5 Things You Need To Know About eLearning Localization
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eLearning Localization: What You Should Know To Get It Right

In the early days of eLearning, creating educational courses was a lengthy, manual process that made them very difficult to produce, let alone localize.

If you’ve been apprehensive about localizing your eLearning content into multiple languages, now is the time to re-think your strategy as things have moved on quite a bit.

Today’s tools have made the process relatively straightforward for both the educators and their language partners. This has resulted in an exponential growth in the eLearning industry that is projected to be worth $331 billion by 2025.

There are 2 key things that would make or break your multilingual eLearning course—how it’s been created in the source language, and whom you choose to localize it. This article goes over everything you need to know to help you avoid costly problems and delays.

What Is Usually Localized?

First things first, what’s the difference between translation and localization? Translation is the process of translating words from one language into another, while localization takes into account cultural references and adapts the content (both text and visual) for the target country.

eLearning comes in a variety of forms, from a traditional video to interactive quizzes and assessments. The most common features and elements that need localization and translation are the following:

  • Written content
  • Graphics
  • User Experience elements (e.g. navigation buttons)
  • Audio and video
  • Formatting (e.g. date formats)

So, with that in mind, here’s what you need to know when producing eLearning content for multiple languages:

1. Plan For Multilingual Content From The Start

When producing a new course, you should bear in mind localization from the very beginning. This will influence how the language is used and how the text is structured within the different elements of the course.

Although it might be beneficial to some audiences, avoiding slang and idiomatic language will make the process more straightforward and less confusing. Also, your language partner will deliver the project faster, which in many cases lowers the cost.

Other things to consider are exactly what elements need translation and localization—e.g. brand slogans, User Experience buttons, images, sources, and references. This would pre-empt any questions your localization agency might have.

However, simpler language and shorter sentences don’t always work as certain courses need culturally-based examples and local-to-the-country phrases to make everything a bit more relatable and easier to comprehend.

For example, technical training and health and safety assessments feature very straightforward content which doesn’t have to include cultural references or idioms.

On the other hand, business, leadership, or sales courses are exactly the opposite. The content is more open to interpretation and often requires accurate cultural reference localization, so the trainees can fully understand and make the most of your course.

2. Text Expansion And Contraction

Needless to say, not all languages are identical, which means translated text ends up either longer or shorter. This becomes a challenge when text needs to be inserted into video, turned into voiceover, or is featured in pre-designed slides and graphical elements.

The difference may not seem notable in some language pairs, but for example, when translating into German from English, text expands by 10% to 30% on average. The opposite happens when translating into Mandarin, text may contract by 20% to 50%.

When dealing with languages that expand, it’s worth keeping in mind how the translation would fit in and look when presented in its final form. If it’s mainly text, then, always try to leave enough room at the design stage for text to grow.

If it’s video, provide your language partner with extra footage so the scenes can be expanded to accommodate for the longer voiceover. On-screen animations are almost always synced very tightly to the narration of the voice artist. These need to be resynced for each foreign language, so that they appear at the correct time. In some cases, tweaks in the script can help expand or shorten the voiceover in accordance to the footage.

Text contraction isn’t generally as much of a problem as text expansion can be. If not planned for correctly, expanded text can look squeezed in and crowded, and is not so easy to read. Anyway, don’t worry too much if you have passed the design stage because smart multilingual typesetters are adept at making text fit and look good across all languages. There just may be an added cost factor.

3. Graphics And Other Visuals

When it comes to localizing graphics and other visual elements, some symbols and pictures are universally understood. But sometimes this requires extra care so your message is easily understood.

However, it’s not all about the text—localization includes choosing culturally appropriate colors and images. For example, in the UK, white tends to symbolize things such as elegance and cleanliness but in various Asian countries, white actually represents death and is bad luck.

Some eLearning resources are interactive assessments which require the user to interact with the interface. Such courses come with navigation buttons (e.g. next, submit, close), tooltip speech bubbles, on-hover text boxes, progress bars, and other pre-programmed visual elements. Each of these can contain translatable text and shouldn’t be ignored in the translation progress.

Usually, those snippets of text can be extracted as XML (Extensible Markup Language) string files which can then be translated and imported back into the eLearning software.

Simple animations are also sometimes used in eLearning content. An example is when words appear in a certain order. Typically, in English, the adjective comes before the noun, but that isn’t the case for many other languages. The DTP (desktop publishing) specialist or the design team would be able to flag this up and help re-order the animations after the translation has been completed.

4. The Technical Considerations

The rule of thumb is to provide all eLearning content to your language partner in editable formats. This way, translations can be incorporated easily, and re-creating the files from scratch is avoided. This applies to video, images, audio, interactive assessments, presentations, and any other files.

And, as mentioned earlier, issues with expanding or contracting text can be easily tackled when the team has access to the editable source files.

If your eLearning resources rely on graphics and images, you should supply your language partner with editable InDesign, Photoshop, or Illustrator files. Flattened PDFs or JPEGs can’t be edited and would make applying the translated text more complicated.

Interactive content created with tools like Adobe Captivate support text exports and imports which make the localization process more straightforward. The text captions can be exported as XMLs or XLIFFs (Localisation Interchange File Format) which can then be re-imported to the project ones translated.

5. Choosing The Right Language Partner

The best-suited translation company is one that can take care of the whole project from start to finish. This includes directing the project from the beginning when expectations are managed, requirements are set, and prices agreed upon.

Language partners that make use of the latest technological advancements are the ones that will help you get more for your money in a timelier manner. This includes the use of Translation Memory (TM) which is expanded over time ensuring consistent translation which directly reduces costs and shortens project turnaround times. This is especially helpful when dealing with on-going projects over a long period of time as sometimes not the same people would work on the same projects. New language experts can get up to speed with what text/terminology is acceptable and what isn’t.

A sign that an agency knows what they are talking about is if they suggest building up an approved glossary of specialized terms. This would help establish whether you want certain phrases or words to be used in the translations. Having a pre-approved glossary would help language experts ‘get’ your content and pre-empt any questions they might have.

There you have it. It all comes down to bearing localization in mind when planning your eLearning course content. And more importantly, choosing a language partner that will help you reach your global audience, without getting lost in translation.

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