When businesses or organizations go international, they often face the problem of effectively delivering training content to remote employees in different countries. Other companies encounter a similar issue when launching their educational and training projects in new global markets.
Whatever your case, if you want to bring learning content to more people in a globalized world, eLearning translation is the key to breaking down language barriers and ensuring that knowledge reaches a diverse international audience.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about eLearning translation and localization. We’ll equip you with the right tools and strategies to produce high-quality learning content in foreign languages. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to launch learning and training projects in new foreign markets quickly and effectively, maximizing your business ROI.
eLearning translation is the process of rendering online learning content in another language by means of translating it from your native language. This allows you to produce multilingual eLearning courses and deliver them to diverse global audiences.
eLearning Translation vs. eLearning Localization
When it comes to creating multilingual eLearning content for the online education market, many experts suggest eLearning localization, not translation. While these two processes may seem the same, they serve different purposes and employ different strategies.
eLearning localization goes beyond mere translation by adapting content to the cultural, regional, and contextual nuances of the target audience. Localization often requires some changes to the content of your eLearning course to better cater to the needs and expectations of learners in a specific locale.
|eLearning translation||eLearning localization|
|Goal and focus||Language conversion to ensure that translated courses fully convey the original content||Content adaptation to ensure that localized courses are culturally relevant|
|Identical to the source material||Can vary depending on the target audience and its cultural context|
|Visual elements||Retains the original visual elements||Visual elements can be changed to align with local preferences|
|Tone and style||Maintains the tone and style of the source content||Adjusts tone, style, and humor to align with the target culture’s specifics|
|Cultural sensitivity||Leaves room for cultural insensitivity||Ensures cultural sensitivity by removing or changing content that can be controversial in the target culture|
|Examples||Technical manuals, instructions, and general knowledge courses|
Courses on culture-specific knowledge and skills (communication strategies, workplace ethics, etc.)
eLearning courses: translate or localize?
Depending on your goals and the type of content in your courses, you can benefit from eLearning translation and/or eLearning localization.
To decide which approach is better for your specific case, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is your target audience? Consider the cultural and linguistic diversity of your learners. Will translation be sufficient, or are additional modifications to the content necessary?
- What is the nature of your content? Evaluate whether your content contains cultural nuances and references, idioms, or examples specific to a particular region or culture.
- What is your budget and timeline? Assess the resources available and the urgency of your project. Localization may require more time and resources than translation.
- Is cultural sensitivity important for your content? Consider the potential impact of cultural insensitivity on your learners and whether adjustments are needed.
- Is the content evergreen or does it need frequent updates? If your content changes frequently, think about how the chosen approach affects the update processes.
- Do you have access to subject matter experts for the target region? Having experts who understand both the subject matter and the culture can be crucial for effective localization and translation.
Let’s say you have a series of learning courses on green business for corporate training in English, and your audience includes employees who speak both English and Japanese. Initially, you consider translating the courses into Japanese. However, upon reviewing the content, you find that it’s US-centric, featuring principles and examples specific to the United States.
To make it more relevant to employees in Japan, you decide to opt for localization. This means not only translating the text but also adapting practices, using regional case studies, and adjusting workplace simulations to match local practices. While this approach requires a slightly longer timeline and a higher budget, it ensures that the translated content is accessible, culturally relevant, and compliant with local safety standards.
Translating eLearning materials is not just about breaking language barriers. It’s a strategic investment in the growth of your business in a globally connected environment. Translation and localization provide:
- Global reach. When you translate your eLearning courses and training materials into multiple languages, you deliver knowledge to a wider international audience. Whether that involves independent learners, corporate employees, or students in educational institutions, everybody prefers learning materials in their native language.
- Enhanced learning experience. Even if learners are proficient in the source language of your online courses, a translated course creates a more engaging and relatable learning experience for non-native speakers.
- New market opportunities. For businesses, eLearning translation opens up new markets and revenue streams since it broadens the accessibility of the content to learners or employees beyond English-speaking markets.
- Cultural sensitivity. Translation and localization help avoid cultural insensitivity by adapting content to align with cultural norms and values. This is crucial to maintain a positive image and avoid misunderstandings in the learning process.
