The e-learning industry is one of the most successfully developing and growing industries in recent years. With the technological advancement and the possibility to access e-learning platforms through every device, it is natural to see growth in both demand and supply.
One of the keys to boost your e-learning courses, regardless of whether they are part of a company training or meant for college students, is to localize them. This means to make one step more in addition to simply translating the course into the target language. It means to adapt it to the target audience by taking into account the locale specifications. A course developed for the USA, UK or New Zealand will be in English but the specific references, images or other media within it should refer to the specific location in order to achieve better results.
The details are extremely important when it comes to e-learning localization. There are certain steps to follow when planning and developing the e-learning course, as well as some elements that can facilitate the entire process. Below are some tips that you could follow in order to achieve better localization results.
Plan your E-Learning Course Localization
The initial stage of pre-planning your e-learning course is the time when you first should consider localization. You will be able to develop a course that is easier to adapt to different cultures and save yourself or your company time and money.
- Choose the languages – you need to identify which are the languages the course will be translated into. It is also good to choose which will be the first language. Once the course is localized into it, then go further with the other languages. It is better to do them one by one rather all of the languages at one time. That way, if any issue is detected during the localization process, it can be rectified and not repeated in the other languages.
- Identify the target audience and location – make sure to correctly identify your target audience and localize the course in accordance with that. Sometimes, this means that you have one target language but two or three different target groups and you have to adapt the course to match their cultural preferences. For example, if you are targeting Spain and Mexico the language to include in your plans is the same – Spanish, however these are two different locales with different cultural peculiarities and even different currencies, which leads to having two different e-learning courses localized specifically for each target group.
Develop the Course with Localization in Mind
If you are an e-learning course developer, working for yourself or for external clients, there is one basic question to ask before starting the project: “Do you plan to translate/localize this course in future?” Even if this step is not part of your immediate intentions but is a possibility, then the answer should be “yes.” With this information in mind, the approach to the e-learning course design and development will be different.
As strange as it may sound to you, internationalization is the basis for efficient e-learning localization. What does internationalization stand for in terms of e-learning? Basically, the idea of internationalization is to create a product that can serve the users globally with little or no adaptation. In terms of e-learning course development it means creating content and design that are culturally-neutral. It is, of course, not possible to avoid cultural references at all but try to keep them to a minimum. Be careful with the design and create a course that will be easy to navigate through regardless of the language it will be translated into. You can check this Ultimate guide to e-learning and its localization for specific tips and ideas that you need to follow.
Keep reading to see what you need to avoid when developing an e-learning course and how to get the best of localization.
What to Keep in Mind While Developing the E-Learning Course
There are some requirements to follow when developing a new e-learning course. They will make it better and more appealing to the learners and will facilitate the process of e-learning localization in the future.
When writing the e-learning content:
- Use direct, clear, and short sentences. You will convey your message easier and make the new concepts and ideas more understandable. It will help to avoid ambiguity and will make the translation process smoother.
- Avoid idioms, phrasal verbs, jargon, and slang. These elements are sometimes hard to understand even for a native speaker and their translation may be impossible.
- Use terms consistently. Introduce a term, explain it and use the same word/s throughout your entire course. You may give the synonyms at the beginning, so that the learners are aware of them but do not use one and then another as this might cause confusion.
- Avoid sarcasm, humor or cultural references. It is obvious that you are not going to use offensive language in your course creation deliberately. Nevertheless, you may still offend someone by using inappropriate jokes or making reference to culture-specific daily routines or sports.
When designing the e-learning course:
- Avoid images or graphs with embedded text – this makes the translation much faster and not so complicated. Besides, it is easier for you to change the information in the original text if the data becomes outdated.
- Don’t clutter the screen with text. Even when you are writing a course that is not going to be localized it is better for the text on the screen not to be too dense. The learner will be less distracted and focus easier. Furthermore, if the English text is squeezed on the screen, it means that there won’t be sufficient space for the translated version, since translations usually take about 20% more space.
- Don’t split sentences – it may look great to split the sentence into different boxes, use different fonts or colors or even animate single words in order to emphasize on a certain idea. Keep in mind, however, that the sentence construction and word order in English is different than that in German for example. And not to mention Chinese, Japanese, or Arabic languages. It will be very difficult if not impossible to achieve the same effect in the translated version, so steer clear of sentence separation.
