A guest post by Ingenuiti, a LINGOs partner.

Do you design or create training content or eLearning courses for an organization that operates globally? If you think your content will reach a global audience, you should consider integrating localization as part of your development process. Training has its greatest impact when it is provided in the learner’s native language. If you are a writer or instructional designer and have never considered localization in the planning and creation phase of content development, while it might seem daunting at first, this once dreaded task can be simplified with proper preparation and strategy.

To learn more about best practices and processes for developing English content with localization in mind, we’ve organized below four areas of focus. These tips can help create a greater impact for your global learners, lower costs, and allow for more effective and efficient uses of your time and resources.

Writing

Being tasked to write with localization in mind is like replacing a game of dodgeball with a game of chess. It might not be as fun to play, but it has its own unique rewards and challenges. Meticulous thought and calculated strategy for the win almost always trump pegging someone with a ball. It’s sometimes not as glamorous as developing content for a strictly English-speaking audience, and you have to take care to avoid the many potential pitfalls of the writing process. For example:

  • Avoid writing in the passive voice. Instead, write in the active voice to help increase clarity and reduce word count.
  • Try and edit out locale and industry-specific language like slang, jargon, idioms and colloquialisms. There’s nothing like having to translate “Knock it out of the park” for a French audience; knock what out of which park, the Tuileries?
  • Eschew ambiguity: “This morning I saw an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I will never know.” Let’s just get the elephant out of the room and make the content as clear as possible.
  • Avoid acronyms when possible. Though clever or useful in English, they can be confusing or counterintuitive in other languages.

Even if you do not currently translate your content, it is still beneficial to know who your potential global audience might be in the future. Good tools to use for your content are the Flesch Reading Ease Test and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Test. It’s always better to simplify your content up front rather than trying to simplify or change a translation in the end.

Design

As many of you already know, colors and images can negatively affect different cultures and countries. This is why it is important to design with a neutral bias, but it is even better if your course can be easily modified for each specific target language.

This includes things like character images and names. The easier these are to change within the design, the better the opportunity to replace them with something unique and impactful to the learner, making the course feel genuine and authentic. We can’t stress enough the significance of a course that feels native to the learner; native-feeling scenarios will always positively impact a learner’s investment in a course and the attention to and retention of its content.

We can’t stress enough the significance of a course that feels native to the learner; native-feeling scenarios will always positively impact a learner’s investment in a course and the attention to and retention of its content.

Another best practice is to leave an extra beat in the audio recording in order to account for text expansion. With translated text and audio expanding, this can sometimes be by 20-30%. The more white space and pauses in English, the better your ability to easily translate and dub the English content into any language.

You want version control at the forefront of each project. we’ve seen a translator or Localization Engineer get an outdated version of a file too many times. The worst case scenario is that no one realizes and an incorrect version gets published; best case is that it delays the project and costs more to fix.

Your translation partner also needs any necessary files and collateral up front, including source video files, packaged design files, as well as style guides and glossaries. Style guides and glossaries will help create consistency for every course and ensure your translation partner understands your organization’s unique vernacular and preferences for subjective content: while it’s overcast on the East Coast, it’s cloudy on the West Coast.

Review

Procuring qualified resources to review your course content and creating a well-defined review process are critical to the success of your translation and localization endeavors. While you want to use a SME that is a native speaker, avoid at all costs assigning the task at the last minute or assigning it without his or her permission and involvement on the front end of the project.

Introducing a new stakeholder at the last minute or without his or her knowledge can cause some serious negative ramifications. For one, it might infuriate them: taking someone away from his or her duties and responsibilities by adding unexpected work can make one overzealous with the red pen. Stylistic changes get marked as errors and good translations quickly become terrible. It can also create a huge delay in the project timeline by adding countless review cycles.

Alternatively, the course content may receive approval without proper review. A learner’s experience will decrease if a course with errors and culturally insensitive mistakes goes live. If you get a reviewer established and invested from the start of the project, the objective of the course and the process will be understood by all and your best collaboration will be had.

Translation

It’s more than a word for word conversion. Add in the complexities of developing impactful eLearning content and you have material that a translator needs to understand and recreate with equal impact in his or her native language. Many local resources, while native speakers are not qualified to be effective translators for eLearning content. Many do not utilize industry standard tools and resources like Translation Memories or Translation Management Systems either. This throws consistency and cost savings to the wind. In the long run, you will save time and money by following a well-defined process and investing in qualified and experienced language resources.

For more information about localization and translation best practices for eLearning, check out Ingenuiti’s blog.

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