A Few Words

10 Essential Tips of eLearning Translation and Localization

Posted by Annette Heidrich on Feb 4, 2015 11:44:00 AM

Localizing eLearning material can be an effective way to ensure that your global customers and staff are receiving appropriate training by making it available in their native language. Effective eLearning localization can help make sure that training materials are replicated across all of your target markets. With many moving parts, eLearning and training translation can be quite complex. However, with the proper preparation, you can eliminate unnecessary costs and foster an efficient process to keep the project on schedule. A key responsibility of your translation partner is to know the intricacies of culturally diverse audiences. This is particularly important when it comes to localization of eLearning and educational materials.


Here are 10 tips to help avoid common localization issues when preparing your eLearning applications for a multilingual audience.

1. Create content that is translation-friendly. Examples of this include using bulleted lists, as opposed to lengthy and wordy paragraphs. Avoid jargon/slang and idiomatic expressions. Sentences should be short, in active voice, and well-constructed.

2. Use images carefully. Reduce the number of screenshots, use culturally-neutral images, and exercise caution when using metaphorical images or pictures that feature people making gestures. Cultural relevance is important. As an example, images of road signs from the United States should be changed to market suitable images for each country – a sign that says, “Stop” means little to a Chinese reader. The “Ok” hand gesture has an entirely different, negative meaning in Brazil.

3. When using graphics, avoid embedded text. While they can be edited by a graphic designer, this requires additional cost and time because retouching may be required to restore the background after removing and replacing the text.

If a graphic does contain embedded text, having access to the source file can save a lot of headaches if the original artwork files contain editable text layers. This allows text to be extracted, translated, and replaced with less graphic design time. Typically, the content package includes secondary files (PNG or GIF) instead of the original source files (Illustrator or Photoshop), so you may need to ask specifically for source assets.

4. Avoid embedding screen text in scripts such as Javascript or VBScript. If you can’t avoid using text strings in your script, help your localization partner to easily locate and mange the localizable text (see #5).

5. Bundle your text strings. Text strings (a group of characters used as data) can be bundled together as variables in an external resource file, or you can assemble them in one location in the code as a collection of variables, identified as localizable.

6. Be mindful of expanding text. Non-English text tends to be longer than the English equivalent and can present a challenge if the text container is not flexible. Depending on the language, translated text can expand 20 to 50 percent. Verify your design and code to ensure longer texts can be supported. Areas that are susceptible to problems are horizontal navigation bars, menus and other text containers with limited space to expand.

7. Avoid string sequences/concatenation. Avoid language constructions that contain fragments of text combined with variables. Other languages may need to have those segments in a different order, or the translation of certain pieces might be different depending on the variable (case, gender).

8. Reduce complex content integration. Whenever possible, avoid integrating content that is created using a combination of different technologies, formats and tools. Examples of this are fixed time constraints or time-synched audio/video with on-screen subtitles. It may take longer for narration in a non-English language, for example. The more complicated the creation process of those elements, the more complex the localization process might be.

9. Source versions of the files used in the final product should be made available for localization. Typically, technologies used for eLearning products have two versions of source: editable and published versions. If the editable version is not available, then the localized version needs to be built from scratch following translations or, in the case of multiple languages, rebuilt before starting translation. This is costly, introduces opportunities for errors, and adds to project time.

10. Make Audio/Video content considerations. Determine at the outset if you want a timed audio or synced recording or if a non-timed audio recording is suitable. This will depend if the video is graphic only or if there are people speaking to camera. These choices will determine how the translation and recording is managed. If possible include a generous buffer in the audio. Keep the script as culturally neutral as possible (e.g. avoid sports metaphors). Give clear guidelines for pronunciation to the voice talent.

Have any other tips to share? Please let us know – we’d love to hear from you!

Topics: Localization, Employee Communication and HR, Resources, Translation Basics

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