eLearning Localization: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Nowadays, training can be quickly distributed to teams not only within an organization but on an international scale. Learning Management Systems (LMSs) make distributing training materials much simpler than trying to orchestrate sending documents and DVDs via email or snail mail. However, if you have an international audience, then let’s hope you’re utilizing some good eLearning localization techniques.

After all, if you’re trying to say your chicken is “Finger-lickin’ good” but is literally translated to “Eat your fingers off” then you may find yourself in a bit of a pickle…to say the least.

What is eLearning localization?

eLearning localization involves translating and altering eLearning (and any other training materials you may use) to be most effective in different languages and regions.

This is particularly important as not all languages can be literally translated and have the same meaning and images can be interpreted many different ways based on who’s viewing them.

Here’s the good, bad and the ugly of eLearning localization so you know what to keep in mind when translating and altering your eLearning content:

The Good

eLearning localization may seem like an undertaking and in fact it can be. The benefits, however, can be more than worth the upfront effort. In the end, you could expect to see:

  • Global reach – With one core eLearning course, you could then adapt it for multiple languages and regions to reach a wider audience. Thereby, expanding the reach and influence of your business.
  • Consistency – Utilizing eLearning localization allows you to create a clear and consistent message through your training. The information stays the same, but nuances such as colors, images, and specific words or phrases may be changed to be more relatable to each particular audience.
  • Efficiency – Speaking of relatability, this process increases the overall effectiveness of global eLearning. Learners are able to more easily relate to the examples and lessons being taught when they are in a language and format they’re used to seeing every day. This, in turn, also improves and increases learners’ retention of the material.
  • Global, Comparative Data – If you were to create custom courses for each language or region, it’d be difficult to accurately compare training data since each course may be largely different from the next. However, with eLearning localization, training remains essentially the same allowing for greater comparative data and analytics.

Want an example of good localization? In the U.S., it’s common for us to say “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” when someone would like to have things both ways. However, if you were to literally translate that phrase into French it wouldn’t make a lick of sense to them because they actually say this instead:

The Bad

We’ve all heard of or seen those really bad translation examples that just make you cringe and shake your head. And, yes, you better believe we’ll be giving some examples later in the post! But, regardless of whether they make you laugh or want to reach out and give a virtual “there, there” pat to the unfortunate offender, mostly we just want to help you avoid the same fate.

When it comes to translating eLearning and modifying the non-written content of your training materials, there are some best practices you’ll want to adhere to, such as:

  • Translation – Always, always, ALWAYS hire a native speaker to read over and translate your materials. It’d be even better if you could go over it in person to make sure there’s little chance for miscommunication. Tip: avoid using colloquial phrases and stick to straight-forward text that can be easily translated.
  • Images and Videos – When possible use images and videos of people from the same region your training will be used in. It helps the overall effectiveness as learners are more likely to connect with the training if it looks like it was tailored for them.
  • Design – Even the design of your course should be evaluated as colors and layout can be affected by various regions and languages. Text expansion is an almost guaranteed design issue you may run into as most text will expand when translates from English.
  • Multiple Devices – Remember that training will most likely be viewed and used on multiple devices. This may or may not impact your training, but better to keep this in mind while it’s being localized as opposed to after its been released.

Do you remember Pepsodent? They tried to market their toothpaste in Southeast China. They probably should have done some market research though because for over 1,500 years people in the Southeast Asian region have actually been dying their teeth black as they see it as aesthetically pleasing. So Pepsodent’s slogan of “it whitens your teeth” probably didn’t go over too well.

The Ugly

Okay, now for the fun (or cringe-worthy) stuff! This is basically just a visual compilation of what NOT to do. They’re all translation errors, but like the Pepsodent example above, localization is more than just translation. So do your homework and avoid blunders like these:

eLearning Localization: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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