- Don’t use too many videos. Keep in mind that first you need high-quality voiceover for the original course and second, you have to localize the video as well, which can be costly. A clever trick to use is to avoid including data in the video that may need to be updated regularly, such as company details – number of sales, employees, etc. Instead put the information on the screen and have the speaker in the video refer to the screen. Thus, you will need to change only the written text and not the video. For the localization of your course you can also consider adding subtitles in the different languages rather than using native speakers for each locale.
Use the Right Localization Resources
No doubt, you are developing your e-learning course with excellence in mind. In order to achieve it you need to find the best available resources that will guarantee the high quality of your training. This is a combination of software products and professionals with different expertise in the field of e-learning. If you have the intention to translate the course into several languages and localize it to meet the needs of the target group, you need to pay extra attention to the following elements:
- Authoring tools
The authoring tool that you are using for your e-learning course creation is the key to easier development and localization. Invest time into researching the best options that are offered on the market since this can save you a lot of trouble in the future. In the case of e-learning localization, you need an authoring tool that offers multilingual options and translation features. The ability to export text for translation and then re-import it is an excellent feature to look for. Articulate Storyline 360 is an example of such authoring tool but there are others on the market as well that can meet your requirements.
- Voiceover talents
While you can do the voiceover for your e-learning course yourself, most probably you will need experts for the other languages. Besides, you can also consider hiring a professional voiceover talent even for the English version since it has a lot of advantages. When you are looking for the right voiceover talent for your course keep in mind that accent and dialects make a huge difference for the learner so, choose wisely. If you are working with a translation and localization agency, they may also offer such services or recommend you a reliable partner.
- Proofreaders and quality testers
In order to create effective and efficient e-learning course, quality assurance and pre-testing are an important element. As every new product placed on the market, the e-learning course should also be tested before offered to the end users. Proofreading the course is important to your your credibility. No one will take a learning full of incorrect references or typos seriously. Once the mistake is spotted it will take a lot of time and resources to correct all the versions if the text is translated and localized into several languages. Same goes for testing the operation of the course, whether all buttons function as intended, all images, videos and other media load correctly, etc.
It is better to hire independent proofreaders and quality testers for this job. If you have spent the last couple of weeks or months developing the course, you may fail to spot mistakes or inconsistencies. Or you might feel overwhelmed and decide that everything needs to be changed as it doesn’t work properly, which is not the objective truth.
Once your e-learning course is localized you can also have it checked. You will need testers, who are proficient in both the original and the target language in which the course was localized, who will be able to verify that the content and the messages conveyed are consistent with the original.
- Translation experts
Last but not least come the translators, who will be localizing the training into the respective languages. The quality of the translation inevitably impacts the overall quality of the final product. There are basically two options to consider when looking for translation services: working with an established translation agency or hiring an independent contractor/freelancer. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages in terms of timing, quality, price, and additional services offered and therefore you need to find the right option for you.
Here is an idea of what you can expect:
- Translation agency – complete project management, ability to handle the translation and localization in all languages, consistency in the work are some of the advantages. A possible drawback is that you might work with multiple translators for the same language which may cause some style differences. Most of the times you are dealing with a translation coordinator and not the translators themselves.
- Independent contractor/freelancer – the price may be lower since the freelancers have a lot of competition to beat in order to stay in business. You have the possibility of personal interaction and higher engagements towards your project. The drawbacks are that it may take you more time to find and hire an independent translator and you need to do that for all the languages. Freelancers may not offer additional services such as voiceover, so you will need to find such specialists yourself.
No matter which option you choose, make sure to feel comfortable working with the translator/s and keep all communication channels open. If you manage to find a translation professional who is familiar with the subject matter or has worked with materials from your industry this will make the process even easier. When the translator has even a basic understanding of the content they are working with, the results are much better.
It is necessary to note down that the first three elements are essential for any successful e-learning course, whether you are planning to localize it or not. At the planning stage of your training course you need to leave sufficient time for researching the best option in order to avoid the necessity to change software or experts in the middle of the project.
The overall conclusion to draw is that details are extremely important to the design, development, and localization of the e-learning course in order to achieve the best results. It’s worth spending more time planning and researching the best tools, resources, and options prior to the start. And remember that it is always better to change some element on the go if you notice that it is not the right one, rather than be left with a final product that doesn’t meet your or your client’s criteria.