Elearning continues to rise in popularity -- its flexibility, easy accessibility and success rate make it an ideal match for training programs, orientations and any type of corporate learning or training program. Because eLearning can accomplish goals in microsession environments (short but to the point sessions that convey a single concept or process), workers can successfully complete components in short periods of time, allowing them to easily work learning into a regular part of the day.
Because educators or presenters don't actually have to be present, eLearning allows your team to access expertise and skills they might not otherwise be able to, simply by making these materials available in a secure and controlled setting. Best of all, eLearning localization ensures your materials can be used not just by people in your own country or region, but by anyone in the world, in any language. Learning more about eLearning localization can help ensure you make the most of this powerful technology and that your brand gets the full benefits that only eLearning can offer.
What languages are best for an eLearning program?
With millions of native speakers, English is a natural match, and either the first choice for an eLearning program or in the top 3. English is certainly spoken around the world and offers a way to standardize your program and ensure it can be accessed by the majority of your target prospects and market. English isn’t the only game in town, though; in both emerging and mature markets around the world, interest in educational training is high, but English proficiency is low.
In markets that are just emerging, proficient users of English are often in the minority, according to experts at EPI. While many people living in these nations can speak conversational and functional English, they won’t be able to effectively complete a class and or online training program in the language. Offering these interested learners materials in their own languages ensure that they can get the most benefit from the program and its offerings and helps with both retention and accessibility.
English proficiency is a primary factor when determining which language your eLearning materials and program should be presented in. The populace and target prospects who live in the geographic area you are targeting in need to either be skilled enough with the English language to successfully grasp the materials and complete the training – or they need to be offered the course in their own native tongue.
Lower proficiency markets require native language support
When students who are not proficient in English attempt to take a program in the English language, they may end up focusing more on improving their own English skills – not on the materials themselves. When you instead offer these students materials and programs in their own native languages, they can focus on the actual materials and on developing the skills the course is designed to convey.
Emerging markets that could benefit from both English and local language support include those in Asia, South America and the Middle East:
- Most Latin American countries
- Many Middle Eastern nations
Mature markets that could benefit from both English and local language support include those in Asia and Europe:
- South Korea
Mature markets and English materials
Even markets that have a higher number of English proficient speakers can benefit from educational programs in the native language as training materials and programs offered in the native language are proven to result in higher acquisition and success rates. Markets with highest levels of English proficiency include Europe (Western, Central and Eastern), along with a handful of countries in Asia (Singapore, Malaysia and Philippines).
However, prospective students in these higher-proficiency nations may still prefer to have programs offered in their own languages to boost efficiency and understanding. Some students may opt for taking the class in English, but still want to access course materials in their native language, to confirm understanding and ensure that all nuances are understood.
Geographic and political concerns for eLearning materials
Your language choices and localization for eLearning will depend on where you actually want to market your programs and courses. Consider both where you are planning on selling your programs today and in the future, then build in support for the languages preferred and spoken in those areas. Looking ahead allows you to complete all language-based materials now, and simply add support as needed later. This ensures you can grow effectively and efficiently and that you can bring a complete project to the marketplace, without missing languages or components.
Political concerns in some nations, particularly those in the Middle East, could mean that even high proficiency English speakers will prefer a native language to English, simply because of cultural and political concerns. In these cases, even highly skilled English speakers will have a preference for materials in their own or a preferred language.
Focusing your efforts on regions you want to market to today or in the future, being aware of the level of English proficiency of these regions and even of the geopolitical concerns that could impact your learner's preferences ensures you select the correct languages for your materials. Taking the time to research and discover these important factors will help you reach the widest number of prospective students and once enrolled, ensure those students are successful.
Choosing the languages for your eLearning materials
An eLearning localization program can help ensure that your target prospects can understand the value of your offerings and that they can successfully complete your programs on the timeline you've laid out. Consider the following when you choose the language for your learning materials and programs:
- English is spoken around the world, with varying degrees of proficiency
- Even high proficiency English speakers may want to access eLearning materials in their own languages for efficiency and accuracy purposes
- Areas with lower proficiency in English definitely need the support of materials in their native languages to succeed in the program you are offering
- Include languages spoken in the countries you are targeting in your current and future marketing plans; in some cases, more than one language per country should be supported.
