International training: top tips for localising e-learning courses
Adapting your training courses for use in multiple countries can be a complex process, but with the right strategy in place you can minimise cost and effort and ensure your content travels well.
The global mobile learning market is already worth in excess of $12 billion and is continuing to expand. More than three quarters of US companies offer online training courses for their employees already.
If your course material is going to be made available to learners in multiple countries, it’s important that translation is considered at the development stage of any multilingual eLearning course.
Here are some tips on how to ensure your e-learning course is properly localised.
Develop with localisation in mind
From the very start, at the briefing stage, it is important to notify your e-learning vendor that the course is going to be translated into foreign languages so that they can develop a build with localisation in mind.
You should warn them if you intend to have the course made available in right-to-left languages such as Arabic or Hebrew so they can ensure that the build can be easily converted.
Through sensible design, the localisation engineering work can be minimised, with translatable text appearing in easily translated xml and html files instead of Flash and image files and enough space in the design to allow for some expansion of text.
Choose your partner carefully
There are some important points to consider when you come to selecting a localisation partner, including:
- Do they, for example, use professional translators and reviewers with expert knowledge of your industry as well as having experience translating learning materials?
- Do they have a documented localisation process which includes translation, editing, QA, and scope for client reviews?
- Are they certified to a quality standard such as ISO 9001:2015?
- Do they offer intelligent, long-term management of translation assets, e.g. terminology glossaries and translation memories?
- Can they provide skilled voice artists and recording studios if required?
Take advantage of computer assisted translation and AI
Computer assisted translation (CAT) tools save each segment of translation in a database called a translation memory, allowing them to be re-used each time the same segment of text appears for translation in the current or any future project. As well as ensuring consistency within your translated course, using a CAT tool will reduce the cost and timescale of future projects and updates.
With this technology widely available it’s almost never a good idea to translate a storyboard then copy and paste the translated text manually into the build. This old-fashioned process risks the introduction of typos and errors, and requires many more hours of engineering and review time.
Agree review stages before you start
As with any translation project, ensure that native speakers of the target languages check the translated builds. Most localisation partners should offer this service.
Be aware that line-breaks need to be set manually for certain languages, including Arabic, Japanese and Thai. Again your localisation partner should handle this, but it’s important to check if they don’t explicitly mention it.
Localisation costs are heavily dependent on word count, which makes it hard to finalise pricing and scheduling until the English build is at an advanced stage.
You may also like to have your own in-country reviewer to check and edit the translations. Decide in advance if and when you want to carry out the review of the translation.
Translations can be reviewed in Word format before engineering and can be exported automatically from the CAT tool into a bilingual format, enabling your reviewers to make as many changes as they like. Alternatively, they can be reviewed in the final build, which is faster but amends can be costly if your reviewers want to make a lot of preferential changes.
Ideally you should obtain a localisation quote that includes one or two rounds of amendments, but be prepared to pay more for this. Remember to schedule enough time for review – it may take more than a full day to review the translation for a one-hour course.
Obtain competitive quotes
Bear in mind that it’s hard for an localisation partner to estimate the likely word count of a course before production work on the English course has commenced, and thus to commit to a quote, whereas an e-learning provider can more easily estimate the volume of translation work since they will be writing the course.
This may tempt you to allow the e-learning vendor to bundle the localisation work together with the e-learning work when you award them the contract to produce the English course, eliminating the possibility of competitive quotes from other localisation partners.
If you want to obtain competitive quotes before the English course is developed, you could ask the e-learning vendor to provide an indication of the maximum word count of the English course.
Then invite all localisation partners to submit estimates for the translation based on that figure, with the final fees to be determined by the actual word count of the English course. This exercise can reduce translation spend significantly.
Watch out for budget over-runs
Be aware that localisation costs are heavily dependent on word count, which makes it hard to finalise pricing and scheduling until the English build is at an advanced stage.
You should expect to get a rough estimate at English storyboard stage, a fairly close estimate when English alpha/beta versions are produced, and an accurate, fixed quote when the English gold build is approved.
The e-learning vendor should take responsibility for sending all translatable text to the localisation partner, since any text or file omission will delay the translation and localisation processes.
Finally, keep in mind that any voiceover will push up cost, even more so if subtitles are included and synchronised with the audio.
Interested in this topic? You may also enjoy reading How to make multilingual training courses relevant for a global workforce.
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Julie holds responsibility for Asian Absolute’s global Project Management, Quality Assurance and Vendor Management teams. She also personally led the start-up of the company’s operations in Bangkok and Panama City and manages the company’s sales offices in other locations.
Holder of degrees in Specialised Translation and Law, Julie’s...