10 Critical Tips To Prepare Before Outsourcing eLearning Localization

10 Critical Tips To Prepare Before Outsourcing eLearning Localization
Summary: The best way to optimize your ROI on eLearning projects is to translate them into as many target languages as relevant. However, if you intend to outsource the localization of your eLearning material, there are a few critical mistakes to avoid. Here is a list of 10 pitfalls and how to avoid them.

How To Prepare Before Outsourcing eLearning Localization

Only 9% of the global population speaks English as a first language and only 32% of people who watch eLearning material in a language other than their own watch it to the end.

So, by far the most effective way to expand your audience is to make your content available to non-English speakers. This sounds expensive, but does not have to be. It all comes down to preparing the material properly from the beginning and choosing the right partner to localize your material in the requested target language.

Have you ever come across a tutorial based on screen recording where the language does not match the printed material on screen? Odds are the eLearning project was sent for voice over recording to a voice over talent who either lacked the skills to adapt the visual material to the target language or did not receive the necessary material to do so. As a result the tutorial is of limited use for the target language viewer, as he has to guess what the equivalent reference in his own language is. This considerably reduces the efficiency of the eLearning course or tutorial and can be avoided with proper preparation.

Hence the absolute necessity to prepare for the localization of eLearning projects from the very beginning.

1. Keep Copies Of Every Step Of The Creation Of Material That Includes Written Text

In case your tutorial includes graphics with written text, keep copies of the graphic without the written text and copies of the written text separated, as these graphics will have to be localized in the target languages. Ideally, use a program such as After Effects Project.

2. Ensure That The Company In Charge Of Localizing Your Material Has Access To The Target Language Version Of Your Software

When creating a tutorial based on a software that is already available in target languages, ensure that your localizing service provider has access to the software version in target languages so that they can record the localized script on an appropriate screen recording, as seen on this Microsoft tutorial localization demo for example. You can save money by providing your localizing service provider with ready-made screen recording in the target language.

Localized software in target language

3. Provide Your Localizing Service Provider With A Glossary Of Specific Expression

If there are already translations of previous versions of your software or teaching material, it is essential to ensure continuity in the specific expressions used. The best way to achieve that is to provide your localization service provider with a glossary of all relevant vocabulary and expressions as they have used in previous versions.

4. Beware Of Cultural Bias

Before sending the material to the localization service provider, ensure that your material does not contain elements that would be deemed unacceptable by the dominant culture of your target audience. For example, if an example you use in your eLearning project is a woman driving a car, this would not be well received in Saudi Arabia where women are not allowed to drive.

5. Take Local Culture Into Account When Specifying What Type Of Voices Is Needed

In addition to choosing the most appropriate gender for the voice, other factors might be critical in projecting the right impression on the target language audience. Audiences attribute credibility of professional and non-professional male and female speakers from voice (Soto Sanfiel, 2000).

6. Use Pauses And Silences Effectively Across Multicultural Landscapes

Silence is perceived in different, sometimes contradictory, ways across cultures. Silence can be used for face-saving, conveying positive or negative emotions, communicating consent or dissent, marking approval or disapproval, or for social bonding or alienation.

As Muriel Savbille Troike recounts in her seminal book Understanding Cultural Intelligence, a deadly incident once occurred in Greece simply because of cross-cultural differences in the use of silence. Whereas Greeks view silence as refusal, Egyptians use it to indicate consent. So, when Greek traffic controllers did not respond to Egyptian pilots requested permission to land their planes on Greek soil, the Egyptians interpreted this silence as consent and proceeded to land. The Greeks, however, having clearly indicated their refusal by silence, interpreted this action as a direct contravention of their refusal and fired on the Egyptian planes.

Even in less dramatic circumstances, the inappropriate use of silence might create friction, or be perceived as the opposite of what is intended.

When creating eLearning material aimed at a different culture or slated for localization in a number of target languages, it might be a good rule of thumb to take into account the differences in silence between high- and low-context cultures.

A high-context culture is one in which context is dictating the meaning of content, more than the actual words used. Contextual clues include personal factors (such as social relationships and relationship history) and social status and setting, and are reflected in non-verbal behaviors (eye contact, facial expressions, body language, use of silence). In high-context cultures, silence is a sign of respect (allowing others to express themselves without interruption or embarrassment), contemplation, and thoughtfulness.

However, high-context cultures with Collectivist values in which the needs of the group prevail over individual needs (e.g., China and India), maintaining the group’s cohesion is far more important than allowing the individual to express himself freely. As a result, across Collectivist Asia, silence is used to express disagreement without posing a threat to interpersonal harmony.

In low-context cultures, meaning is inferred from the actual words used and direct speech is common, clear and exact. The meaning of an utterance in a low-context culture is usually its literal interpretation and does not vary with context. In these cultures, directness, clarity, and honesty and frankness are valued. Within this cultural background (e.g. the United States and northern Europe), silence is seen as a breakdown in communication.

7. Choose Your Translator Wisely

When selecting a translator to localize your eLearning project, it is essential to keep in mind that not all translators are equal. Some are champions in copy writing material with a winning marketing flair, but would be lost if required to translate a technical or scientific script where precision is essential.

8. Ensure Each Language Pair Is Based On The Original Language

Though it is usually easier to translate the original material into English and proceed to all other translations from the English version into the selected target languages, it is always better to keep the original language as a base for all translation of your eLearning project. The odds of getting lost in translation are growing considerably with each degree of separation from the original language.

9. Timing Is Critical: Keep That In Mind When Recording The Original Material

Though this might seem in direct contradiction with Tip 5, it is helpful to leave blank sound space throughout the original recording. As some languages require more words than others and thus more speaking time to convey the same meaning, leaving interspersed blank sound space enables will allow the localized version to keep the original meaning without having to overly increase speech speed. Keep in mind though that blank sound spaces are not silence and should not appear as such in the original recording.

10. Send Specific Instructions About Pronunciation When Necessary

Keeping the best for last, one of the main voice-over hurdle that can be successfully navigated when properly set up from the beginning is preparing a file with the desired way to pronounce numbers, name, acronyms etc.

As conventions about such choices vary depending on topics, intended audiences, habits within a specific field, desired effect and many other factors, sending detailed instructions for each potentially mispronounced word, date, acronym or word.

Hopefully, these tips on eLearning modules localization will help you avoiding most mistakes when preparing your eLearning projects for localization. Don't hesitate to comment below if you have any questions or support request regarding your localization projects.

Thank you for reading and we hope your next eLearning project's localization will now run smoothly!