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The Ultimate eLearning Translation and Localization Guide

The Ultimate eLearning Translation and Localization Guide

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eLearning has experienced a remarkable surge in popularity over the past few years, with its market value expected to skyrocket to an unprecedented $325 billion in revenue by 2025. You might be looking at this statistic thinking “I want a piece of that,” but how exactly do you do so? This is where eLearning translation comes into play.

By translating your educational courses and materials, you can capture the attention of learners around the world, which will ultimately allow you to tap into a sizable portion of that market share. However, translation alone won’t do – the way to go is eLearning localization.
If you are wondering what these terminologies entail and how you should approach the adaptation of your course for different markets, this article will put you in the right direction. From what eLearning is all the way to industry-approved eLearning localization practices, we got you covered every way.

What’s eLearning & why is it worth investing in?

eLearning, short for electronic learning, is a form of education that uses digital technologies to deliver educational materials and facilitate learning. It can take various shapes and forms, including online courses, virtual classrooms, webinars, interactive tutorials, and educational apps. This mode of learning allow learners to access educational materials and take part in learning activities at their own pace and convenience, without the need to be physically present in a classroom.
eLearning is primarily used by educational institutions as a tool for supplementing in-person instruction, as well as by companies to aid their employees in acquiring new skills and knowledge to be used in the workplace.
Institutions and businesses can benefit tremendously from investing in eLearning for a variety of reasons, including:

It can help you reach a global audience

As eLearning isn’t limited to a classroom, it allows you to connect with learners from various time zones and geographical locations. This simultaneous delivery can be extremely advantageous for organizations and educators that want to deliver scalable learning experiences on a broad scale.

It’s cost-efficient

Another key benefit of eLearning is that it doesn’t involve printing and distribution costs. Unlike traditional teaching methods which require you to produce, distribute, and store physical copies of materials like textbooks, eLearning courses can be accessed conveniently online, making them a cost-efficient alternative. Plus, making updates to your course can be done easily, conveniently, and cheaply too.

It holds the potential to boost learning outcomes

It’s been shown that students can retain up to 25 to 60% of new information when learned through digital means. Compare that to the 8 to 10% of information retained through traditional learning, and it’s clear: delivering your learning content in this way can be incredibly worthwhile!
But why bother translating your courses and any other virtual materials after putting them together?

Why eLearning translation is important

Translating your materials in the languages your audience speak can go a long way. That’s because learners are more likely to understand and process information when it’s presented in their native tongue, which can ultimately lead to more effective learning.
Providing access to your courses in the language that your audience is most comfortable with through eLearning translation will help them grasp your content more easily and accurately. Ultimately, this will have an undoubtedly positive impact on their work or academic performance.

eLearning localization – why simply translating your courses isn’t enough

When translating your materials with the aim of engaging learners from different linguistic backgrounds, it’s also necessary to adapt your content to make it more culturally appropriate and relevant – a process known as eLearning localization.
You might be wondering: what’s the difference between localization and translation? In essence, localization differs from translation in that it goes beyond linguistic conversion and encompasses a broader range of cultural, contextual, and regional adaptations. While translation focuses on converting text from one language to another, localization takes into account any cultural nuances, idiomatic expressions, images, or symbols that align with the target audience’s culture.
For example, if a learning module features a scenario about a typical American workplace, this could be adapted to reflect the local work environment of the country where the employees are based in. A localization professional can do the above by swapping names, locations, and situations with culturally relevant alternatives.
Going beyond simple translation by adopting an eLearning localization strategy can facilitate your audience’s understanding of the content even further. What’s more, this can reduce the potential for causing accidental confusion or offense with culturally irrelevant or inappropriate references.
This is sensible. If your course is filled with colloquialisms and other culturally specific phrases that non-native speakers wouldn’t normally understand, this can bring about misunderstandings and confusion. A non-native speaker, for instance, might interpret certain idioms in a literal sense, hindering their comprehension and overall learning experience.
Therefore, localizing your eLearning content can:
● Help learners connect with your content better, as it’ll resonate with their experiences and cultural norms.
● Enhance their engagement and understanding of your course content, making the learning experience more effective.

The course features you should localize

Although eLearning comes in a variety of forms, the most prevalent features that require eLearning translation and localization are the following:

Video, audio, and multimedia

Multimedia localization involves the adaptation of subtitles, voiceovers, and other similar components. Although training videos are the most difficult to localize, they are certainly the most effective form of eLearning. Videos communicate key points in a highly digestible format, allowing learners to more easily grasp the concepts being presented.

