If the source is not written with an international audience in mind, don’t think you can just translate the content and then trans-create it. To have the same impact on your target audience the source content should have no jargon, slang or colloquialisms. This will make it easier to translate and localize–both equally important–into your target languages. No matter how good the translation and localization provider is, if the content is not written in a way to allow for multilingual translation you won’t have the same results with your international learners as you do with the original language’s speakers.
What it really takes to create successful multilingual eLearning is an intimate understanding of who your learners are. What are their cultural preferences? What are their learning behaviors? What are their expectations? Too often those areas are overlooked.
Different cultures approach and engage with learning differently
Often, we find that different learners within the same culture will learn differently based on gender, age, and educational level. So what it really takes is a crystal clear understanding of who your learners are, with a truly deep knowledge of their preferences and needs.
A lot of organizations are starting to use digital ethnography to develop effective global learning. Digital ethnography is a complete immersion into target cultures to truly understand how they learn, and how they apply what they learn. Then that data is compared country to country to better understand what’s different about a learner in China and a learner in Japan and a user in Korea. That knowledge is then brought back to the drawing board to incorporate what has been learned into the instructional designs. Sometimes you actually need to redesign a course for it to be different in a different locale. It’s the only way to assure that learning will have the same impact for all users.
The way to make your global learning successful is to develop the content in such a way that your learners don’t even realize that there’s another version in another language, and especially to not notice that it was developed in another language. If your learners take a course, and feel that it was done specifically for them, specifically for their culture with their needs in mind, then you will have the same impact in every language. To make eLearning localization successful in other languages and cultures you have to understand the cultural needs, usages, and customs, then develop learning to meet those requirements. Having a network of global instructional designers and market managers really helps strike the right balance between translating the content and having a successful impact internationally.
To make your eLearning successful from an internationalization and localization point of view, you also have to take emotions into consideration. Emotions from images are important in what your learners see and what they learn. If your learners don’t feel positively about your content, or worse, feel as though their language and culture were taken into consideration after the fact, they will stop paying attention right off the bat.
An image is worth a thousand words
We all process images with our eyes and emotions so the images you use should take into account the emotions they generate in your target cultures. If your learners don’t have an image that is relevant for their culture, they’re not going to connect to that image, and they’ll miss out on an important part of that section or your course. Make sure your images convey the right message. If you’re trying to train a sales team in Europe and you put in an image of American football or baseball to represent team sports, your European learners aren’t going to connect to them because they don’t play American football or baseball. However, if you use a soccer ball or a basketball, it’s going to be a little bit more relevant. Look into those little things that create emotion.
Paying attention to detail
Filling out a form should not be stressful. Remember, names are structured differently all over the world. If you don’t have the correct forms for each culture, you’ll start alienating your users from the beginning. If a person can’t put their name in correctly, they’ll feel they’re not important to the organization. Nothing is more personal than a person’s name. If you mess that up, chances are they’re going to be a little less excited about taking your course. The same goes for dates, the name of their countries, and so on. You put so much work into developing your class: don’t let the little things push you off course. Step out of your shoes and into your learner’s and see what is really generating emotion about your courses. Work with your teams to address all those issues to make sure you get it right. To make global learning successful across all cultures, you need to have real empathy for the end user.