Whatever your question, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we delve into elearning localization, its phases and what should be considered during the planning process.
What is elearning localization
Elearning localization means to adapt content to particular regions and audiences. It only starts with language, but goes much further and can even include the swap of images.
How to plan easy-to-localize elearning
Well-designed elearning localization brings considerable cost savings when the same material is used in different language versions. When country-specific and language-specific differences are eliminated through consistent content production methods, equally high-quality training is guaranteed for each participant.
If your elearning localization strategy is still at the planning stage, you should pay attention to the language of the first version, or the master version. English is the recommended choice for the first version if you intend to provide training for employees beyond the Nordic and Baltic countries. If the first version is produced in Norwegian or Swedish, for example, it would need to be translated into English to ensure smooth localization into the Baltic languages.
One way you can optimize your elearning localization budget is at the scripting stage. For example, you can decide to limit aspects and elements that require country-specific or language-specific localization to a specific section of the training.
During the scripting stage, you can also make a choice that minimizes the localization needed for images and videos: no text in the images and minimal text in the videos. You can also define the multimedia content so that the content needs to be modified as little as possible during localization.
What does elearning localization involve? Which elements need to be localized?
Modern online training uses images, sound, text, animation and videos creatively and effectively. Each of these elements requires a different approach to localization.
Elearning text localization
Text is the easiest element to localize. The translation and localization process is the same for just about all texts. However, online training involves the challenge that the word and character count varies between translations into different languages. If the layout of the text content is very tight, adjusting the localized material into the space reserved for it can be very difficult and time-consuming.
The amount of text in the target language can increase by 10–30%, depending on the language pair. If the text layout is spacious to begin with, the training will be much more convenient for the learner and for localization purposed. When there is enough space, placing the translated and localized text in the layout is quicker and easier, and no compromises are needed in terms of the font size.
The wording and style of the translation are also important. Clear and unambiguous language is always helpful, but this is particularly important when the training material will be translated. This serves to ensure that the content will not be watered down or contain factual errors.
Voice-overs are often used in online training. In practice, localization means transcribing the voice-over and translating and possibly localizing the transcription. Then the voice-over is recorded in the target language. Subtitles can be used if the online training contains little text. If there is a lot of text on the screen to begin with, and subtitles are added, the combination becomes a distraction. The learner cannot focus on the text content when they are trying to read the changing subtitles at the same time.
The voice-over will be much easier to localize if the original script is available. Otherwise, the voice-over will almost invariably need to be transcribed manually, which takes time. This phase can be avoided completely if the voice-over is immediately available as text.
If subtitles are created for the voice-over, they need to be time-coded and possibly condensed to fit on the screen.
Do images really need localization? Maybe not, if the imagery is neutral in terms of language and does not refer to figures of speech or phrases linked to a specific language. However, images often need to be adapted to the local target audience and language.
If the training is about learning to use an ERP system, for example, but the menus and buttons in the images are not in the same language as system used by the learners, the training may be confusing. In such a case, the learning targets may not be achieved.
Units of measurement shown in images may also require localization. In other words, the unit system used in the target country must be considered. In practice, an English-language elearning course designed for Great Britain is not directly applicable to the United States due to such difference as their respective systems of weights and measurements.
Localization also ensures that the images do not portray anything regarded as problematic or offensive in the local culture.
Editing the images used in an online training program is not particularly demanding. However, it becomes challenging if the original work files are not available.
Although many aspects need to be considered in terms of images, you should not hesitate to use them. They make online training much more vivid and can convey much more information in a concise form than long texts. Images should be seen as an opportunity to make online training more interesting and effective.
Multimedia and video localization
The use of videos and multimedia in elearning content is increasing rapidly. Content that would require many pages of text and images can be presented concisely in a video.
The localization of videos involves many aspects that must be considered, such as the local culture. If a video contains something that is regarded as embarrassing or problematic in the local culture, such content can be edited out or removed completely.
Videos almost always have a voice-over or a narrator. The voice-over needs to be translated into the target language for the local target audience, or subtitles must be added, and the narrator’s speech must be subtitled or dubbed.