- Inclusivity. By offering courses and training materials in multiple languages, you ensure that people of various linguistic backgrounds, abilities, and preferences have equal access to knowledge. This approach encourages greater participation, engagement, and a stronger sense of community among your team of learners.
It can be difficult to plan the budget for your eLearning translation project. Consider the following factors to make a more accurate estimation:
- Content volume. This factor is fairly self-explanatory: the higher the word count, the more expensive the translation will be.
- Time constraints. Both translation vendors and independent translators charge higher quotes for urgent work.
- Project management. Multilingual publishers of eLearning content may need to hire a project manager to be able to roll out several translated courses at the same time, and this will entail extra costs.
- Quality assurance. Quality checks, rounds of proofreading, and revisions can add to the overall cost of the project.
- Linguistic expertise level. A native speaker-level translator and a professional translation service will typically charge more than a freelance translator. Another option is using a translation management system (TMS), a digital tool that automates translation.
What Are the Rates for e-Learning Translation Services?
On average, eLearning translation services can cost anywhere from $0.08 to $0.30 per word. However, the rates for eLearning translation services can vary based on the factors we’ve listed above. To get an accurate quote, you can consult translation agencies or freelance translators. Provide them with project details, and request a customized estimate based on the unique aspects of your eLearning course content.
The process of translating an eLearning course to a target language comes with its own set of challenges. Keep an eye out for these possible roadblocks to avoid late project launches or low-quality translations.
Linguistic and cultural differences
Linguistic and cultural nuances can bring unexpected difficulties to the translation or localization process. Even professional translators can get confused when dealing with the intricacies of linguistic and cultural variations.
For example, slang, jokes, or subtle cultural references in the source language may not have direct equivalents in the target language. In such cases, translators can opt for localization or even omit these potentially problematic parts of the content from an eLearning course.
Added and hidden translation costs
Unfortunately, hidden costs can creep into your project at any stage. For instance, complex graphics or bulky multimedia elements might require extra translation efforts.
Additional translation costs can also include legal compliance steps to ensure your eLearning courses meet all the regulatory requirements in the target locale. Quality assurance and multilingual testing are other sources of added translation expenses. Both require extra resources, time, and expertise to verify that the translated materials meet quality standards and provide an optimal learning experience.
Preserving course design
Translated eLearning content often doesn’t look good within the original layout and course design of your authoring tool or presentation slides. This can happen because of a different text volume, text orientation (e.g. English vs. Arabic), and other factors. As a result, an otherwise correctly translated text can ruin the appearance of your entire course.
Solving this problem often requires extra effort from your design team. This can result in project delays, additional costs, and potential inconsistencies in the visual presentation.
To address all these eLearning translation challenges head-on, you need a reliable eLearning translation protocol. Read on to learn how to build one and translate your eLearning content effectively.
Every translation project is unique, but there are common steps you can take to ensure a smooth translation process and high-quality results. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Before you translate: choose your translation vendor
Most learning management systems and course authoring tools available on the market don’t have a built-in translation tool. However, almost all major eLearning authoring tools offer the option of XLIFF export, allowing you to quickly extract the materials, translate them, and import them back into the tool.
This leaves you with an important decision: choosing your translation vendor. There are plenty of translation and localization solutions available. You can opt for different translation services, from hiring freelance translators and translation agencies to using translation management systems. A TMS is a type of software that automates translation and leverages technologies such as machine translation and translation memories.
Pro tip: You can combine a TMS platform and a team of translators for more effective eLearning translation and localization. A TMS will make the translation processes faster, and then professional native translators can review the translated content in the target language.
As we mentioned earlier, most authoring tools enable you to extract course content into XLIFF. XLIFF is a file format that simplifies data transfer between different software (e.g., between an authoring tool and a TMS) for streamlined translation.
To illustrate how to translate courses into different languages, let’s take iSpring Suite, a robust course creation tool, as an example. It also offers the XLIFF export feature to optimize the process and divides it into 3 simple steps.
Step 1. Export the course content as an XLIFF file
1. Open your course and click on the Translation tab on the right side of the menu ribbon
2. Click on Export Text.
3. Choose XLIFF 1.2 in the list of file formats
4. Click Export.
Step 2. Translate your course
You can translate the course with your in-house team of translators or outsource the task to a translation vendor. Whichever approach you choose, make sure the translated file is also in the XLIFF format. To see a detailed example of this step, read our article on how to translate courses and tests with iSpring Suite Max fast.
