E-learning localization is much more than just translating a course. It requires thorough planning and an understanding of the international, cultural context you will be offering your e-course in. 

Lifelong learning is one of the most effective ways to deal with change. As such, training has become an obvious part of our work duties. Needless to say, this situation puts serious pressure on companies who are trying to keep staff training expenses within budgets. One way of curbing training-related expenditure is through e-learning.

It’s no wonder that the business world has embraced e-learning. With the evolution and widespread adoption of video, animation and other interactive technologies, it has become possible to provide students with a more engaging and meaningful e-learning experience. But there are other reasons why organizations prefer the digital approach over traditional teaching methods. E-learning allows people to learn at their own pace, from behind their PCs, be it at work or at home. This allows them to be more productive and spend less time in a classroom. At the same time, fewer teachers are needed, which can result in huge cost-savings.

E-learning localization

For multinational organizations, you might think that these productivity and cost benefits would easily multiply over the border. Getting your e-learning message across different countries and cultures is just a matter of translation, right? Well, not quite. E-learning should always be a reflection of a company’s mission and values. When delivering training to a global, multi-lingual audience, it needs to be effective for every audience. That’s why it’s more relevant to talk about localization, instead of translation. Localization goes much further, because it also focuses on non-verbal elements, such as layout design, formatting and colors, semantics and cultural elements.

E-learning localization requires more planning and forward thinking than translation. Localization starts with the design of the master course in the source language. Follow these steps to ensure a smooth e-learning localization process.

STEP 1: Define your localization scope

Defining your scope not only relates to the number of languages you want to translate into. It also means defining the content that needs to be translated. Localization is much more than just translating blocks of text. Today’s e-learning courses contain many different content formats.

Video for example is ideal for presenting conversations, interviews, or graphics in an e-learning context. We already argued that video is probably the best form of online content if you want to make a big impact and keep people's attention. But other formats can contribute to a greater e-learning experience as well: audio, animation, graphics, etc.

Virtual and augmented reality are the new kids on the block. Although not yet very common, these technologies might not be as far off as we might think. Much more that written text, virtual reality can immerse students in the subject matter, helping them to explore the topic in a much more engaging way. VR and AR are still in their infancy and are still to be democratized so people will actually use it, but we’re definitely going to see great educational applications with these technologies in the near future.

Making an inventory of the amount and types of content is a necessary, initial step in the localization process. More than that, it is essential to be able to make a planning, define resources, and allocate budgets.

STEP 2: Make your content localization-friendly

Designers must take extra steps to make e-learning document suitable for use in multiple languages and cultures. They need to use the right color schemes, the right visuals and make sure there is enough space for text expansion in the different languages. English texts tend to be shorter than many other Western languages, including Dutch, German and French, but longer than Korean, Japanese or Finnish for example. Other design considerations include the translation of graphics or user interface screenshots.

STEP 3: Be aware of cultural nuances

Authors can use cultural references, humor or language-specific expressions to make a point. This is also called writing with ‘a voice’. In multilingual e-learning content, this is something we need to be careful with. Not being able to get your message across by using certain idioms is one thing; offending your reader by making an inappropriate remark is another. Profanity might be funny in some cultures, when used in the right context, but in other cultures it will just be downright disrespectful.

Cultural sensitivities are not always easy to assess, which is why you should aim for neutral language as much as possible.

STEP 4: Hire professional localization specialists

Localization is a collaborative effort of many specialists, including translators, proofreaders, language engineers, DTP specialists and voice talents. Professional localization experts have the tools to handle the job efficiently, accurately and on schedule, and they can make a text sound natural in any language.

Especially in international environments, working together with many specialists requires clear and correct communication. One example of good communication between layout designers and translators is to graphically differentiate between written and spoken language. This allows translators to translate speech in a more compact way.

STEP 5: Test, test, test

Yamagata Europe is a big believer of ‘Better be safe than sorry’. When taking on localization projects, we like to implement tests and checks after every step in the process. For example, before having translated speech parts recorded by a voice talent, we make sure the written text has been approved. For your localization projects too, be sure to incorporate extensive quality checks, proofreading and visual checks throughout the project.

Getting your training message across in a multinational environment can be challenging. E-learning localization requires planning, clear communication, the right tools and extensive testing. At Yamagata Europe, we specialize in e-learning localization for global workforces in no less than 65 languages. Want to know more about our approach? Then get in touch with us