Why E-Learning Localisation Is Important for International Companies


There are several key reasons why e-learning localisation is important for international companies.

To ensure universal training standards. To gain a huge reach from one initial software build. The sheer cost-effectiveness of a solution which massively increases knowledge retention for learners…

These reasons are only part of why the worldwide e-learning market is currently experiencing such massive growth. It’s currently estimated to be worth more than £88 billion. It’s estimated to be worth £225 billion by 2022.

There are no signs that this growth is going to slow down anytime soon either. The workforce of tomorrow – and, increasingly, today – is a global, multicultural one. This means that global companies need to train new and existing employees who speak a variety of languages and who hail from widely different cultures.

Smartly planned e-learning localisation is the way leading international businesses culturally adapt their training materials to do exactly that.

Advantages e-learning localisation offers global companies

1. You maintain universal standards
Small businesses and international corporations alike strive to maintain universally high standards. Key to achieving those is making sure that all employees are trained to the highest level.

By ensuring that any employee receives exactly the same message and information from your training materials – no matter what language they speak or culture they were raised in – e-learning localisation makes it easy to maintain your brand’s universally high standards.

2. You can hire and train globally from a single build
Older training methods restricted the regions business leaders could hire from.

Now, with their e-learning materials properly localised, the leaders of today know that their new hires – as well as their existing multicultural team – will be trained to the same universal standard no matter where they applied from. This gives you access to a huge pool of talent.

What’s more, if you do it right, putting an effective e-learning localisation process in place means you can keep on adding new cultures or languages to the number of areas you cover with ease.

That’s because your e-learning build, design and content will have been created with this kind of expansion in mind.

3. You save money on training
With this approach, you won’t need to spend money creating individual courses for each region or language you want to support. Having a single build in place makes it easy for you to essentially “plug in” new language versions as required.

Plus, with electronic learning, there is no need to have classroom space available – or to supplement the travel costs of employees who might otherwise have to travel to a central location for training.

There’s also a general reduction in the need for expensive follow-up training. This is because there’s one last major advantage of e-learning localisation.

4. You increase knowledge retention
People learn faster and easier when they learn:

  • In their own native language
  • At their own pace
  • In an environment in which they feel relaxed and comfortable

By making it possible for anyone to learn in these favourable conditions, properly localised e-learning materials increase knowledge retention and the efficiency and speed of the learning process.

What does e-learning localisation involve?
An important note to bear in mind at this point is that localising your e-learning courses involves more than just translating the words which make up your course content.

E-learning localisation involves adapting every element of your course materials so that they are completely natural and relatable to someone from a different culture:

  • Text (including any subtitles in your video content)
  • Time, date and currency formats and more
  • User Interface elements (such as navigation buttons, icons and support for right-to-left languages)
  • Visual content, graphics and images
  • Video content
  • Voice-overs and subtitling

Targeting all of these elements requires a systematic, holistic approach, careful planning and usually some special software.

It’s helpful to bear some things in mind right from the start.

Tips to make your e-learning localisation a success

1. Start at the beginning
You will get the best out of your international e-learning materials if you design them from the beginning with localisation in mind.

Of course, you can localise a course which you have already created in, say, English. But you will find localisation to be far more cost-effective and far quicker if you bear it in mind from the initial design onwards.

There are several different things you can do to make this easier for yourself.

2. Make your design ready to adapt
One of the most important tips to make your e-learning localisation a success is to create an adaptable design.

This will include factoring in the likely possibility of:

  • Text length expansion and contraction: translated sections of text will not take up the same amount of space in different languages. For example, text in your English-language version will often be shorter than the same string of text in other languages. This is important to remember wherever text is found, including subtitles.
  • Audio expansion and contraction: the same is true for spoken content, such as voice-overs.

Some sensible steps to take include simplified layouts – a large number of columns of text may be problematic, for example – and generally leaving plenty of space for text to expand into.

With the right software, adaptable layouts are relatively easy to create.

3. Keep your files ready for edit
The major e-learning authoring tools include:

  • Adapt
  • Adobe Captivate
  • Articulate Storyline and Articulate Rise
  • Elucidat
  • Gomo
  • Lectora Inspire and Lectora Online

Using one of these tools makes it very easy to export your materials to a Word or XML document and then import a new language version back in when your Language Service Provider has created it.

Whether you decide to use suitable software or not, you need to ensure your course materials are saved in a format which can be edited. Otherwise, you are going to make it very difficult and much more costly for your LSP to create new language versions.

