15 Tips For Better eLearning Translation

eLearning Course Translation Tips To Remember
Summary: Practical tips to save you time and avoid mistakes in your eLearning translation project. Learn from the experience of experts that do it all the time.

eLearning Course Translation Tips To Remember

You may have staff located in different countries or customers to train around the world. It makes sense to create your eLearning course once, and just translate it for each of your markets; easy, right? Well, yes and no. Like many things, experience going through the eLearning translation process will help you learn how to not make the same mistakes again. We have pulled together some eLearning translation tips so that you can create the best learning experiences in every language and avoid reworking along the way. You may understand that to create content in a different language it is not just a translation that is required, but localization. It’s relatively easy to translate simple words or phrases from one language to another, but harder to capture the true sentiment of the original text.

Top Tips You Should Be Aware Of When Translating

1. Text Areas

The translated text will often require more space when translated from English to other Latin-based languages. Translations from English to Cyrillic languages are on average 20% longer in terms of the number of characters used. Spanish can sometimes be up to 25% longer. In general, text translated from English to other Latin-based languages can be expected to expand as much as 300%. So, if you are designing a screen or slide, which is quite text heavy, it might be wise to consider the effect of how the same content might appear after it has been translated.

2. Fonts And Typefaces

When choosing fonts and typefaces, used within digital content, which is intended to be translated, it is important to make sure that any font used contains the required typefaces for the intended language.

3. Text Direction

In English, we read from left to right. But, that’s not true for all languages.

4. Numbers

Different countries write numbers in different ways, too. For example, some countries use a comma where we would use a decimal point and vice versa.

5. Hyphenation And Line Breaks

Different languages have different rules about if, when and where you can use hyphens and line breaks.

6. Alignment

Standards for how to align text also vary from language to language. For example, in Chinese, it’s important that text is aligned precisely and justified on both sides, if possible. Meanwhile, Arabic is almost never aligned to the left.

7. Use Of Loanwords

English has a long list of loanwords. It is best to avoid the use of loanwords such as "resumé" or "café." Other words that may contain diacritical marks, which would go unnoticed to a native English speaker, may present problems for a translator.

8. Portraying Emphasis

Even in English, we have variations on how we represent emphasis within a sentence, and we tend to interchange these variations with little or no consequence. We might use bold text, capitalize, italicize or even underline words or phrases that we want to emphasize for learning purposes. In most other languages, however, the formatting rules for portraying emphasis are more formalized or even absent entirely.

9. Formality Of Language

Many languages have several different levels of formality embedded within them; this can result in very different translations of English text depending on the context.

10. Voice Over

As a general rule, voice-over talent should be relevant to the intended locale and audience. When creating a voice-over script, we need to account for the fact that in some languages, text that is written to be spoken is formatted or spelled differently than the same text when it is intended to be read.

11. Use Of Tick Marks And Thumbs Up

It’s almost a standard within English-language learning to use a green check mark to indicate "correct" and a red cross or "x" to indicate "incorrect". This is not true for all Latin-based languages or even for some locales where English is in common use. When working on an eLearning translation project, this is an important issue and one of the most important eLearning translation tips to get right in order to avoid rework.

12. Cultural Issues

This is a broad one. Another area that could be overlooked within translation and localization projects is the potential impact of cultural differences on the perceived quality of the content after it is localized.

Throughout the Western world, it's common to use symbols, such as stars, to indicate "value" on sites like Amazon, for example. However, in some traditions, particularly within the Middle East, the use of star symbols can have serious political, religious and cultural connotations, which might be perceived as negative.

13. Dates And Times

Any content that contains dates and times, either graphically or within an eLearning translation project, needs to be translated correctly for the intended local.

14. Images

Images in eLearning is an obvious area that might need to be localized. We might need pictures that look local or ensure that people are wearing realistic clothing for the area that the learner is in. One practical tip, that might get missed, is remembering to transcribe text on images and add these to the translation file. You will need to account for graphic design time too if the translated text needs to be replaced on images.

15. Course Authoring

Once you have the translated content back from the translator, it’s time to add it to the course. Generally, time will be required to resize screen elements to account for the different size text of the new language. The good news is that many eLearning tools support the XLIFF translation standard. This is an XML document, which we can export from our English language course and send it to the translator and then import it back into our course. It generally does not work flawlessly, but it means rather than rebuilding your course, you just need to edit boxes of an existing version.

Like any new task, the experience will throw up new insight for you to contest with, but we hope this article will help you avoid some of the pitfalls along the way.