- Any political or cultural concerns that would require the inclusion of a native or regional language, even if people in the area are highly proficient in English
eLearning models for global companies
You’re ready to grow and scale your eLearning opportunities and products, but what model is right for your global initiatives. When you’re deploying your eLearning models, you have several options – including computer based training (CBT), web based training (WBT) and a combination of the two, one that takes the most useful components from each model and deploys them to support your global eLearning initiatives.
What is computer based training?
Computer Based Training, or CBT, is a series of activities delivered via the computer. Online books, manuals and other materials can be accessed as the learner progresses and programs are self-paced. This more static method of eLearning is best for processes like using a specific program or software or completing specific tasks that are straightforward and easy to master.
With CBT, individual learners can set their own schedules (or you can detail them for each member), and work at their own pace. In most cases, learners apply what they’ve used in their own jobs and responsibilities right away; they can also build on this knowledge for future training and positions.
Benefits of computer based training for eLearning:
- CBT needs less training time and is more efficient than other models, because students can work at their own rate of speed and within their own comfort zones.
- Full support and learning opportunities for both spoken word and text, so learners can choose the model that works best for them.
- Easy to track and identify individual progress; it can be more challenging for learners to assess where they are in the process when they are in a group setting.
- Accessible even in areas with less than stellar internet access; physical materials can be included and accessed as needed.
CBT empowers learners and provides them with an ideal way to develop skills they will use directly on the job at hand. CBT is most useful when it is aligned with current employee goals and objectives – it may be less effective for less connected concepts and information.
What is web based training (WBT)?
In many ways, web based training is very similar to CBT; the primary difference is how the programs are delivered. WBT is most often accessed via a browser or SaaS platform, so some familiarity with technology is likely needed.
WBT is more dynamic, more easily updated and more accessible to those who are taking courses that will offer long term benefit, but that may be broad in nature. Instead of immediate acquisition of a specific skillset, WBT classes are better adapted to introducing concepts and mastery than teaching one focused and targeted skill.
Benefits of WBT learning:
- Materials are instantly available and updated frequently
- Free, convenient delivery (ideal for those who want to launch swiftly and those in areas that deliveries are complex or made difficult by cultural or political strife.
- Old, outdated information is expunged regularly, so there is little chance of confusion or the acquisition of out of date details.
While WBT learning is efficient and effective, it still has some challenges. There is no overarching Learning Management System (LMS) in place, so learners may find it difficult to determine how well they are doing or where they are in the program.
Regular and consistent online access is required; in nations where the average worker does not have a powerful enough connection or access to hardware, learning will have to be completed at work or at a second facility. This can make learning less flexible and convenient than it otherwise would be.
Leader led or facilitated online learning
This model uses a teacher or leader to guide and support students, and can help increase success and completion rates. High levels of interaction and engagement may be preferable to some students, but this model also lacks the flexibility of other learning styles.
While facilitated online learning boasts high completion rates, it can be a challenge to fill classrooms and effectively schedule a class. A professor or instructor is needed and students will need to attend at specific times – this can lead to lower enrollment or a lack of completion if students are unable to attend as anticipated.
Hybrid online learning models
The best eLearning model of all is likely a hybrid; one that you’ve determined is best for your own team’s needs and current state. When you can pick and choose the best components of each model, you can more fully serve your local community and ensure that your target prospects get the support and nurturing they need to learn effectively.
Culturization and eLearning localization
The language that the people in your targeted region speak is just the beginning; the culture and politics of a region are just as likely to impact the area’s ability to embrace an eLearning program, and must be considered as you create materials and processes.
Meeting cultural needs while delivering successful eLearning materials
You have two choices when it comes to culturalization. You can either make materials that are inherently neutral, or adjust for different markets. One of these approaches might be better for your brand – here’s what to consider as you decide:
Your courses are made up of text, graphics, images, people and more; each of these components could have a significant impact on your ability to relay information and for the learner to effectively access it. Some of the most likely areas of difficulty when it comes to culturally sensitive materials include:
- Images – the pictures, graphs and charts used in the presentation of materials
- Symbols – icons and other images used for graphic support and branding; characters that are well known and loved in one region may not be known or enjoyed in another
- Animations – depictions of humans and animals may be objected to by some learners or cultures
- Colors – some cultures have strong built in affinity for certain colors – and colors may have different meanings and connotations for different geographic and cultural areas.
