7 tips when creating elearning for translation and localisation

Posted on Sep 03, 2014

If you're delivering elearning to a global audience, it's important to consider how the content will be translated and localised.

It is not necessarily a quick and easy job and if not properly planned and undertaken, can wind up being a costly and lengthy process.

Strong, multi-lingual elearning requires a comprehensive strategy for localisation to be incorporated into the project. To help, we've put together a few tips for a successful and pain-free process.

What is localisation?

So before we start, what do we actually mean by translation and localisation?

Translation is the conversion of text into different languages.

Localisation goes further. It includes amendments to non-verbal elements such as document design, formatting and colours, and also involves analysing semantics and cultural elements to make sure the right thing is said.

When delivering training to a global audience, it’s important to ensure it will be effective for everyone that accesses it. It is therefore necessary to localise the content for all the different markets.

Plan for localisation at the initial stages

Localisation needs to be built into the initial project planning. Extra time needs to be allowed in the schedule in order to avoid surprises later on. It also needs to be taken into consideration during the design and development process so that components can be designed in a way that makes them easily translated.

Our 7 top tips

1. Design for expanding text

Remember that text can expand by up to 20-30% when translated into other languages. If you only have room for one sentence in your text placeholder you will run into problems later on. Also leave adequate space on pages and in tables in order to accommodate the expansion.

2. Minimise use of embedded text

Translating text within videos, images and diagrams can be difficult so try to keep the use of these to a minimum. If possible, designing graphics with all the different languages at the beginning will help make things easier later on. Otherwise, using layers in graphics will assist the process.

3. Be sensitive to cultural differences

Always be aware that images can represent very different things to different countries. Colours too can have different meanings to different people, for example red is considered unlucky in Korea and purple is a sign of mourning in Thailand.

4. Check for regional laws

If your course focuses on compliance issues such as health and safety or employment law, you need to make sure that the same rules apply across all markets. A subject matter expert in each country will be able to advise on anything that’s not valid.

5. Use international phone and date formats

Formats for both dates and phone numbers change from country to country so it’s important to display these correctly in the elearning.

For example in the UK we use dd/mm/yyyy but in the USA it’s mm/dd/yyyy and others use yyyy/mm/dd. Rather than having multiple versions, it’s easier to simply spell out the month – 14 September 2014. Likewise if you have a global audience, displaying international phone numbers with the full country code will ensure that everyone has the correct details.

6. Finalise a master version before localising

Aim to have one, master version of the elearning completely finished and signed-off before attempting and localisation. If a paragraph of text needs changing, you want it to be when there is only one version to amend not six or seven. If you have to make amendments to multiple versions it will incur extra costs in time and money.

7. Use dedicated linguistic reviewers

Using a linguistic reviewer for each language version ensures that translated documents meet your market requirements. Professional translators will make sure your content is grammatically and culturally correct, but it is employees that have the product and company-specific knowledge. Using both in the review process ensures that all terminology is correctly utilised.

We regularly localise elearning courses we develop in order for them to be rolled out across the globe, and work with a selection of highly qualified, specialist translators.

If you need multi-lingual elearning for your staff and would like to talk about your requirements, please give us a call: +44 (0) 207 492 1977.

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Author: Dan Scholes, Project Manager, Sponge

Dan Scholes is a Project Manager at Sponge and specialises in the localisation of elearning courses for global markets.

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