eLearning Design and Development

eLearning Localization: 6 Cultural Considerations

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How much can culture influence eLearning localization? Here are 6 different factors to consider when developing training for global learners.

6 Cultural Considerations For eLearning Localization

Global companies mean global learners. eLearning is an effective solution for organizations looking to train and educate these global learners to required company standards, values, and procedures. It is important to acknowledge that not all global learners are the same; they are influenced by cultural factors. Being aware of some of these factors goes a long way in developing culturally appropriate courses. Below is a list of 6 cultural factors to take into consideration with eLearning localization to help design courses that will resonate with all learners.

  1. Language And Text. 
    It is best to provide content to learners in a way in which they best understand. If learners are multilingual, the best practice would be to translate content into the appropriate language. Prepare your source content for localization. Try to eliminate any idioms, similes, or metaphors, as they are often culturally specific. The same applies for slang or jargon; they may not make sense to other learners across different cultures. Also, don’t forget acronyms. You may mention a governmental organization such as the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but if you are localizing for Brazil, you may need to either mention or substitute the Brazilian equivalent National Health Surveillance Agency of Brazil (ANVISA). In some languages such as Spanish or Portuguese, the adjectives are placed after the noun so the orders of the letters in the acronym are different.
  2. Design And Layout.
    Not all languages read left to right. Languages using Arabic script, the Hebrew Alphabet, or the Syriac alphabet are read right to left. This affects both text and graphics. For example, flow charts and graphs that show progression or sequence will need to be flipped around. Color choice is also important. Colors mean different things across cultures. White is the color of mourning in a lot of different countries, from Nigeria to China to India. Certain colors may have religious or political significance. Do your research and plan your color schemes accordingly!
  3. Teaching Styles.
    Teaching styles are not the same across cultures. A major example is formal versus informal teaching. In Asian cultures, the teaching style is more formal. The instructor controls the conversation and speaking out or disagreement is discouraged. In Western culture, the style is more informal. Employees speak their minds and are usually freer with their opinions, divergent or not. Keep this in mind when designing training for different cultures.
  4. Learner Characteristics.
    Societies are typically either individualist or collectivist. These dynamics affect the values and beliefs of learners. Understanding the values and beliefs of a culture is essential to understanding how people learn, think, act, and do business. Asian cultures are more collectivist, while Europe and the United States are more individualist. Collectivist cultures are described with such adjectives as “interdependence, group identity, self-restraint, and hierarchical control”. Values of the group are usually held above values of the individual.
  5. Gender Roles.
    The roles of men and woman change from culture to culture. As a result, it can become difficult to correctly portray relationships between genders in a culturally acceptable way for each and every target audience. As a result, it is recommended that you try not to show people of different genders interacting with one another. Why? Certain behaviors may not be acceptable from one culture to another. Also, when choosing a talent for voiceover narration, keep in mind that a female narrator would work well in some cultures, such as in the United States, but might not in a Middle Eastern culture, where having a male instructor is the norm.
  6. Graphics And Images.
    Not all symbols are universal; for example, road signs as navigation to tell a learner to stop or move on in the course. The red hexagon sign is not universal. The “thumbs up” gesture means “good to go” or “I understand” in the United States, but it is insulting in the Middle East. Monetary symbols such as a dollar sign are also not culturally universal, as currency is different across countries. Images and symbols used in eLearning courses should be adapted so that they make sense in each culture and don’t offend learners.
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