HT Localization Presents Language Translations for Real Life: International Success - eLearning Localization

Segment 14 - International Success - eLearning Localization    





Now that 2013 is in full swing, it is time to get into gear. You’ve put away your Christmas decorations, reviewed your personal goals for the New Year, and are now roaring to get your life in order.   How about your driver’s license?  Have you looked to see if it expires this year? 

If you are living abroad, have you checked to see if the laws permit you to continue driving with your foreign or international driver’s license?  The peril of life as an expat once again emerges…

If you are a resident of Spain, you need to have a Spanish driver’s license after some time to continue driving legally.  If your license is from another EU country or a country with which Spain has a reciprocity agreement, the process is very simple.  However, if you are from the U.S., it is not so simple.  So what does this have to do with localization or translations or international success?  After all, this is supposed to be a blog about Language Translations for Real Life and Localization and International things, right? 

Just hold on, I’m getting to that…

So I needed to get my Spanish driver’s license.  Spain allows foreigners to request the driver’s exam in Spanish, English or French, and maybe some other languages – so I chose English.  I found a driver’s training  school that provided the learning materials in English (aka…expensive), and I was on my way…eLearning!  The driver’s school provided a text book in English and software (along with a laptop) to conduct my training in my chosen language.  Wow, I thought, how cool is that, they’ve translated their training so that I can learn the driving rules in my old language.  ELearning - complete with text, graphics and voice-over narration available to non-natives, localization for the expat community here in Spain. Thank you!! 

Then I cracked open the book and launched the software, and behold…the experience was not exactly what I expected. While the material was in English, there were serious grammatical errors; translated paragraphs that were simply incorrect; cultural examples that were lost on me; voice narration that didn’t quite flow with the onscreen elements (I wondered, if I was literally on the same page as the narrator); and sections of incomplete ideas or just random phrases together in sections that didn’t seem to make any point at all.  Did someone even review this stuff?  How much money did I pay for these customer facing materials?  I eventually gave up on the eLearning in English, and started the eLearning materials in…Spanish, the source language – which provided a much better user experience.

I’m sure the driver’s education producers really meant to provide a quality eLearning experience for the non-Spanish speaker. I am grateful that the material was even available to me in my own language.  However, I hate to think about the cost, time and effort spent by the publisher of this localized eLearning material.  My impression of the driving school, the publisher of the materials and the software producer had been determined, and there was not much that could be done to change my perception.  I guess that they wouldn’t want me to publish an article about them.  Rather than beating them up, I shall offer some professional advice on how to overcome the challenges of eLearning Localization, and maybe I’ll drop them a note to read this post:  

Challenge #1 – How can you ensure the right eLearning localization experience for users?

The learning experience can vary greatly by how the information is presented. Localizing eLearning material will depend on the type of content, the presentation platform and the audience’s culture. Sometimes selecting the right voice and delivery speed can make a difference as to how effective new information is processed by a person. Prepare your eLearning course for localization.

  • Have in-country/native speakers review and give feedback on the translation. Reviewers can point-out any content that isn’t appropriate or relevant to the local audience, and recommend suitable alternatives. (For example, I was confused by the warning in the driver’s training, “If you feel dazzled, look away”; this referred to the condition when one is driving and gets hit with an oncoming car’s glare from high beams. This was a literal translation from the Spanish term “deslumbrado”.)
  • Use controlled vocabulary and terminology to ensure quality and consistency in messaging. Style Guides and glossaries are the key to consistency across projects and languages.  How one adapts an idea can be very subjective and might vary from culture to culture.  Take the example: “Ready, Steady, Go” or “Ready, Set, Go”; both mean the same thing, but depending on which side of the pond you’re from, you’d choose one expression over the other.
  • Consideration should not only be given to text, but also colors, images and sounds.  Different cultures have different connotations when it comes to visual images and colors, for example, the “thumbs up” gesture, is taken as an insult in some Middle Eastern cultures  (i.e. the middle finger in western societies). 

Challenge #2 – How can you ensure the right technical eLearning experience for users when localizing?

In addition to linguistic considerations, one should also consider the technical aspects of eLearning.  The learning experience can vary greatly by how the information is presented. Localizing eLearning material will depend on the type of content, the presentation platform and the audience’s culture.  

  • Give consideration to user interface, voice narration, and multimedia platforms.  For example, presenting material in text may be more effective with sound effects, as people learn both visually and by listening.  Flash media, videos and other visual effects will not only bring alive the content, but can also make the experience more memorable; hence enhancing the learning process. 
  • When designing layout, leave adequate space in text sections for translations as translated content can expand by as much as 50% in length or space.
  • Avoid hard coding text element in graphics files, as this increases the time needed for the localization process.  Provide editable source files to avoid re-work when localization of graphics is required.
  • Consider using a learning management system that can easy switch between languages so that users have a central place to access valuable training materials. Is your system capable of supporting multiple languages? Consideration should be given to double byte characters, non-Unicode fonts, local weights, measurements, date and time formats in multiple languages.

Challenge #3 – How can you ensure a professional quality eLearning localized product?

The goal is not to simply translate content, but to make the learning experience effective for the audience.   Find knowledgeable subject-matter experts to help develop your content before translating. 

  • Get the professionals.  Don’t try it at home!  I wouldn’t try to fix my car, nor ask my friends to repair the transmission. I just wouldn’t do it.  It is simply not worth the risk or the grief. Likewise, get a professional translator on board.  It’s our job as your translators to worry about linguistic expressions and grammatical matters.
  • Get the professionals.  I'm not a techie, so I wouldn’t know where to begin to get down to the nuts and bolts of  software systems.  Odds are that the educators who are preparing the training, aren't techies either.  Nor do they have the time, interest or expertise for ensuring the technical experience works right.  Likewise, get a professional localization service provider on board.  We have tech teams who can talk with your tech teams to get it done right.

I suppose, the worst thing that could happen if you don’t localize your eLearning programs effectively is that your audience won’t understand a thing; you would have wasted lots of time and money; and risk someone like me writing an article of how NOT to do something using your company as a case in point.  (Or worse, one could fail the driver’s exam!)

… Stay tuned for the next Segment of HT Localization Presents Language Translations for Real Life Series, where we’ll explore … Getting Back to Business for International Success with the Chinese Markets

To receive the new Language Translations for Real Life Series go to HT Localization Blog and subscribe via RSS or email.

This article was written by Rachanee Thevenet, Co-Founder of HT Localization.  Rachanee is an Asian-American expat living in Spain with her family.  She loves all things international including food, art, literature, culture, languages and people.  She has years of product marketing expertise and global expansion experience.

HT Localization, LLC. is a worldwide translation & localization agency providing a full range of professional language translation services, including social media localization, marketing translations, website translations, software localization, eLearning materials, documentation translations, etc.  With locations in the US, Spain, Zambia & Thailand, and coverage across all languages and most industries, HT Localization is well positioned to provide around the globe services for all translation needs.  

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