- Business hierarchy – businesses may work differently in other regions; from the way roles and depicted to the people performing those roles.
- Gender – some cultures are far more inclusive than others when it comes to women’s roles and gender conformity
- Age - cultures vary on how elders are depicted and respected
- Pop culture references – use sparingly, because some cultures will not be aware of the same entertainment sources
- Idioms and slang – may vary in different regions, one term may be acceptable in one location and inappropriate in another.
Keeping eLearning costs in check when on a restricted budget
You can create localized and effective eLearning programs without overextending your budget or falling short of your goals. In many cases, improving functionality and usefulness is more about the underlying quality and usability of the program, instead of the aesthetics and appearance.
Create easy to use, universal content
The content you create and the text or script used, the language you choose (simplified English can help boost understanding and reduce production costs) and the images you use in your piece all have an impact on your ability to translate it into other languages. The more universal and repeatable you make your program, the easier it will be to serve it up to a wide range of audiences.
Creating content that is widely understood, that does not run afoul of cultural difference (or that can easily be modified to suit different cultures) and that is easily translated for production will help keep costs low.
Take these important factors into consideration right from the start and your customers will be better able to benefit from Computer Aided Translation Tool (CAT) features, Translation Memory & Termbase software. The assets you create now could be used again and again, making it easy to create a comprehensive course library and one that serves a variety of regions and cultures. When you can recycle clips and sentences you’ve already translated once, you won’t have to keep paying to have these same paragraphs, sections or clips translated again and again for every course you create.
Support machine translation technology
Using controlled/simplified English does more than just make things easier for human translators, it allows you to use machine translation technology. This simple switch can have a dramatic impact on both the cost and the timing of your production.
Choose text-driven courses over voice-driven courses
Text driven courses keep costs down; voiceovers add cost to your production, even when you are using amateur artists. Using Text to Speech is still not where it could be in terms of emotion, so this is not a good substitute for a voiceover by a human. Reducing the amount of voiceover work required by creating text driven materials will keep costs low, too.
Reduce voiceover costs
For the parts of your course that really need animation and voice work, consider voiceover in a video with action, instead of lip-sync or performance. Translation and voiceover costs will soar if your on-screen people need to speak; a voice artist doing narration is far more affordable. The less you rely on voice driven technology, the lower your overall costs will be.
Prepare for integration from the start
Create courses with simple structure and without a lot of layers and avoid using text in graphics and on your images; you’ll have to change or translate this later. Create culturally neutral content from the start; this will ensure you don’t need to create multiple adaptations for each language or region you are targeting. Ensure that any clips or video that require voiceover or any part of the program that will be translated has enough space for translation. Most languages expand up to 20% from the English version, so you’ll have more time to fill.
Each of the above steps will help reduce your costs and make your course more appealing to a wide range of audiences around the globe. Simplifying your creation from the start can reduce the amount of time it takes to integrate your text and voice files and lower your costs.
Choosing an eLearning localization partner
There are a lot of factors that go into creating content for a global marketplace, but thankfully, you don’t have to go it alone. An eLearning localization company can help you reach the markets you need to in an efficient and affordable way. You have a lot of options to choose from, so consider the following when you choose an eLearning localization company; the brand you choose will play a big role in your overall success and have a significant impact on your bottom line.
What technology stack is offered? This important component includes everything from CAT tools and translation memory to testing software and an easy to use Translation Management System (TMS)
What processes are used and what do past clients have to say about the work?
What geographic coverage is available and what timeline is offered?
What language coverage is available? We recommend at minimum:
- CCJK (Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean)
- FIGS (French, Italian, German, Spanish), Russian)
- Eastern European languages
- Emerging Market Languages
How turnkey is the process? Ideally all work should be in house, under one roof – outsourcing is counterproductive and impacts cost and quality
What kinds of support is available for navigating culturalization and cultural differences?
What kinds of projects has the company worked on successfully in the past?
What range of audio visual skills and services does your localization vendor have?
You have many options when it comes to clearly conveying the information in your training materials to your learners. While you can simply rely on text, you’ll lose less motivated and engaged learners in a hurry; they simply won’t hit the books enough to make a difference. Incorporating video and other effects into your classes will help you make an impression and keep even those who don’t normally perform well in a classroom setting engaged.
