E-learning is becoming an increasingly more popular way of learning, particularly in large corporations and medium-sized companies. Not only is this solution very economical, but it is also extremely universal. It significantly reduces logistic processes associated with the organization of a training course, making it easier to reproduce it in different languages. But is translation of e-learning courses mere translation?
In order to properly reproduce such a course in a different language it is not enough to translate it – it must be also localized. Such a course must perfectly respond to the needs of the trainees in order to become a valuable didactic material. If it is not completely clear and adapted to the cultural constraints prevailing in the country where it is taught, it will not serve its function. That is why it is worth getting familiar with some very important practices regarding localization of e-learning platforms. These rules will help you understand why translation may not be enough in this case.
An e-learning course is like an interactive course book
Such a course includes lectures, exercises and an exam. This form enables the participant to assimilate knowledge in an accessible way and have it effectively checked. This solution provides for flexibility both in teaching and learning.
Whether such a course will be successful depends on several factors. If this is an original course, developed and implemented in the native language of the trainees, the task is much simpler. But when it has to be translated, it is not only the content that needs to be considered, but also the form:
- popularity of this form of learning in a given region,
- ease of learning on the web,
- industry the course relates to,
- interface – needs to be adapted to the new language.
Localization of e-learning in its pure form
Depending on the subject of the course, a translation agency that handles its localization needs to consider several different issues. The simplest tasks include conversion of measures and weights, adjusting the format of dates and week days and using appropriate courtesy titles contained in the course.
In different cultural regions, participants in such courses can be addressed in different ways. The original course can have a very direct form, while the region of the target language may require making it more formal. In English, for example, men and women can be addressed using the same form, while in Polish, a specific form depending on the sex should be used.
The evaluation system used in the course should also be localized. It must be transparent for trainees, so it has to be based on knowledge assessment methods that they know. The assessment can be expressed, for example, in percent, or a letter or number system can be used.
Key cultural differences
Not only books, movies or computer games need to be adapted in the course of their translation. The same holds true to e-learning courses, which is primarily due to the fact that a course which is not fully understandable will simply fail to serve its educational function.
The method of transferring knowledge within such a course must correspond to standards accepted in a given country. If material that is being localized has been prepared in a region where culture is totally different from that in the target country, it is likely that for the course to be successful it will be necessary to interfere in the interface. This can be due even to mere differences in the length of words. Such changes are common, for example, when websites are localized. In this case it may be necessary to change the graphics, as the buttons or the menu bar may have a completely different size in another language.
If a course contains materials like roleplaying or infographics, these should also be adapted to the target culture. These may be due to differences in, for example, treatment of women and men, perception of religion or even the popularity of some sport discipline. In Poland, this would probably be football, while in the United States, baseball or American football would be a better choice. With such changes, the course gains in value because trainees find it much easier to assimilate knowledge.
One course for different regions
As the author of an e-learning course which is to be translated into other languages, think about its localization already when you are preparing it. If you want to make this process run smoothly, simply create universal content, that is one that does not contain clear cultural associations. Do not use humour that may be incomprehensible to a wider audience and ensure that your content is politically correct.
The more flexible your course is, the easier it will be to translate and localize it. Remember that it is not only the content of your course that matters – its form is important as well. Make the graphics universal and create an interface that can be easily adapted in other languages. This way you will save much money on its localization because it will be plain sailing.