4. Research your target audience
It’s worth repeating that localising your course materials is about more than translating the words your learners will see on the screen.

For your course content to really connect with someone from a different culture, it needs to be completely adapted to their expectations, norms and reference points. For example:

  • You may need to adapt or entirely replace scenarios presented in training materials. They may not arise or need to be handled very differently in another culture.
  • Your choice of vocal talent for the narrator of your content might change. In Europe or America, it might be usual for the narrator to be somewhat informal. In some parts of Asia or the Middle East, a firm and formal tone would be expected.

You need to do the research to know what works for each individual culture. Or, you need to know that your Language Service Provider will do the work for you.

5. Think about the words you use
Localisation does involve the cultural adaptation of all other aspects of your content too. But, of course, the words you use will play a vital role in how effective your training materials are at getting your message across. They will also govern how easy they are to translate and adapt.

Some of the factors you should consider when creating your course materials include:

  • Colloquialisms, idioms, slang and cultural references: the more you can avoid these, the easier it will be to translate your content into multiple languages.
  • Literary and poetic references: not all “well known” works are as well-known as you might think.
  • Humour: what people find funny has major ties to the culture they were raised in. Though humour can be an effective learning tool, it is often best avoided for the same reasons as above. There’s the additional danger that what one person may find funny, someone from a different culture might find offensive.
  • Format: simple formats will always be best when it comes to presenting a great deal of information as text. Bullet point lists, for instance.
  • Directness: simple, direct language will always be easiest to accurately translate. However, there’s not necessarily any reason you can’t decide to use complicated language. As long as you plan to do so properly…

6. Provide a glossary of terms
Many companies have their own terms and vocabulary for internal and sometimes external use.

Unfortunately, no one outside the company is going to know what they mean! The easiest solution is to provide some reference materials for your Language Service Provider to refer to:

  • Glossary of terms: having the internal vocabulary of your company literally spelled out lets your LSP agree on the translations with you. Your LSP may sometimes offer you multiple options for important terms so you can select the one which really carries the same weight.
  • Style guide: does your brand have a style which you’d like to maintain across cultures? Detailing it gives your LSP the vital information it needs to work from.
  • Pronunciation guide: if there are audio files which will contain branded terms, providing a pronunciation guide is a sensible step.

These materials will ensure that all of your localised content remains consistently on-brand. The small amount of extra time required to create the materials in the first place will soon pay for itself.

7. Remember that visuals are not universal
While visuals perform a vital function in improving the quality of learning, it’s vital to bear in mind that visual messaging usually involves a great many cultural references.

Simple things like the currencies and symbols used, visual metaphors such as a handshake symbol, colour symbolism, icons and more will also vary to a surprising degree. It’s always best not to make assumptions.

Your Language Service Provider should have a native-language specialist who can advise on this. But, at minimum, you should do some research to ensure that the visuals you use are culturally relevant.

Never embed text in images either. Replacing embedded text will be far more difficult and costly.

8. Don’t forget about fonts
You may have taken a great deal of time choosing the font for the original language version of your course materials.

If you haven’t yet localised or translated many materials before, it might not be immediately apparent that:

  1. Some languages might be difficult to read in some fonts
  2. Some languages rely on alphabets which have special characters or punctuation which might make certain fonts unsuitable
  3. Some fonts may not support all languages

The best strategy is to choose the fonts you’re going to use first, ensuring that they support the languages you want them to.

It’s fairly unlikely that one single font will support all the languages you want to target. But by planning ahead you’ll save yourself from headaches further down the line.

9. Choose a Language Service Provider which does it all
This article should go to show just how many aspects are involved in localising your e-learning materials.

The sheer number of tasks, which could include editing video files, creating voice-overs, localising images, software engineering, translating text and much more, may make it seem like it would be a good plan to find multiple providers to handle it for you.

However, quality control and monitoring the progress of your project is actually far easier with a single Language Service Provider handling every job.

Plus, you’ll have one single project manager to discuss your content with rather than needing to liaise with half a dozen different companies.

E-learning localisation – choosing the right provider
Finding a provider which has intimate knowledge of your target languages, cultures and industry as well as the translation expertise, software engineering skills, vocal talents and everything else required to localise your course content can be a challenge.

Yet the many advantages e-learning localisation offers global companies ensure that it’s a challenge worth taking.


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