Quizzes and assessments

Localizing your quizzes and assessments is a must, as doing so will help provide you with a fair and accurate way of evaluating your learners’ understanding of your course content. This can involve translating questions, providing culturally appropriate examples, and adapting any linguistic nuances or cultural references to make the assessment easier to interpret and work through.

The user experience

User interface localization focuses on adapting the graphical interface of the eLearning course or platform. It covers everything from menus, buttons, navigation elements, and other interactive features. Localizing the entire user experience can ensure your learners navigate your platform with confidence and ease. You might assume your learners will not mind, but from their own perspective, it’ll mean the difference between engaging in a smooth and intuitive learning experience to a confusing and frustrating one.

Other elements

A few other elements you should consider localizing include:
● Any information surrounding your course, including FAQs
● Course reviews and testimonials
● Supplementary study materials
● Colours and images
● Marketing materials

6 steps to effective eLearning content localization

If you’ve never been involved in eLearning localization before, it’s essential to learn the steps you’ll need to take to do it effectively.
You might be tempted to go straight into localizing your content, but that would be incredibly unwise. In fact, most companies that choose to ignore the fundamental steps involved in localizing their courses typically produce translations riddled with inaccuracies and inconsistencies. By taking every step outlined on this list seriously, you ward yourself from the potential roadblocks you could encounter down the line, such as culturally irrelevant translations, which could be harmful to your brand, or time and cost overruns.
Here’s a mini step-by-step guide to get you started:

1. Plan for your eLearning project

The first thing you should do is build an eLearning localization strategy. To do this, you should get clear about which languages and regions you will target (there’s a reason why you need to think about both – check out our eLearning localization best practices below).
From there, find out everything you can about your audience, including their learning and cultural preferences and expectations, to get a basic idea on how to make your course more appropriate and relevant. Conducting thorough market research is a must during this process. Some crucial questions you can ask before you start building your course include:
● How does my audience learn best?
● What are some cultural norms I should consider when designing the course?
● Are there any sensitive topics I should approach with caution or avoid altogether?
Finally, you should also create an outline of the components you will localize –be it text, multimedia elements, or assessments– so you can later gather your materials and files in one place to send over to your translation partner.

2. Prepare a style guide and glossary

A style guide and glossary work together to provide translators with a comprehensive set of guidelines so they can localize your content accurately and consistently. As you’ll soon find out, these two serve multiple key functions during the eLearning localization process. (Hint: you really can’t afford to skip this step!)
Here’s the information you need to include in each:
Style guide:
● Guidelines on grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure.
● Instructions on your desired tone, formality, and voice of the content.
● Specifications regarding headings, bullet points, lists, tables, fonts, and other visual elements.
● Guidelines on how to deal with abbreviations, acronyms, and their localized equivalents.
● A list of important terms, phrases, or specialized vocabulary specific to your industry.
● Additional context provided with each term to aid translators in using the terminology correctly.
● Specific guidelines on how to translate some terms, such as whether to prioritize transliteration, adaptation, or a combination of both.
A great way to establish a glossary of terms is by fostering collaboration between a Subject Matter Expert (SME; a person with extensive knowledge and expertise in the area) and the linguistic reviewer. Together, these professionals can evaluate which terms makes sense to use and which don’t when targeting a particular market.
You should also provide previous translations to your partner, if applicable. Translators can use these older materials to familiarize themselves with any terms and jargon that show up frequently in your course, as well as with your style and tone.

3. Export your content for localization

In order to provide all necessary files to your localization partner so they can start with localizing your course, you should export your course components, including text, multimedia and the like, from your eLearning platform. There are a few different ways to do this, depending on what platform or tool you are using.
If your eLearning content is managed through a CMS or learning management system (LMS), check to see if the system comes with built-in features that allow you to export content for translation. Your tool or platform will come with a set of instructions on how to deal with the process.
If you are using an eLearning authoring tool, such as Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, or Lectora, you’ll likely have a choice of options allowing you to generate your files in a translation-friendly format. Depending on your tool’s capabilities, you can export your text-based content either as a word document, plain text file, or an XML file. Make sure to embed any multimedia elements, like audio or video files, in their original format too.

4. Localize your eLearning content

Your localization provider can take everything from here. You should rely on native, professional translators for this, since they’ll be the most familiar with the market that you are targeting, ensuring the proper cultural adaptation of your content.
Your translators will gain access to your glossary and style guide through a translation management system which will aid them in their work.
If you have multiple eLearning localization projects planned for the future, you should also ensure that your localization partner has access to a translation memory (TM). A TM stores segments of previously translated text which can be used for the translation of future projects. Doing so can lead to big cost savings and boost consistency across projects.

