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5 ways to save time and money on elearning translation


Elearning is a great solution for global organisations who want their workplace training to reach all their employees, no matter where in the world they work. But costs can spiral if elearning translation and localisation is not planned properly.

By following some simple guidelines, international businesses can save time and money on even the most complex elearning translation projects.

English is widely recognised as the international language of business but while this facilitates corporate communication in a global economy, it can’t replace multilingualism on the ground. Seventy five percent of the world’s population don’t speak any English at all, so global organisations who want to train their workforce effectively need to translate and localise their elearning. 

We have been supporting international companies to roll-out elearning solutions around the world for more than a decade. In that time, we’ve learnt a great deal about how to deliver projects on time and on budget. Here are five factors to bear in mind when planning your next elearning translation and localisation project. 

Do the ground-work

Although it is sometimes necessary to convert an existing elearning module into another language (perhaps as a business expands into a new geographic area) it is much better to factor in all the required languages at the start. This allows the instructional and visual design teams to create more effective elearning because they are aware of their target audiences from the word go.

Understanding the language preferences of a particular workforce may be the first challenge particularly for countries where multiple languages are spoken. Being aware of cultural considerations upfront can avoid mistakes which will cost time and money to correct later. Before the projects starts, get input from all the stakeholders including colleagues from the target countries. This will help to identify local learning preferences and make it much easier to address any issues as they arise.

Combine human expertise with technology

Never rely purely on automated translation. If you need convincing, do an internet search to reveal some funny but embarrassing examples of machine translation gone wrong. Technology definitely has a role to play but it needs to be combined with human expertise.

When choosing your translation specialists, make sure they are mother-tongue speakers and conform to industry standards (we work to ISO 9001:2008 and EN 15038). When it comes to technology, use it wisely where it will be most effective. For example, importing and exporting text or remembering key terminology. At Sponge, we find Storyline and Adapt are the elearning authoring tools that allow for the most efficient and cost-effective translation and localisation.

Factor in all learning content

These days elearning might well include video, audio, games and animations as well as the more traditional images, photographs, and of course, text. All these elements need to be within the scope of translation and localisation, otherwise learners won’t get the full benefit of the elearning. By being aware of cultural and local preferences when choosing photographs, images and visual themes, it is possible to save time and expense. For example, in the UK purple is a colour associated with quality and grandeur, but in Thailand it represents grief and mourning.

There are a number of options for dealing with video and audio in elearning translation project but it will depend on budget. Creating these elements in the relevant language separately is the best possible option but it will cost more and take the most time. Subtitles are another option but costs will vary depending on the length and style of the video. We find the most popular and cost-effective option is transcription so learners can read a translated text version of the audio or video content.

Find the right team

Translating and localising multiple elearning modules into many different languages can quickly become an expensive headache if not handled properly. One way to manage the process is by having a dedicated project manager, who knows the elearning module, to act as a single point of contact, as we do at Sponge. In this way, even the most complex projects can be delivered with a tight deadline.

Organisations can also save money by using a trusted employee to act as proof-reader and reviewer. Ideally, this should be someone who speaks the target language as their mother tongue as well as English (or the main language of the business.) By avoiding the need to pay for proofing companies can save on costs and greatly speed up the process.

Don’t forget your Learning Management System

There is no point investing in elearning translation and localisation if learners can’t find it on the Learning Management System (LMS). This can be a problem at the best of times but an LMS can be particularly daunting if it is entirely in another language.

Think about offering multiple language options on the user interface of your LMS, or if this is not possible, customise your LMS with easy to understand visual cues to help learners find what they need. Also, make sure any LMS email notifications or updates are translated into the target language.

Taking into account these five areas will greatly aid any elearning translation and localise project, and as the global economy grows, more organisations will find themselves grappling with the logistics of delivering online training to staff around the world.

Find out more about Sponge’s innovative approach to translation and localisation.