Let’s cover some helpful localization tips when designing eLearning courses because they are continuing to grow in popularity and have become the preferred method for business instruction. These platforms are especially convenient when employees are based in different geographic locations making it an ideal solution when the instruction has to be delivered to a multilingual workforce.
If you are creating eLearning courses for corporate use, one of your first questions should be whether the program will (eventually) require translation. It might seem unnecessary to start thinking about translation during the development stage – especially if the translation is taking place during a later phase of the project – but thinking about translation early on will allow you to customize an effective program that can be easily developed for your English and foreign language speaking learners.
Spend time planning early to avoid re-work later!
Here are my top 5 tips for designing your next eLearning program.
Tip 1: Check for Compatibility
Verify all your languages will be supported before you begin designing the program. Tell your translation provider which languages will be required for the training and ask whether there are limitations that need to be considered with the eLearning program you are using. Design programs have improved at accommodating languages and most are supported by Unicode fonts, but there are always exceptions to the rule! To avoid issues your translation provider can help you plan ahead with an alternate workflow before the clock starts ticking.
Tip 2: Think “Functional” Before “Fancy”
Animations are an amusing addition to eLearning programs, but consider the additional cost of recreating an animation in multiple languages. eLearning programs have many bells and whistles, but just because you could use them doesn’t mean you should. How critical is this design element to the educational goal you are trying to accomplish and is it worth the cost?
Are you planning to embed images or place screenshots in your eLearning program? Images are terrific visual tools to support your material but consider whether a text element is necessary. Any images that contain embedded text will need to be recreated by your translation provider. Recreating graphics will require additional time and money. They can also be difficult to find during the initial project analysis which leads to “catch up” work later if the additional text requires translation and formatting. A good alternative is to include the text as its own layer within the design file.
Tip 3: Be Concise
Foreign languages can expand an average of 25% to 30% beyond the length of the English when translated. Your vendor can ask the translator to be concise and the formatting team can shrink fonts; however, adding white space to your slides and keeping the dialogue simple will make the translated adaptation easier to accomplish.
Avoid using regionally specific language and idioms that can be difficult to translate. A skilled translator can work with you to find a culturally relevant replacement for “jellybeans” or “on the same page” but the back-and-forth with these kinds of QAs can add to your translation timeline.
These tips also apply to audio components of eLearning. If your program includes narration, be sure to include natural pauses and record in English at a comfortable cadence. Your script translation will also grow and you should avoid timing issues that require the voice talent to speak at an unnaturally fast pace or require excessive editing of the slide length or video.
Tip 4: Put a Plan in Place for Quality
Rushing your translation team, skipping quality steps, and zooming through the functional review of the formatted program will result in poor quality and an ineffective learning tool for your company. Share your timeline with your language provider and find out if your request is realistic. There are many moving parts in eLearning programs that require a thoughtful approach.
Work with your language provider to maximize all aspects of the timeline. For instance, translating the script first, followed by the on-screen graphics, and then translating the eLearning program files will allow the recording to begin while the eLearning translation is underway. Some basic coordination of steps will allow everyone to maximize their productivity while ensuring high quality.
It’s also important that you answer all translation questions that come up as soon as possible to avoid delays. Before the project begins, send clear instructions with the project file noting any terms that should remain in English and if there are proper names in the text, how these should be handled. Keep in mind that some professionals have formal translations in place for their names. By providing comprehensive instructions before the project starts you will allow the project manager to communicate everything to the translation team once and avoid updates which can be disruptive to the timeline.
Tip 5: Think Big Picture
Disruption in translation consistency can result in confusion for your learning audience. Consider whether there are any other materials outside of the eLearning program that will go along with the course. If these need to be translated then bundle them in with your eLearning project. Sending these materials with your eLearning project will help ensure the language and style is consistent. If these materials have been delegated to one of your colleagues, make sure that you both are working with the same provider and communicate that these materials are part of the same program.
If you are creating an eLearning course that will eventually be translated then now is the time to think about the localization step and how it will harmonize with your design. Most language companies are happy to offer free consultations with their in-house experts. Take advantage of this service and run through your plan with language professionals! At a minimum, you will be putting a timeline in place that works for all stakeholders, but more likely you will come away with relevant observations that will help you save time, rework, and production costs.