Translation and Interpreting in 150+ Languages

Translation for E-Learning

The “E” in e-learning no longer means English only. But now, e-learning is going global fast. Overseas training is already a third the size of the US market and is soon to reach $20 billion a year. What’s driving this growth? Research proves that translating training into local languages works best to reach a global workforce.

1.1 Quality Gets Complex

Training materials require dedicated, specialist translators and great QA workflow. E-learning programs make it even more complicated. Glossaries and translation memories require careful attention.

E-learning products also have assets — videos, software, web-based applications, graphics, audio and user interfaces, and perhaps even printed content.

Global e-learning is most successful when it’s local, when a global message is adapted to what works best for each audience. With so much to consider, development isn’t easy.

Fortunately, there are best practice guidelines. These help organizations avoid delays and unnecessary costs. They also ensure good quality translation.

1.2 Target Audience

The first priority for e-learning translation is to know the target audience. It’s not enough to have a list of languages. A good language management team understands the cultural bias of the audience. The translator can then put right any issues that threaten the success of the training.

Industry research shows that up to eight out of every ten trainees drop out of a translated e-learning program if the training has not addressed cultural issues. And according to a Campaign for Learning report, 12% of e-learning is “terrible” because the program designers ignore the cultural needs of the trainees.

Some translated e-learning programs also ignore regional differences in language. The Portuguese spoken in Europe, for example, has distinct differences to the Portuguese of Latin America or Africa.

1.3 English Version

In this regard, the producers of the original English version of an e-learning program can help make a translator’s work better. Key points to bear in mind include using:

a.) Standard guidelines and terminology

b.) Simple, clear language

c.) Short sentences and paragraphs

d.) The active voice

e.) The present tense

Writers and speakers should not use humor, metaphors and analogies. They should also avoid references to culture, ethnicity, gender, history or geography. Other taboo subjects that may cause offence in some cultures include politics, sex, religion and alcohol.

2.1 Technology

Another technique to make translation easier is to use a software or web-based template with a design common to every language. This helps users identify with an organization or brand.

The template should also be flexible. For example, different regions may require custom graphics. They may also have local formats for dates, currencies and addresses.

Even font type and size can give problems when translating text. A small font may become unreadable in another language. And the font may not cope with foreign characters. Using a Unicode font and auto resizing can help.
In the same vein, the server on which you store e-learning content must be suitable for multilingual sites. The server must recognize and accept the different characters for various languages.

As for web-based e-learning, the site should have a simple navigation system. Whatever their native language, users should be able to work their way through an e-learning site with ease.

You also need to update and maintain an e-learning program. The best way to manage this is with version control. A Learning Content Management System (LCMS) has version control, and lets you write, manage and publish training materials. Various LCMS systems are available. Choose one with regional options and appropriate support.

2.2 Internet

A further issue is the speed of Internet connections. These differ around the world.

When a web-based e-learning program has multimedia applications such as videos, audio and graphics, slow Internet speeds can’t cope. The result is poor response times. And when users are waiting for screens to change, their attention wanders. The design of an e-learning program should therefore match the average connection speed of the users.

To achieve this, you may have to choose simplicity. You should cut back on multimedia apps, avoid lots of individual files and use plain text or XML in preference to complex file formats.

A straightforward approach also has other bonuses: It makes translation, updates and version control easier.

2.3 Voiceovers

Simplicity is an issue with voiceovers as well. If you’re dubbing a foreign language, you’ve got to keep on-camera speaking in mind. Dub for a lip-sync, or lay a translated track over the original; your multilingual production team can provide details on all the options available.

Subtitling and captions are about a third of the price per minute for audio, and are easy to do. The downside is that a lot of viewers find them distracting and hard to follow.

2.4 E-learning Language Management

Adding multiple languages to e-learning apps is complex, and so is managing language quality. Best practice starts with centralized management for quality and cost control. Glossaries, translation memories and style guides are used to keep everyone’s translation on track. Balance and validation can complicate the language process even further. Of course, the input of local managers and their support remains the key to understanding.

Responsive Translation language management programs always share four key objectives:

1. Improve translation quality, consistency and impact.

2. Ensure translations conforms to style guide, glossary and pedagogical goals.

3. Lower costs through increased use of translation memory.

4. Improve language quality and consistency of all suppliers.

Before long, you’ll have cost-effective training. And all users, whatever their language, will benefit from it.

We encourage you to get in touch and discuss your e-learning translation requirements at 1-800-872-6752 (+1-212-355-4455 outside the US) or

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