How to fix eLearning issues with good localization

Localization has become an increasingly important part of developing a business’s customer base. Beyond mere translation, localization takes cultural differences into account and changes them to make content appropriate for your target country.

The most common features where localization affects content are written content, graphics, and user elements such as navigation tools, audio/video, and formatting. You will want to plan for both linguistic accuracy and end-to-end usability.

E-learning is an excellent way to share information and build your customer base overseas. 

E-learning comes in a variety of forms, from traditional interactive video to tests and quizzes. What are some common local issues with E-learning?  Use this localization test to keep you on track.

1. Failure to Plan

Failing to plan for localization alterations at the beginning of your program design can result in overlapping content, truncated text, inconsistencies, improper character displays, and incorrect links. By not planning, you may need to either redesign your program after its completion or live with unprofessionally looking localization.

You should consider adaptations due to localization from the beginning, shortly after the architectural development phase of design. Place slogans, brand buttons, images, sources, and references in boxes with enough room to account for language expansion.

Keep this in mind when creating headers, footers and menu bars as well.

It is also a good idea to maintain a list of acronyms or specific terms that cannot translate into other languages. You should avoid using these as much as possible.

2. Shorter Sentences

Simpler language and shorter full sentences have traditionally been seen as the best way to keep translation easy. There are fewer words and phrases to translate. Developers need to use full sentences to get grammatically correct translations. So avoid concatenating sub-segments at the software level.

This is still true in subject areas like technical training and health and safety assessments.

In business, leadership, or sales, however, content is more subjective. It requires accurate cultural references so trainees can get the most out of their coursework.

They need culturally-based examples so they have a better overall idea of how to approach different types of customers.

3. Thinking All Languages are Identical

Translated language can get smaller or larger. For example, when German translates to English, it gets 10-30% larger. When translating English to Mandarin, it gets 20-50% smaller. A good localization test will therefore involve performing pseudo-translation by extending the text strings by 30% and seeing what the impact is.

Language size becomes an issue when it comes to voiceover, text inserted into video, voice turned into voiceover, and pre-designed slides and graphic elements. Not accounting for it early in the design process can lead to spillovers and extra spacing in text boxes.

It can also create a voiceover that is longer or shorter than the slide time it is accompanying.

When creating text, you should leave enough room at the design phase to allow for growth. Text contraction is not as much of a problem, but adept multilingual typesetters can help you get the most out of your text space.

When creating a video, provide extra footage so scenes can expand to accommodate longer voiceovers. On-screen animations will need to be resynced in different languages.

Changing the script slightly without altering your basic information can help expand or shorten your voiceover so that it works with the video footage.

4. Confusing Symbols

Some symbols are universally understood. Others, however, do not make sense in different cultures. Furthermore, color and images need to be considered.

In Western Europe, for example, the color white symbolizes purity and elegance. In Asia, however, it symbolizes death and is bad luck. Many tracker features can help you choose symbols that are culturally appropriate.

It is important to provide a way for learners to use navigation tools, tooltip speech bubbles, on-hover text boxes, progress bars, and other visual elements in a culturally clear way. You may want to maintain a tracker throughout your program design that can switch to different locations.

5. Goofy Graphics

Simple animations are often used in eLearning. Yet in other languages, words may appear in a different order, such as adjectives spoken after nouns. This can make animations appear irregular.

A desktop publishing (DTP) specialist or design team can help you identify trouble areas, and reorder animations after translation.

6. Inflexible Formats

Providing content to translators in formats like PDF’s and JPEGs can make them difficult to edit. If you supply images and text in programs like InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator files, they can be easily edited and translated to meet local needs.

Better yet, text to translate should be offered in an online tool that enables reusing existing translations and storing new ones translations in a database for easy future reuse. A good localization test will then involve running the source by the final database to make sure that you have translated 100% of the required sentences.

Video, audio, interactive assessments, presentations, and any other files should be present in formats that are easy to expand and contract. Also, preferably in their native file formats. 

7. Choosing the Wrong Translator

The right translation company will be able to edit your program from start to finish. Don’t parcel your project out in smaller pieces to different groups, as it will be inconsistent and unprofessional.

A company that uses Translation Memory software has the capacity to allow its translation base to expand over time, ensuring shorter project turnaround time and lower costs.

You should also look for a company that suggests building an approved glossary of specialized terms. Words or phrases specific to the field you are instructing in will be easily translated throughout the process.

Passing the Localization Test

Once you have passed your localization test, you are ready to deliver quality eLearning material all over the world. If you plan for alterations in symbols, text length, animations, and graphics, you will be well on your way toward an excellent product!

Nathan Woods

About the author

ABC Translations