The 6 most effective eLearning localisation strategies for multilingual audiences

Published on June 5th, 2019

The rise of eLearning content has revolutionised the way businesses train staff and it is also spawned a multi-billion dollar industry – set to reach more than $275 billion by 2022. With platforms like Udemy becoming international names, it is easy to see eLearning as the global market it truly is.

Then you have the increasingly multicultural workforces that are developing around the world. Modern businesses are multilingual and training material needs to be provided in more languages than ever before. Whatever your reasons for creating eLearning material, localising for different languages/cultures is crucial in today’s market and here are six strategies that are going to help you create effective material for every audience.

#1: Plan for localisation from the start

The first thing you need to know about eLearning localisation is that effective planning will save you a lot of time and money. While it is perfectly possible to localise eLearning material after it has been created for one language, this approach leaves plenty of room for technical issues that can cause complications further down the road.

You will get a good idea of what these complications are as you read the rest of this article.

For now, though, just remember that it pays to think about localisation as you are drafting and designing the early versions of your eLearning material. This will help you avoid a number of potential issues later on that can make eLearning localisation more expensive and time-consuming.

#2: Design with text expansion and contraction in mind

One of the most common problems you are going to come across with any kind of localisation is text expansion/contraction. When you translate words into other languages, they change in length – for example, the word “possibly” (eight characters) becomes “posiblemente” (12 characters) in Spanish.

In some cases, words get longer. In others, they get shorter. The variation only increases as you create sentences, paragraphs and entire pages of content, which can be significantly longer or shorter than the original piece of content.

English tends to use fewer characters than other languages, meaning most translations from English result in text expansion. This means text is going to take up more space, subtitles are going to take longer to read and voice over translations are going to be longer.

You need to keep this in mind when you are creating eLearning content, whether it is text or video orientated.

#3: Choose your fonts before creating content

If you are new to eLearning localisation or translation in general, this is a problem that is easy to run into. You carefully choose your English fonts, create your layouts and design your visuals – only to find out those fonts do not exist in the languages you need to translate into.

If you are translating into different writing systems – such as Chinese or Arabic – this might not come as a surprise.

However, most languages based on the Roman alphabet have special characters that are not used in English. There are accented letters, additional letters and different punctuation symbols – all of which might render your fonts useless for languages outside of English.

The solution is relatively simple: choose your fonts for every target language before you start creating your content and make sure every target language is supported. You probably will not find one font that supports them all, but you will be able to find the best combination of fonts to get the job done.

#4: Make your layouts adaptable

With text expansion/contraction and font variation, the layout of your eLearning material is going to change a lot as you translate between different languages. This is a natural phenomenon of translating text (or audio for that matter) and there is no need to try and fight against it. Instead, make sure your layouts are adaptable.

Leave plenty of space for text to expand and try to avoid complex layouts using many columns. Squeezing a lot of content into tight spaces is going to break your layouts when it comes to translation, but you can minimise this problem by sticking to minimal layouts with plenty of spacing between different elements.

#5: Choose your visual content wisely

Research shows the majority of people are visual learners and it is widely established that visual content is more engaging than heavy blocks of text. So it is great that you want to include a lot of visuals in your eLearning material, but you want to keep localisation in mind when you are choosing or creating your visuals.

For example, graphs or other visuals containing currencies will need converting into local monetary values. You will also find the understanding of symbols, colours and visual metaphors can vary greatly around the world – so make sure you understand how these are interpreted before using them.

#6: Keep your material editable

By following all of the steps we have looked at, you should be able to create eLearning content that is primed for localisation. With some careful planning and localisation awareness throughout the content creation process, you should be able to avoid many of the most common eLearning localisation and translation issues brands experience while publishing for multilingual audiences.

There is just one last thing to remember: make sure your eLearning material is saved in an editable format, so your localisation experts can make the necessary tweaks without having to recreate your content in a new document. Always make sure your source material is accessible so edits can be made, new versions can be saved and your localisation expense can be kept to a minimum.

With effective eLearning localisation, the process is just as important as the end result. Achieving the highest quality in every version of your material is always the top priority, but it is the process in achieving that level of quality that is going to make localisation as time and cost-effective as possible – or, more to the point, as profitable as it should be.

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Posted on: June 5th, 2019