Step 3. Import the translated content back into iSpring Suite
1. Open your course and click on Translation.
2. Select Import text.
At this point, you’ll get a warning that your current content is going to be replaced with the translated text. If you don’t want to lose the course in the original language, click Create a copy.
3. Choose the right XLIFF file from your computer and upload it.
And that’s it! Now you can display the course to your learners in a new language.
Pro tip: If you want to localize your course presentations in iSpring Suite to make them more culturally sensitive, use the custom character feature. You can adapt a character’s appearance to the cultural norms and expectations of your audience for a more organic learning experience.
Also read → The Best 9 Adobe Captivate Alternatives
Regardless of your eLearning translation needs, you can follow a few simple tips to improve the translation process and avoid possible challenges.
Expect text expansion in the target language
One thing many people forget about during translation is that content in one language can take up more space than it does in a different language. For example, two training courses with the same content will look different on a slide or in authoring tools.
As a result, the appearance of your online learning content can go awry. To avoid this problem, prepare your course layout for text expansion in advance. You can leave some extra space on your slides or choose a smaller font to present content on your eLearning platform.
Make your original learning courses translation-friendly
Another thing you can do to ensure a seamless transition process is to create your original course and other reference materials with a multilingual perspective in mind.
To build a translation-friendly course, you can:
- Avoid cultural references, slang, or jokes in your content. These elements can be difficult to translate without changing the original meaning. They can also be offensive in the recipient culture.
- Create a glossary for special terms to help translators choose the right translations in complex cases.
- Use variables instead of hard-coded text. Avoid animations or images with embedded text. Instead, use regular text strings in your eLearning development tool. This will allow you to translate the strings as part of an exported XLIFF file, and you won’t need to replace all the images or animations in a translated course.
Remember to translate multimedia elements
When you export your course as an XLIFF file, it will only contain text. This means you’ll need to translate other eLearning assets separately. These include:
- Images and videos
- Closed captions
- Audio narration
Pro tip: Translating audio narrations is easier and more convenient if the eLearning tool has a text-to-speech feature (TTS). That way, you can just type the translated narration into the TTS box and get high-quality audio with a human-sounding voice.
iSpring Suite Max offers the text-to-speech feature in 50 languages with authentic voices and natural intonations. You won’t need to hire voice actors for your multilingual projects, saving tons of time and money, while still engaging your audience with effective narration.
Here are some popular questions our readers ask about eLearning translation.
How do I choose the right translation vendor?
You have plenty of options, ranging from a translation company or freelance translators to one of the available translation management systems. When choosing your vendor, consider:
- A project’s budget
- The complexity of the content
- The number of language pairs you’ll need to translate
- The potential need to hire SMEs in a target language
- In-house translation capacity
Choose the vendor that can cater to your specific project needs within the set timeline and budget for the best eLearning translation experience.
How can I assess the ROI of eLearning translation projects?
Measuring the ROI of eLearning translation projects involves evaluating both the costs and benefits. Start by calculating the expenses, including translation, localization, and any additional resources.
Then, assess the impact on your target audience, such as increased engagement, learner retention, or expanded market reach. Did the translation affect your business goals positively? Don’t forget to consider long-term benefits, such as ongoing content usage and market expansion, to get a comprehensive view of the project’s return on investment.
Also read → How to Measure eLearning ROI
How can I ensure privacy and data security during translation?
To ensure privacy and data security during translation, you can take the following steps:
- Sign confidentiality agreements with translators and teams to protect sensitive information.
- Use encrypted channels to share content and maintain communication with stakeholders.
- Limit access to essential project members and data.
- Remove or anonymize sensitive information when possible, reducing privacy risks.
Incorporating eLearning translation into your educational or corporate strategy broadens your reach and cultivates a more inclusive and globally connected learning environment. By breaking language barriers, you open the door to diverse audiences, boosting engagement and knowledge retention.
Consider making eLearning translation an integral part of your projects for a more effective and globally resonant learning experience. Create your courses with iSpring Suite – a robust authoring tool with an XLIFF export feature for streamlined translation. Try iSpring Suite for free and build your first multilingual course in no time!