Understanding the tools at your disposal and when to deploy each can help you create an eLearning experience that is uniquely yours and ensure your learners stay engaged and involved throughout the process. Here’s what you need to know about voiceover and language for your eLearning materials;
You have several options when it comes to voiceover; in this setup, your narration and speech occurs off screen and is not synced to the characters or people in the clip. This allows you to easily change things up and add different translations, without re-creating the basic clip or images. Use one of these options when you add translations and voiceover to your course materials
This does not add audio or change the sounds at all; instead, the words appear in the correct language at the correct time, right on the screen. This is the swiftest and most affordable option, but may require some flexibility. English is a relatively compact spoken language - but when other languages are incorporated, the amount of time needed to display a subtitle for the average reader could be impacted. You need to have enough time for the viewer to actually read the subtitles, so some revising or rewriting of the script may be needed to accommodate this.
The narrator is off-screen and tells you want is going on. Morgan Freeman and David Attenborough are both well-known off-camera narrators. They’ll tell you about a nature event you are watching, describe what researchers are hoping to learn from the animals they are filming and give you background on historic events, without ever being on screen.
Off screen narration is familiar to anyone who has seen a documentary – making it an accessible, powerful tool for eLearning presentation. Videos, tutorial software and PowerPoint presentations are all ideal candidates for off camera narration.
Used by international broadcasts, this can be seen any time a clip or video has been filmed in one language and is then voiced in English. You can still hear the native language and speaker, but an English translation of the audio is a little louder. If you’ve ever watched a United Nations conference or watch the BBC, you’ve seen this type of narration in action. This narration is ideal for messages by one person, that is sharing expertise or sharing a message with the viewer, but in a different language. The viewer will still see expressions and body language, and will be able to understand what is being said, too.
The most complex and expensive version of voiceover is lip-sync; in this setup, the actors on screen appear to be speaking a different language, which is dubbed in later. Most often used in movie releases, this is the most time consuming and costly – but effective – method of translating.
The right approach to narration or voiceover for you will depend your goals, the message you need to spend and even the amount of time you can spend in production. Choosing the right form of narration or voiceover for your product will help you reach out to learners, but still remain within your stated budget and timeline.
Internal staffing & review process 101
Want to have a lasting impact on the quality of your programs and your student reviews? Make sure you have Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) sign off on each component. Having an SME for each language you are producing can have a lasting impact on the quality and usefulness of the translation and ensure you have truly relayed the information you intended to – without any risk of cultural faux pas or errors.
If you are a native speaker of English, you can probably instantly identify text or passages written by a non-native speaker; informal and casual word choices and syntax just won’t sound like they came from a native speaker. The same is true for other languages, so having an SME on hand to review content before and after production can save you time, money and effort.
Your SME can assist with both pre-project assets and in creating an overall style guide, and then review sample work to ensure the right style and messaging is being sent. Ideally, this SME will be a native speaker, not just someone with a college education who can translate well. They also need to be free of any agendas that could find their way into your materials – political, social and cultural preferences could color the finished project if you use an SME with a hidden agenda.
Who reviews the reviewer?
Having an SME onboard is a great first step – but it is only the first component. Your SME will by definition have a better working knowledge of the language than you will, so you are not the best choice to review their work.
A second native speaker can review the final work or even the work in progress – they won’t be looking for issues, simply giving you a take on what a native speaker is likely to think when they view the materials. Using “track changes” in all written materials can also help clarify things and ensure you are getting the right kind of assistance.
Your own understanding of a language and culture can help with this process as well. While you will not have a native level of understanding, being aware of general, broad preferences and the quirks of a language and culture can help you understand the choices an SME is making – or allow you to ask for clarification if needed.
Get expert help with eLearning localization
From choosing the right team to ensure you are reaching native speakers to getting the tech support you need to convey your materials and messages to learners around the world, the eLearning localization company you use will have a significant and lasting impact on your success. Use the guidelines above to help you find a brand with the ability to showcase your materials in the way that you intended and that can support your need to train others effectively and with the right materials and approaches for the job.
As a leading provider of localization for eLearning, we take great pride in our ability to offer translation and localization services that are culturally sensitive, that fully relay your messaging and that most of all are effective tools for your learners, no matter where they are located or what language they speak. If you're ready to take the next step and release your content to a global market, we can help you get started. You don't have to go it alone -- our team is here to help you every step of the way. Get in touch today to see how easy it is to reach new markets, no matter where they are in the world.