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Multilingual eLearning – Top 10 tips to avoid disaster when taking your computer-based training modules, classroom instruction materials or eLearning applications multilingual

Drive user engagement, increase customer satisfaction and reduCreating a multilingual eLearning course ce support costs with strong multilingual eLearning and training materials.

Employees in different locations? Speaking different languages? How do you reach them all effectively? Multilingual eLearning – Your route to international compliance, engagement, and success!

In the late 1990s Cadbury Schweppes introduced a line of new beverages to India. While these beverages were hugely popular across many geographies, especially the United States and the United Kingdom, it was quite new to an Indian audience. Amongst the drinks was Sunkist, a tangy orange drink that suited the tropical climate of the country quite perfectly. However, despite the apparently good fit, this drink did not fare as well as expected in the Indian market, and today isn’t among the available drinks. Some experts claim that one possible reason was that the name of the drink did not resonate with the populace of a country that already got too much sun. A sunny, summer day is all well and good in the British Isles but, if anything, the people in India want to run away from the sun and not to it.

This little story shows us how important it is to keep local sentiments and sensitivities in mind if we want a product or service to gain acceptance and eventually succeed in a foreign location. eLearning is no different. As the world is becoming smaller and more connected, there is a continuous blurring of geographical boundaries. Education, whether it is academic or professional, is now accessible to anyone across the globe owing to the vast acceptance of eLearning. The learner of today wants to consume education anytime, anywhere at his convenience through the device of his/her choice. These constantly evolving education needs are prompting eLearning providers to develop eLearning multilingual courses and ensure that high-quality instructional content is being pushed out beyond the language barrier. But are there any considerations you should keep in mind when creating multilingual courses? Yes!

Creating a multilingual course involves more than just creating a text in English and then translating it. Translating your training and eLearning materials can be daunting, no matter the language or the market. But with the right preparation, you can ease the translation process and create highly successful translated materials. Here are our top-10 tips to help avoid some common translation pitfalls when gearing up to take your computer-based training modules, classroom instruction materials or eLearning multilingual:

  1. Create translation-friendly content.

    Thinking about translation while you write and/or create your materials will save you money and headaches in the long run. Examples of creating multilingual eLearning content include: Using bulleted lists versus lengthy paragraphs, avoiding slang and idiomatic expressions, and breaking up lengthy noun phrases.

  2. Implement best practices for images in multilingual eLearning .

     Multilingual eLearning can easily become much more costly when lots of imagery utillising text is involved. Keep text out of images (learn more in tip #3), reduce the number of screenshots, use culturally-neutral images, be careful when using metaphorical images (i.e. dollar signs for money) or pictures of people making gestures (such as a thumbs up).

  3. Avoid embedding text in graphics to be used in multilingual eLearning .

    Text embedded in an image can’t be extracted and therefore requires re-creating a new layered source file with the text restored as a separate layer. If text is placed on top of a graphic or photo, retouching might be required to restore the graphics background in order for it to fit your multilingual eLearning, all of which means additional time and cost.

  4. Build on “Unicode.” 

    All applications handling localizable content should support the characters of your target languages. We recommend implementing Unicode. Declare your files (e.g. HTML and XML) to use the UTF-8 character set to avoid text being displayed as so-called “tofu boxes” or question-marked diamonds.

  5. Avoid embedded text in scripts.

    Don’t embed localizable content throughout script code like Javascript or VBScript. Strings embedded in script code might require your localization provider to develop special parsers to identify and filter them out for localization. If you cannot avoid using text strings in your script, see tip #6 so that your localization partner can easily find the localizable text.

  6. Bundle your text strings.

    If you must use text strings in your script, make sure your translation partner will be able to find them. You can either bundle them together as variables in an external “resources” file, or you can collect them at the top of your file as a collection of variables, flagged as localizable (e.g., _LOC_[name_of_variable] = “Welcome to the course!”).

  7. Be aware of expanding text.

    Translated text tends to be longer than the English equivalent and can pose a challenge if the text container is not flexible. Check your design and code to ensure longer texts can be supported. Issue-prone areas are horizontal navigation bars, menus and any other text containers with limited space to expand. Multilingual eLearning can only be effective if you consider all of the languages you intent to reach.

  8. Avoid string concatenation.

    Try to avoid language constructions that contain fragments of text combined with variables. Other languages might need to have those pieces in a different order, or the translation of certain pieces might be different depending on the variable. For example: ”Page X of Y total page(s)”, where “X” and “Y” are variables. Instead, try to use a construction like “Page: X/Y”.

  9. Make font properties customizable per language.

    For Flash applications, we recommend defining font properties in an external XML file (a “style sheet” or “settings” file). Using a settings file will allow you to define the correct font properties for each individual language in one central and easily accessible place. For web-based files, like XHTML, use external Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).

  10. Minimize complex content integration for multilingual eLearning success.

    If possible, avoid integrating content that is created using a mix of different technologies, formats and tools, such as audio that is time-synched or video with on-screen subtitles. Generally speaking, the more complex the creation process of those elements, the more complex the localization process might be.

Following these basic tips — and partnering with a skilled translation firm — will help you navigate the cultural and technological challenges of taking your training and eLearning materials and projects across lines of language and culture. To learn more, please check out our training and eLearning translation services or explore our portfolio to see how we can help you with your translation needs.

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