News | 01.11.2018

Overcoming Challenges in E-Learning Translation

In October this year, The Translation People exhibited at the World of Learning event in Birmingham. Our decision to exhibit was based on our longstanding track record for the e-learning sector over the years, and a desire to share our experiences with visitors and fellow-exhibitors alike. During our time at the exhibition we spoke with a number of companies about the challenges they face when organising e-learning translation projects. Below are some of the main difficulties people highlighted when working with their current agencies, and some advice we gave on those specific points. We would like to share these insights with you to help you get the most from your e-learning translation projects.

My current agency can’t get the terminology right.

This is often a difficulty when documents are sent for translation without any context or guidelines. Company-internal jargon and industry buzzwords can be a challenge without good planning, as there are often multiple translation options available. Some industries/companies prefer to leave certain terms in English, even if a perfectly acceptable translation exists. Our advice would be to work with your translation partner to formalise a glossary of terms (translated into all languages and approved by your reviewers) before translation starts. This can then be built into a Translation Management System termbase to ensure that only approved terms are used, with automated checks to ensure compliance. Termbases can even contain images, additional context and a list of forbidden terms, so that the translator has a real-time view of preferred terminology and any supporting information. A good agency should also offer to maintain this glossary on your behalf over time.

My current agency is too slow.

Translation is a skilled profession and it takes time to carry out the necessary research. However you should expect any professional translation agency worth its salt to meet a reasonable deadline. Translators can produce about 2000 words a day, but where projects are needed more quickly, it’s usually an option to split projects and still maintain consistency by working in a Translation Management System – especially if there is a glossary/termbase set up, as described in the previous point. That’s not to say it’s always the best option. We would argue that best results come from using a single translator, but you can still get excellent results from using a well-managed small team, and crucially this can allow you to meet your own deadlines. At The Translation People, we recently translated a project containing more than 200,000 words in 3 weeks, involving multiple translators working in a Translation Management System with a shared glossary. A single translator would have taken about 5 months to complete this work, but our client had an important deadline to meet!

My current agency costs too much.

As with the above point, quality translation comes at a certain price. It’s a skilled profession and should be adequately compensated. However, there are methods that translation agencies can employ to keep costs down, including managing translation memories that will allow discounts for repeated content to be applied. It’s also worth asking for different price levels for different content types – after all, it doesn’t require as much skill to translate an email as it does to translate a full e-learning course, so that should be factored into your negotiations. If you are concerned that prices are too high, our tip would be to ask other recognised translation agencies to quote for the work to see how prices compare – price isn’t everything and you shouldn’t always go with the cheapest supplier anyway (there is a large variety of quality out there), but it is a key factor in decision making. If your current agency is providing value for money, they shouldn’t be afraid to discuss pricing. Don’t be afraid to communicate any concerns you have with your current agency and you may be able to reduce the price by allowing slightly longer deadlines, or having reduced pricing for non-business critical content.

My current agency has outsourced Account Management overseas and it takes a long time for them to get back to me.

This is a common theme as some UK based companies look to cut their own costs and provide cheaper translations. Our own view on this is that customer service is paramount, it’s what separates us from other companies, which is why The Translation People have not outsourced any of its account management, project management or finance operations to low-cost economies: in this way we can be sure to maintain the high service levels our clients expect. Customer service can still be great when outsourced (and, conversely, it can also be terrible even when in the UK). Wherever your translation agency staff are based, if you’re not totally satisfied from a service point of view, and you find that you are waiting for hours for a quote, or communication during the project lifecycle isn’t great, then stress this to your agency and if it doesn’t improve, find a translation partner that can meet your needs.

My current agency can’t handle the formats I need.

For maximum efficiency, e-learning translations (or software translations of any kind for that matter) need an automated solution that doesn’t involve cutting and pasting from one format to another. With all the specialist translation technology on the market, there really is no excuse for using archaic methods. At the very least, your translation partner should be able to process an xml file that has been exported from your LMS (leaving all coding and tags intact, so that you can easily re-import it), should be able to provide subtitling and voiceover solutions for audio-visual content and should be able to return a fully localised version of your course, that works as well in the translated version as your original. If they can’t do this, then you should be looking at other options. Many translation agencies do offer this kind of service and you could save yourself a lot of time by working with someone who does.

If you don’t think you are getting value for money or good enough quality from your current translation supplier, or you’d like to discuss any of the above points, get in touch to see what value we can add to your processes.

Read More about our experience in the e-learning sector.

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