eLearning has rapidly evolved into a crucial component of professional learning strategies. The advent of global health concerns in 2020 and the subsequent years was unprecedented. This led to the widespread distribution of various "Safe Return to Work" guidelines via infographics, email communications, and the infamous Zoom call. As a result, eLearning often became a prerequisite for employees transitioning back to traditional office environments.

 

Why translate your eLearning materials?

When staff and/or customers are based in different countries, it often makes sense to create eLearning materials once and then adapt that content for multiple markets through translation and localization services. Multimedia content offers a scalable, affordable alternative to the rising costs of Instructor-Led Training. End-users appreciate the flexibility of self-managed learning plans and the ability to break down dense programs into smaller, more manageable segments. This approach leads to improved overall comprehension, which can be easily logged and tracked. Translating eLearning content is a relatively cost-effective method for reaching new markets globally with relevant, engaging, and sometimes required content in the user’s local language.

The most seamless eLearning translations are achieved when translation is considered from the outset—during the design phase of program creation. When considering return on investment, allocating resources during the initial design results in future savings of time, money, and headaches as new target languages are introduced to the course library. Of course, this is not always possible, but we have put together some best practices to prepare an eLearning program for translation/localization successfully.

 

Tips for technical design

  1. Select authoring tools that are translation-friendly: The software you choose is crucial. Many programs, such as Articulate Storyline or DominKnow One, offer features that facilitate the translation process. These tools also ensure that source files are editable. eLearning Language Service Providers (LSPs) that specialize in handling these file types can offer valuable support.
  2. Avoid embedded text in images: Embedded text will not be exported for translation. Unless a piece of text is intended to remain in its source language, ensure that image text has been replaced with the appropriate text elements.
  3. Anticipate text expansion: A useful standard is to expect the translated text to expand by approximately 20%, especially when translating from English to Cyrillic languages. However, some targets could result in an expansion of 25% or more. Leave space between elements and margins on text element frames to accommodate this increase.
  4. Pay attention to visual content: Be mindful of color schemes, as they can convey different meanings in various contexts. For example, red and black in the financial sector might have different implications across countries. Additionally, consider how signals of emphasis, such as using all capital letters, might not translate well into character-based languages like Thai. It's also important to recognize that symbols can have varied meanings across cultures; for instance, while stars often symbolize achievement or value in Western cultures, they might carry political, religious, or cultural connotations in some Eastern cultures.
  5. Be thoughtful about font selection: Not all font families support all languages. Ensure that your fonts support the characters and accent marks in your target languages and reflect the style and mood of your content. If you are unsure about your font selection, consult your LSP for a recommendation.

Tips for content authoring

  1. Avoid idioms, colloquialisms, and culture-specific analogies: American English expressions like "hit the sack" (meaning "go to bed") or "got the boot" (meaning "been fired") may lack equivalents in the target language and could be interpreted literally. Additionally, excessive redundancy can confuse learners when translators have a limited pool of synonyms to draw from, thereby impeding the flow of translated content.
  2. Be mindful of unrecognizable acronyms/abbreviations and mnemonic devices: For instance, the PASS acronym for fire extinguisher use (which stands for "PULL the pin, AIM the nozzle, SQUEEZE the trigger, SWEEP from side to side") often loses its impact in translation, as the initial letters do not form a compound term as they do in English.
  3. Consider creating a glossary for specialized terminology or internal vocabulary that may lack universally understood meanings within your organization: This resource will assist linguists in maintaining consistency in style and tone and in providing the most accurate translation possible.
  4. Keep your content simple and maintain a neutral tone: The more concise and straightforward your content is, the easier it will be to translate into multiple target languages.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, eLearning is revolutionizing the education landscape by creating an accessible, flexible, and inclusive mode for learners worldwide. It dovetails with traditional methods and continues to improve with technological advancement, enabling an effective and consistent learning experience across cultures and languages.

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