computers in a circle connected to the globe in the middelGlobal training is the new normal. If recent experience at MTM LinguaSoft is any guide, global e-learning of all sorts—particularly for employee training—has taken off. We recently translated an e-learning module on ergonomics for a pharmaceutical company into 10 languages. And we’ve been doing e-learning modules on soft skills such as ethics, on a regular basis for some time.

Much of this learning is intended to be done entirely online at the user’s own pace. If this kind of training is not well planned, designed and culturally adapted, translation of the course can be a waste of time and money. In our next three postings we’ll explore some of the best practices for e-learning translation and localization.

Preparing successful globalized e-learning starts at the planning and design phases. If the English version of an e-learning course isn’t “ready” for translation and localization, it will be that much more difficult and expensive to produce localized versions and those localized versions are less likely to meet their goals. This is especially true for courses involving more “high-context” topics, that is, topics that are more likely to bring into play assumptions based on the learner’s culture and environment. A course about elder care, for example, would be more culturally sensitive than a course about how to use a particular piece of software. But in any course, there is the potential for embedding some culturally-biased assumptions, so it pays to plan any kind of course with the localization process in mind.

First of all, in analyzing the goals of the course and the content necessary to achieve those goals; break down the necessary content into as many individual components as possible. Flag those parts of the content that are particularly likely to have to be adapted for other cultures either because of cultural assumptions, or because of different laws, geographic conditions, currencies, etc. in various countries or regions. A cultural consultant can help you to identify these potential problem areas.

The content of the parts of the course that have been flagged can be given special consideration in the writing and design phases to avoid embedded assumptions as much as possible. But embedded assumptions cannot always be avoided – in fact, they may be important to the course for a particular audience. In these cases the flagging will give an idea in advance of how much rewriting will be needed later to adapt the content for particular audiences.

Make sure that those who will be involved in the process of writing and designing the course are familiar localization process and its requirements. Writers should know and use the general rules for writing for translation (see our Localization Quick Guide), such as writing simply, clearly and succinctly and avoiding idioms as much as possible. MTM LinguaSoft can help guide you through this initial planning.

In our next article, we’ll look more at designing an e-learning course for localization.

Check out the next two articles in the series: