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A Guide to E-Learning Translation & Localisation 

Published on May 18th, 2022

For businesses that produce training or educational material for multiple language audiences, a robust e-learning translation and localisation strategy is required.

In this guide we put together, we explain the difference between e-learning translation and localisation, why you need both and guidelines that will help you get the best results from every e-learning project.

What is e-learning translation?

E-learning translation converts digital training courses and learning material from one language into another or multiple other languages. With e-learning translation, you can adapt your educational content for multiple language audiences, maximising the reach of your material and the quality of the learning experience for each audience.

What is e-learning localisation?

E-learning localisation is the broader service of translating e-learning material and optimising it to maximise the effectiveness of translation. Beyond translating content itself, localisation ensures the source code, design, visual content and non-language elements deliver a native experience for each language audience.

To maximise reach with e-learning material, companies need a complete localisation strategy, which includes the key component of e-learning localisation: e-learning translation.

Who needs e-learning translation & e-learning localisation?

Any company that creates learning courses and educational content for different language audiences can benefit from e-learning translation. Broadly speaking, there are three main categories of business that require this service:

  1. The Education sector
  2. HR & Training providers
  3. Companies with international workforces

In the education field, the biggest sector is the online learning field, which surpassed $315 billion (£252 bn) value in 2021. This includes online courses, open universities and other businesses that mainly provide online learning experiences. In some cases, more traditional educational institutions may require e-learning translation services, too, with more students choosing to study internationally every year.

In the training industry, training providers are often hired by companies that need their workforce trained and educated to specific standards, normally accredited with different types of certificate or achievement awards. With the UK’s non-native workforce continuing to grow, the need for multilingual training material is increasing every year.

By extension, any company with an international workforce can improve its internal training process with translated e-learning material. This includes companies within the UK that employ non-native staff or international companies with teams spread out across the world.

With e-learning translation, you can ensure everyone is on the same page, no matter what their language background may be.

E-learning translation best practices

We have discussed e-learning translation best practices on the translate plus blog before, but let’s take some time to explore the following in more detail:

  1. Planning ahead to minimise translation challenges
  2. Working with e-learning translation specialists
  3. Paying attention to images and multimedia content
  4. Using technology to create a more efficient translation process
  5. Localising source codes
  6. Localising e-learning content
  7. Testing your translated material before going live

Following these best practices helps to achieve your e-learning translation goals on every project.

#1: Planning ahead

E-learning translation involves a wide range of challenges that can delay progress. This can range from dealing with text expansion and design issues to optimising multimedia content and so many other things.

However, planning ahead helps minimise these challenges to produce learning material that is ready for translation. For example, a suggested solution is to design pages to include plenty of whitespace and padding on elements to allow for text expansion as well as avoiding including text in images.

#2: Working with e-learning translation specialists

Given the unique challenges of creating multilingual learning material, it is important that you work with e-learning translation specialists with proven experience in handling e-learning projects no matter their complexity.

It is recommended to work with a translation agency that specialises in e-learning translation from the beginning of a given project. This is because they’ll be in a position to provide help with all the early planning and development stage so you can produce material that is optimised for the best results.

#3: Images & multimedia content

Some of the most common issues that can be observed during e-learning translation revolve around images and multimedia content used in courses. Earlier, we touched on the issue of including text in images because it is difficult to translate a jpg. file, unless duplicates are created for each language.

That is not the only potential issue you can come across with images and multimedia content, though.

When looking to engage learners from different language backgrounds, the content needs to be made as relevant to them as possible. So, if an international company for example is producing training material for its workforce based in Malaysia, it makes sense to use supporting images and video footage that either includes Malaysian models/actors or to avoid including people at all.

#4: Using technology to create an efficient translation process

There is a wide range of translation technology available today that can help companies produce multilingual training material faster and with greater consistency. It is useful and recommended for companies to familiarise themselves with tools such as machine translation, translation memory and translation management systems that help deliver projects, including e-learning ones, more quickly and at a lower cost.

#5: Localising source codes

For businesses that plan ahead their e-learning localisation strategy, from the beginning of their project, they will be in a position to optimise source codes for translation. This is always more time and cost-effective than making changes to core code files later on in the development stage – or, worse, after the development stage was supposed to be finished.

Here are some of the key steps you can take when localising your source code:

  • Create your material with Unicode
  • Define file types (e.g. HTML and XML)
  • Avoid embedding text in scripts or other pieces of code
  • Create language files for each translation
  • Implement a language selection UI

In some cases, implementing a language selection UI may not be needed – for example, in cases where you have already determined the language of users on your website and allow them to download/access the same language version.

Even still, a language and location selection option should be included for people using VPNs, travelling overseas and non-native speakers living in your target market(s).

#6: Localising e-learning content

We have already discussed the optimisation of images and multimedia content in e-learning material, but a complete localisation strategy should also consider numbers, symbols, colours and other culturally significant aspects. This is to make sure that these are neutral or adapted to suit each target market.

Translation also affects the layout of pages and user interfaces so a localisation strategy should also consider the optimisation of the structural design of your content – e.g. ensuring text expansion does not break layouts.

#7: Testing your translated material before going live

As with any content translated for public audiences, it is important that a testing process involving native speakers always takes place before the publication of the translated material. This should be standard step in any quality control process for e-learning localisation work. Therefore, it should also be one of the key discussion points when speaking to e-learning translation experts about your projects.

Need help with your e-learning translation strategy?

If you need support with your e-learning translation or localisation strategies, you can speak to our specialist team by calling us on +44 (0)20 7324 0950 or filling out the form on our contact page.

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Posted on: May 18th, 2022