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Best Practices: Optimizing eLearning Content for Translation

Oct 23, 2018

In a global business environment, the localization of eLearning tools is essential for training new team members and future professionals. However, developing eLearning courses that successfully communicate to a wide array of learners across miles, languages, and cultures can seem daunting.

Captions, slides, image text, scripts, audio narration, subtitles, quizzes, example images, and video must all be thoughtfully delivered for each target audience without losing any of the original content’s subtleties. This requires care, thoughtful planning, and a lot of work.

Partnering with an experienced language service provider (LSP) is a solution that can not only reduce your workload, but also your costs – if you take advantage of everything an LSP has to offer. With that in mind, we created this list of best practices that you can implement to avoid costly and time-consuming detours and bottlenecks during international eLearning course production.

Content creation

As you develop the content for your eLearning course, keep the following six tips in mind:

1. Don’t use slang or local jargon – Think about where your content is going to be consumed. Avoid colloquialisms, slang, acronyms, abbreviations, jargon, and metaphors that may have little meaning in another culture.

2.  Know your audience and their reading level – To help keep your content as understandable as possible, consider assessing it via the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test. This is a popular readability test that identifies the education level necessary for a reader to easily comprehend a piece of text (e.g. a text score of 6 would require a grade 6 education).

3.  Avoid using passive voice – This is where the object of an action becomes the subject of a sentence (e.g. Why was the road crossed by the chicken?). Writing in the passive voice can lead to torturous sentence construction and a lack of clarity in English. This can become a critical problem when passive text needs to be translated into other languages.

4.  Use lists – People learn in different ways, and the use of lists achieves several goals. They’re visually memorable, they allow learners to grasp ideas in smaller units, and they help translators cleanly separate key ideas.

5.  Expect expanding text – What can be said in just a few words in one language may require many more in another. Choose visual layouts that can be easily modified for lengthier text translations.

6.  Cultural considerations – Striking an effective balance between being interesting, casual and clear is always a concern when preparing eLearning content for consumption in different countries or regions that all carry their own political and cultural contexts. If you plan to use examples in your lessons, make sure they’re applicable to your entire audience. If not, you risk alienating them or forcing a translator to re-write the passage (e.g. a baseball analogy may not work well outside of the United States). Simultaneously, you need to consider your tone and imagery choices – not all cultures perceive familiarity or fashion in the same way.

Working with an LSP

Once you’ve selected a translation company, there are a few things you can do to improve accuracy and consistency and simultaneously reduce your costs:

1.  Create a glossary – To ensure consistency and accuracy in every language, you can supply a glossary of important words, phrases, product and object names, and concepts.

2.  Supply style guides – Submit a style guide to codify the way you want your written content visually formatted. This will ensure that lessons look the way you want in every language.

3.  Select an in-house liaison – For anything that will need to be decided quickly as work progresses, establish an internal subject matter expert (SME) at your company to act as a readily available resource.

4.  Simplify graphic design work – If there are English screenshots that need to be localized, consider providing versions of the captures in each target language. If this isn’t practical, offer the LSP access to any software required for recreating the onscreen scenarios. This helps avoid time-consuming recreation of the images using photo-processing tools or including them only in English.

5.  Utilize translation memory – Streamline the production workflow by sharing any past translations of similar content that can be repurposed or used as reference materials.

The final steps

Once you have completed the production of your translated eLearning course, we recommend implementing the following final checks:

1.  SCORM testing – Once a lesson can be output as a SCORM module, test it thoroughly before publishing. Make sure all clicks/touches, transitions, timing, tests, and quizzes work as expected.

2.  Student sample survey – If time allows, invite a small group in each target country to experience and comment on the completed course. This can provide invaluable feedback that maximizes the effectiveness of your courses and strengthens the impact they’ll have.

A reliable solution

Contact Morningside today to learn how our team of experienced project managers, linguists, voiceover talents and technical experts can ensure that your eLearning courses and modules are analyzed efficiently, translated and localized accurately, and delivered on-time and on budget.


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