5. Have the SME review the content

To achieve the highest level of quality in your course, it’s key to have the SME conduct a thorough review of the translation. The SME can provide feedback, comments, and suggestions directly on the translated material within the platform.
The translator will then make the necessary corrections to any typos, grammar errors, and anything else that might have negatively impacted the accuracy, clarity, and quality of the translation. The translation will only get a pass once it’s reached a certain quality rating, which typically set at 99.8%.

6. Conduct quality control

Quality assurance is the final stage to localizing your eLearning course. First, a team of expert reviewers will check how accurate and culturally relevant your translation is and whether it adheres to the intended meaning and tone.
The reviewers will also pay attention to the overall consistency of the content and make sure that the established style and terminology guidelines have been adhered to by the assigned translator. Consistency across the entire localization project is crucial to maintain a cohesive user experience for your eLearning audience.
The course will also undergo functional testing to ensure there aren’t any functional issues or bugs in sight in the platform.

eLearning translation and localization best practices

We’ve outlined multiple points you should consider when preparing for the localization of your eLearning course already. But there are a number of other good-to-knows that could put you on the right track.

Consider where your audience is located and not simply the languages they speak

Defining who your audience is isn’t a matter of simply finding out what languages they speak. It’s also paramount to know where exactly it is they are in the world – this will have a major impact on how you’ll approach the localization of your eLearning course.
Just because two people speak in the same language this doesn’t necessarily mean there’s cultural overlap. Let’s take Spanish as an example: a language that’s spoken in multiple different countries, such as Mexico and Spain. If your learners are based in Mexico, you should modify your course for Mexican Spanish learners in particular, for instance. But if your learners are located in both countries, you’ll need to localize the course for each.
This is because speakers from different regions might find specific colours, pictures, and examples to be more resonant with how they view the world.
This is a key consideration when it comes to translating the course content and adding voice-over narration too. Going back to our original example, Mexican Spanish has its own vocabulary and regional terms, as well as its own regional dialect. To make your course both understandable and relevant, you must absolutely account for it all.

Make sure to add subtitles and voice-over narration

You might think that it’s a wise idea to skip adding subtitles or voice-over to avoid running up the costs for your translation project. However, incorporating subtitles and voice-over will make your course significantly more appealing, allowing you to reach more learners.
First, there’s the consideration of making the materials accessible to deaf or hard of hearing individuals. Providing a visual representation of the audio content with captions will ensure that learners with hearing impairments can fully engage with the course.
And then, there’s also the importance of accounting for different learning styles. Some learners prefer auditory learning, while others have visual learning preferences. By catering to the preferences of both, you’re ultimately helping learners absorb your content better.

Think mobile-first

Instead of localizing your course for desktop, consider doing so for mobile first.
In today’s time and age, learners choose to access learning content primarily through their mobile phones. This is especially the case in countries such as China, India, and Brazil where mobile use is skyrocket high. Given the convenience and ease that mobiles offer, this doesn’t come as a surprise – learners nowadays prefer to learn while on the move.
For you as a course creator, this implies that should aim to develop “a mobile-first eLearning strategy”. Making your learning content this accessible will make help you win more learners over, which is especially important when targeting consumers.

Leave plenty of room for text expansion

If you plan to offer your eLearning course in multiple languages, you should allow plenty of room for text expansion to ensure that the translated content fits within the course’s layout.
This is very important as different languages take up significantly more space than others. For example, some languages, like German or Spanish, tend to have longer words or phrases compared to English. If you’re translating your course from English into German, for instance, you should expect your text to expand by up to 30%.
There are a few different ways you can accommodate varying texts lengths. You should make your text containers flexible and adjustable and avoid adding text that’s tightly bound to images or other design elements.

Avoid embedding text on images

At the beginning of creating your course, you should avoid embedding any text on images, since translating that text can bring about some complications.
Text that’s embedded within images is typically part of the image file itself. This means that it cannot be easily extracted for translation purposes. Translating that text would require additional translation efforts and possibly the involvement of graphic designers or image editing tools – meaning you’ll be forced to stretch your localization budget further.

Take your course global with Pangea

We hope you’ve taken multiple actionable steps from this article. Perhaps the most important consideration of all, however, is choosing the right localization company to take care of the above for you.
Professional translation companies specializing in eLearning have access to eLearning localization experts and cutting-edge translation tech, allowing you to streamline the localization process from start to finish.
With a workforce of 900+ native translators and linguistic reviewers, Pangea Global can help you take your course global in no time and guide you every step of your eLearning translation journey – from market research to glossary building, translation, voice-over localization, and even design localization.
We are right there when you need us – don’t hesitate to get in contact!
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