from the beginning by building a culturally fluent team familiar with the subject matter and providing them with the tools they need for success.

Define Your Target Audience

When you localize your eLearning material, it shows that you value your customers or employees no matter where they are located. If you do not start with a well-defined brief, however, you can fall into the trap of producing translated eLearning content that alienates your overseas audience.

To start off on the right foot, consider your global strategy, then define your target audience in terms of industry and location, as you would for any localized marketing campaign. Critically, this will help ensure that you use the right language variant in the eLearning translation process.

Successful eLearning translation requires profound cultural awareness. With a well-defined target audience, linguists can adapt your technical content to a multitude of languages while also keeping cultural nuances and even local regulations in mind.

Account for Cultural Differences

Your audience is shaped not only by the language they speak, but the culture they live in.

Where some cultures favor brevity, Japanese audiences feel more comfortable with exhaustive technical training. Similarly, creative assessment techniques used in eLearning programs aimed at Westerners may not appeal to users in Asian countries, who prefer more traditional exam styles.

Another challenge is ensuring that the imagery, symbols, and even colors included in your eLearning program are suited for your target audience. Without the informed opinion of linguists on the ground in your target country, it is easy to cause offense or confusion. A few examples:

  • The “thumbs up” gesture—often used as an emoji by North Americans to indicate a positive reaction—is offensive in West Africa and the Middle East.
  • A module on transport depicting a bright yellow taxi, as seen in New York City, might not convey the same meaning to a travel agent taking the course in Madrid, where taxis are white with a red stripe.
  • Owls symbolize wisdom in many Western cultures, dating back to ancient Greece. In India, it is the reverse: they’re a symbol of foolishness.

Likewise, cultural references can present a barrier to successful learning. Americans often use metaphors derived from baseball and football in the workplace. These references may be incomprehensible even in Great Britain, even though both countries are English-speaking, because Brits are more likely to be soccer or cricket fans.

To make learning as seamless as possible, it is also important to ensure that information such as dates, measurements, and currencies are adapted for your target audience during the eLearning translation process. This allows learners to focus on the content itself.

For example, if a learner in Australia is completing a module on pool maintenance created by an American company, they shouldn’t have to pause to do a mental calculation to remind themselves what 12 feet deep equals when using the metric system.

An in-country localization team is key, so that you will be able to benefit from local market knowledge. Translators living and working alongside your customers or employees will understand the vocabulary and voice that best resonates with your target audience. They will also be able to immediately flag problematic concepts or imagery and offer suggestions for how both content and format can be subtly tweaked to reflect prevailing cultural norms.

Overcome Technical Challenges

Many market-leading eLearning interfaces—including Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, and Elucidat—allow text to be exported for translation in XLIFF format, which is easily handled by computer-aided translation tools. These tools, popularly referred to as CAT tools, store translated text in a translation memory, which can then be referenced by translators. They also highlight glossary terms and offer a variety of quality assurance tools.

In addition to the text, other elements—such as images and videos—will need to be localized as well. A skilled desktop publishing (DTP) team will extract the text from multimedia content so that it can be handled using the same CAT tool as used for XLIFF files, allowing translators to access the glossary and leverage quality tools. Once translation is complete, the workflow is reversed: the DTP team will take the target-language text and recreate the multimedia elements accordingly.

After translation, editing, and proofreading (TEP QA Process) have taken place, both the target-language text and the localized multimedia elements need to be imported back into the eLearning platform. The work does not stop there, though. In post-production, engineers will address layout issues such as text expansion. They will ensure that the fonts used are adequate for the target audience. And if video is involved, they will incorporate subtitles or dubbed audio as needed.

The final step required to ensure that the translated experience parallels the original is thorough quality assurance testing. In addition to looking for any layout issues, QA testing will also ensure that multimedia assets are functional, and that users are able to navigate as intended. This is particularly important for adaptive eLearning technologies, which are increasingly common, and where there is no single defined path through an assessment.

Select the Right Terminology—and Ensure Linguists Use It Consistently

Even within a single industry, the terminology used may vary widely from one region to another. A mechanic in Mexico City may not use the same terminology that his counterpart in Madrid does.

Before beginning translation, we will work with you to identify what variant(s) of a language your target audience speaks, and then we’ll build a glossary and a style guide specific to each variant.

The glossary and style guide also ensure consistency. Large-scale eLearning translation projects often involve much more content than a single translator can handle. For eLearning to be successful—and assessments to be meaningful—the translation team needs to use the same terminology across modules, so that a student is not startled or confused by brand-new phrasing when taking a final exam.

Likewise, when you release new modules, we’ll deploy our existing terminology management tools, i.e. glossary and style guide as well as the translation memory to translate them. This means that your voice, brand identity, and vocabulary will stay consistent over time.

Avoid the Challenges of Resource Allocation

Companies with multinational workforces often find themselves tempted to translate their content—including eLearning programs—in-house. The cost of a large-scale localization project can be daunting, and besides, they have plenty of subject-matter experts at their fingertips.

The reality is markedly different, for any number of reasons.

For example, the volume of content for translation may be far more than an employee can handle in addition to their regular workload, slowing down the process. Subject-matter experts may not turn out to be skilled translators; or, conversely, bilingual employees who have been tapped to assist with translation may not have the technical knowledge needed. Or perhaps multimedia content or technical issues necessitate the hiring of a third-party contractor, which in turn means more paperwork and vendor oversight.

Companies that attempt to tackle these complex projects themselves may find that it ends up costing more to handle the project internally—or that the finished product may not live up to end users’ expectations.

We simplify the process by providing you with a single point of contact who will do the heavy lifting of identifying the right linguists, editors, and technical specialists. Based on the project needs, we will coordinate their work to ensure that all deliverables are on-time and rigorously tested. And to ensure that none of your expertise is lost, we will work closely with you to capture the nuances of your company identity, your industry, and your product.

A well-managed eLearning translation process will produce authentic, high-quality courses that are both interesting and informative for your target audience. Internally, that may translate to improved performance on key metrics, increased employee loyalty, and better employee retention rates. Likewise, if you are offering a localized eLearning experience to your customers, it can lead to increased customer satisfaction and significant cost savings when it comes to customer care.

Contact us today to discuss your eLearning translation project. Our expert team is here to help!

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