Subtitles are the most inexpensive option. The voice-over is transcribed, time-coded and translated, and subtitles are added to the video.
It’s good to keep in mind that if the video already contains text, subtitles may interfere with learning the matter at hand.
Subtitles can be created for the voice-over in the elearning or the video. Subtitles are particularly useful when the target audience understands the language of the master version to some degree.
Multilingual dubbing and video voice-over
The options for dubbing are lip-syncing and phrase-level syncing. Lip-syncing follows the speaker’s mouth movements precisely. It’s a demanding and costly way of dubbing, which is why it’s rarely used in elearning content. In phrase-level syncing, the dubbing matches the speech on the video at the sentence level. For this reason, phrase-level syncing is a clearly more common and inexpensive option for localizing videos.
Voice-over works best when the video illustrates the matter under discussion, and there is no person talking directly to the camera in the picture. In such voice-overs, it’s important that the narrator’s tone matches the matter discussed on the video.
Dubbing and voice-overs also require time-coded transcription. Using time codes, the start and end of the speech in the target language can be determined precisely.
If a time-coded script of the video is available, it will be much easier to create the subtitles and the voice-over in the target language.
The preferences of the local target audience should also be taken into account. In Asia and many parts of Europe, dubbing is much common than subtitles, which work particularly well in the Nordic countries.
The most important rule of thumb in localizing elearning is always keeping the original work files. This applies not only to elearning, but also to the work files for the images and videos included in the elearning. Linking files and naming them clearly accelerates localization and any later content updates.
The elearning localization process
The localization of elearning can be started when the original elearning program has been fully completed. This ensures that modifications to the original version will not cause additional correction and review rounds for the localized version.
Ideally, the need for localization is already known during the scripting stage. This enables the actual localization phase to progress smoothly and cost-effectively.
1. Translating content
In the first stage, all of the material to be translated and localized is compiled into a package for translation. The package includes the text content, subtitle files or voice-over scripts and any texts in images.
2. Reviewing the translation
When the materials have been translated, the client reviews them to ensure that the terminology and tone used in the translation are in line with the company’s message. This review is also important because any shortcomings detected at this stage are easy to correct.
3. Compiling the localized material into an elearning package
A new elearning language version is created from the localized translation package. At this stage, the text layout is fixed if the amount of text has increased significantly during translation. The voice-over is also recorded during this phase and synchronized with the other content of the online training.
4. Reviewing the elearning package
The second review concerns the functionality and effectiveness of the new language version as an elearning package. Is there something in the content that is not needed in the new language version? Should something be added? These aspects may be easily overlooked when only the translation is available. When the translated content is in its final context, it’s easier to spot any needs for corrections.
5. Commissioning review
The final review of the elearning package should be carried out when the package is uploaded to the learning management system (LMS) used for its distribution. The test group should consist of representatives of the target audience. This will ensure that the localized version works well in the learning environment and reaches its target audience in terms of language and content.
6. Distributing the localized version
When the final review has been completed, the training can be distributed to the wider target audience. This process has ensured the technical, linguistic and cultural functionality of the localized training, as well as its appeal to the new target audience.
In terms of effective reviews and a successful end result, native speakers of the target language should participate in the reviews. Ideally, the reviewer is part of the target group of the training. This will ensure that the content can be modified for the local target audience. In addition, involving a native speaker in the process will attract wider interest in the training.
Why should elearning localization be centralized?
As noted above, there are many elements to localize, and project management can be difficult if the work is divided between several operators. Centralization saves time and effort when the provider of the localization is responsible for project management.
At Acolad we have all the expertise needed for localization under one roof. Our professionals have the skills to localize videos, images and texts, compile the material into a complete elearning package or even connecting your LMS with a translation management system (TMS) to automate the elearning content localization process. Watch our videos about the elearning solutions we have provided to Oras Group and Biocodex Nordics. You can hear it from the clients themselves on the video case studies below:
The benefits of centralization also include more consistent language. If the translations are made by different parties, the terminology may vary, and correcting the tone may require several rounds of reviews before consistent language can be ensured throughout the elearning package.