News | 01.04.2020

E-Learning localisation: Keeping the wheels of business turning

At this time, more than ever, a company needs to communicate effectively and engage with its employees, wherever in the world they may be located, and a key success factor will be to communicate with them in their native language, which is where e-learning localisation becomes crucial. Whilst business for many may be experiencing a downturn as economies are impacted negatively by the COVID-19 pandemic, this could be the opportunity for your company to ready your employees, not just for the months ahead, but also for the end of the crisis and the return to “business as usual”.

For the foreseeable future, many employees around the world will be working remotely from home and with the appearance of virtual offices, companies need to ensure that they can still operate effectively. The need for training is just as great today and the current situation is ideally suited to the use of e-learning. As we will discover, employees have far greater engagement in their own language, hence the importance of e-learning localisation.

E-learning is becoming increasingly popular, with the global e-learning industry tipped to be worth USD 331 billion in just five years. Recent studies show that e-learners retain up to six times as much of the training as traditional classroom learners. E-learners are more engaged, preferring to watch a video or undertake a short interactive online activity focussed on an area that is of particular interest and relevance to themselves, rather than laboriously read pages of printed material or sit through hours of face-to-face general group sessions, the content of which is already known in part or is not relevant to them.

Furthermore, research highlights that e-learning requires up to 60% less time than traditional face-to-face classroom training. Not only do employees enjoy greater satisfaction from their own “personalised” upskilling, but employers enjoy greater productivity due to savings in terms of logistics and time, with employees able to apply their newly acquired skills faster. This means that e-learning is more cost-effective than conventional classroom training, despite the initial financial layout. This advantage is pressed home by e-learning being both scalable and consistent in terms of content and delivery.

E-learning is, therefore, not only beneficial for your employees around the world, but also for your company!

E-learning Localisation

Many companies today operate on an international scale with offices located around the world, often with a predominantly local workforce. Just as companies use translation services to produce marketing and sales material in different languages, a company must also provide multilingual content for one of its principal assets: its people. Not only must a company engage local customers, it must engage the local workforce, winning their hearts and minds. Favourable employment conditions are, of course, important, however, communicating with employees in their own language will facilitate buy-in to the company and its goals. Again, this is where a company should look to use translation services, from the earliest recruitment stages, through to ongoing internal communication and staff development.

Most employees want to progress and studies show that they are more likely to stay with an employer who invests in their development. In other words, they want an employer who offers training and subsequent opportunities to advance.

As we established earlier, the most cost-effective way to train your employees is e-learning, all the more so when they are located in many countries around the world. Localisation has a key role to play here, ensuring consistency of content and delivery and, consequently, the success of a company’s global training programme.

When developing an e-learning course for your global workforce, your company must always consider localisation from the get-go.

Here are a few brief points to take account of when localising e-learning:

  • Involve local stakeholders from the beginning. Establish a style guide and glossary of terminology that can be translated and approved prior to commencing any course translation. Request several sample translations from your language service provider (LSP) to allow local stakeholders to select their preferred style. Style and tone are crucial for your audio content too, and may need to vary depending on the country in question, so make sure to ask your LSP to provide samples from a variety of voiceover artists so you can select the most appropriate talent.
  • If possible, work with your chosen LSP from the beginning of the e-learning design process to ensure all relevant factors are considered. Your LSP can provide sound advice and guidance, including how best to streamline the localisation process. We would recommend that the preferred translators follow the e-learning courses themselves in order to identify any areas that may pose a problem when localising. This will result in the original content being revised and finalised well in advance of your release date.
  • Make sure you select a Learning Management System (LMS) that allows you to streamline the localisation process. Many systems allow integration with leading Translation Management Systems, and you will need to ensure all content can be accessed, edited and localised.
  • Allow for text expansion or contraction during translation, as the resulting text could be longer or shorter depending on the target language. Make allowances for longer text in text boxes or buttons and bear in mind that the layout may need to change depending on the target language, for example, translating from a left-to-right to a right-to-left language.
  • Following on from above, a significant proportion of e-learning material includes video and audio content. Ensure there is spare footage/animation in the video to accommodate a longer voiceover/more subtitles. Decide what is best for your target audience in consultation with your local stakeholders as some cultures prefer subtitles whilst others prefer voiceovers (your LSP may  be able to help here too).
  • Ensure the course content is culturally relevant and easily understood. Language, for example, should be simple and idioms, acronyms and abbreviations avoided where possible. If unavoidable, ensure acronyms, and also company-specific terminology that is not to be translated, are included in the pre-approved glossary to be provided to the translators.
  • It is not all about words. Make sure the correct symbols are used to ensure clear understanding. Furthermore, note that colours need to be selected wisely too, as a particular colour in one country may have an unintended association, such as “death”, in another. Again, your local stakeholders or selected LSP (who should only be using native language-speaking linguists) will be able to advise.
  • Provide opportunities, during development, for local stakeholders to test, review and give feedback. For example, as mentioned earlier, involve stakeholders in determining the style and tone of the content and then present them with translator and voiceover artist options and allow them to select their preferred talent. Provide stakeholders with a beta version of their specific localised course so that they and a representative sample of the local employees can test it. Be methodical and collect all feedback, both positive and negative (perhaps via a pre-set list of questions drawn up in collaboration with your LSP). Make sure to provide this feedback to your LSP, review it with them and jointly formulate a plan to implement any amendments or, all being well, proceed directly to finalising the localisation of the e-learning.

Implementing a localised e-learning programme now would be a wise investment. A fully engaged, upskilled and motivated global workforce will help your company face the challenges of this testing period and make the most of any opportunities that arise thereafter.


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