Lost in translation: how to internationalize your processes

With a globalized workforce becoming the new normal, the ways in which we learn and communicate at work have been flipped on their head. In fact, this rapid transformation was well underway before 2020 pushed it to the forefront. However, working and learning remotely presents some challenges to L&D teams, particularly when it comes to international workers.

internationalize your processes

Internationalization is the answer. Presenting training materials which are sensitive to cultural differences can enhance the learning power of your global workforce. Here, we take a look at the importance of internationalizing your processes and the significance of elearning translation and localization.

Why is internationalization in elearning so important?

Much like internationalization in business generally, creating elearning content which is sensitive to cultural differences is hugely important. Learners have an appetite for content in their native language. Internationalization offers this as well as that all important sense of inclusion. 

Internationalizing your elearning is important as it removes cultural dissimilarities. It understands that culture extends further than mere language, taking all nuances into account. For example, if you were creating onboarding training for your French employees you’d want to avoid using lots of imagery of employees in the US headquarters. Internationalization makes elearning appealing and accessible to global learners. 

Due to these factors, it can improve knowledge retention too. After all, you can create the most optimized elearning content, but if it isn’t in sync with the culture and language of the learner, it will fall flat on its face. As important as internationalized elearning is, it’s even more important that the content is precise to the learner’s needs. This is where translation and localization come into play.

READ MORE: How to use the translation feature in Elucidat

What’s the difference between translation and localization?

Although often used interchangeably, translation and localization are separate concepts. Translation is the process of directly changing text from one language to another. Localization digs deeper into cultural nuances, visual factors and idioms. Translation is tactical. Localization is strategic.

It’s often not enough to simply take a bank of content and translate it directly between languages. You’ve only got to give Google translate a whirl to find that out. So much context gets lost in direct translations, which can alienate, demotivate and often confuse overseas employees. Creating content which speaks directly to them through dedicated localization ensures your training isn’t caught in a cultural spiderweb.

While these differences are evident, and they can be utilized in isolation, they can be thought of as part of the same process. Translation is merely a facet of localization which in turn is a part of your entire internationalization strategy. Much like a Russian doll, each piece feeds into a larger part of the elearning internationalization puzzle.



What are the benefits of internationalization in elearning?

One of the main benefits of internationalization in elearning is its global reach. The objective of elearning internationalization is to give training material the look and feel of being tailored toward a specific cultural audience. The materials are allowed to reach a wider audience when internationalized, ensuring that each member of your team receives the same quality of training as their English-speaking counterparts.  

Internationalization also has a significant impact on learner interest and engagement as localized elearning courses break down cultural barriers. For those who speak English as a second language, digesting learning materials in their non-native language.

What aspects of elearning can be localized?

While translation deals with text, the depth of localization is much more profound. Elearning materials seldom deal in straightforward text which can be accurately transferred to another language. Below is a breakdown of some key facets which are taken into account during course content localization:

  • Currency, dates, and measurement units
  • Unique local expressions and spellings
  • Names used in examples 
  • Region-specific branding
  • Slang and cultural references
  • Abbreviations and idioms
  • Images and gestures
  • Accents
  • Music

How to internationalize your process

Understanding your target audience is the key to internationalizing elearning processes. Conducting in-depth research, where needed, is essential. If you attempt to internationalize without gaining sufficient insight into the audience and their culture, you run the risk of learners disengaging with the content. At worst, a half-baked attempt at internationalizing can miss the mark completely and cause offence. 

Be sure to dig deep into everything from cultural customs and dialects to tones and color schemes, accommodating them accordingly within the learning material. Don’t leave any stone unturned when internationalizing your elearning. Even the smallest gestures need to be considered.

For example, a piece of video training produced for a US workforce may end with a thumbs-up, as if to say ‘well done’. If you were to then localize the same video for an Iran-based workforce, it’s imperative that this gesture is changed, due to its insulting nature in this country. Remember to be thorough in your research and go through the materials with a fine-tooth comb.

Internationalizing your processes

5 tips to create localized elearning content

When it comes to actioning localized elearning content, there are a number of things to consider. These 5 tips offer things to look out for and ways to shorten the internationalization process.

Keep multimedia to a minimum

If you want to make internationalization less time-consuming, minimizing multimedia is a must. Redeveloping media content specifically for an international audience can prove costly and inefficient.

Culturally neutral imagery

Avoid the use of country-specific imagery to make your content ready for global use. For instance, ignore logos that only a specific audience would be familiar with or images of cultural holidays in motion that aren’t recognized around the world. Using neutral imagery minimizes alienation and presents all learners with content which evokes familiarity.

No text on images and graphics

Similarly, avoiding text-rich imagery or graphics helps to produce universal learning content. If you find yourself needing to extract and translate embedded text, you’ll be wasting both time and resources. Where not possible to remove all text, aim to keep it as short and sharp as you can.

Avoid idioms and casual jokes

As mentioned, not all text translates directly between languages. It’s safe to say, jokes and idioms don’t always translate well either. Away from the language factor, humor itself doesn’t always translate. Some topics or turns of phrases that may be frowned upon in some cultures are best kept away. Use neutral language as much as possible.

Consider font compatibility

When choosing your font, be sure to test its compatibility with each target language. Not all fonts are compatible with certain languages, causing glitches and formatting issues if left unnoticed. Pre-empt this issue by testing it out before localization. 

Elearning internationalization made easy

If you’re thinking of translating elearning into multiple languages, Elucidat’s elearning translation example gives a flavor of how it can be done. The translation workflow within the Elucidat tool makes translation simple, offering a convenient place to begin the internationalization process. 

Eager to see how Elucidat can help you internationalize your process? Book a personalized demo today to see for yourself.

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