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When to consider localisation in your learning

What is a localisation? A localisation is a translation of a course from one language to another, right? Well, in elearning terms a localisation includes the translation of a course, but you also need to think about the tone of voice, graphics, structural work and functionality and, ultimately, your audience.

A photo of the flags of various countries which might be involved in localised learning

First, you need to establish your learners’ needs; who are you designing the course for? To do this, it’s useful to ask the following questions:

  • Where are the learners based?
  • What is their existing knowledge?
  • Will learners in one location need to know something which other learners do not?

If you cover these points at the outset of the course production, they will help you to plan your design. Let’s take a look at these questions in more detail now.

Where are the learners based?

You might not think this makes a difference, but not every language has the same structure. A simple sentence in English can be considerably longer in another language. We have found that German, Italian and Russian can overrun more than most other languages.

This means that there might be areas where the text needs to scroll or the text overlaps another area of the screen. The solution is to manage your screen real estate with care when planning a course for localisation, make sure you keep your message brief and clear.

You might also want to think about how the impact of a graphic could outweigh a paragraph of text. Images aren’t there to be pretty; they’re there to be useful, add value and support or even illustrate a learning point.

You could even include characters and stories to help learners to relate to the learning this would also make the learners experience more immersive. If you do decide to use characters and stories to aid in the delivery of the course, you need to consider how they will relate to the learners in each country involved.

There’s no point producing a scenario which will not engage the learner and call on their existing knowledge. The idea is to build on their knowledge to form a greater understanding of their role.

Is your elearning clear?

The language used should be clear, and the learning itself should be broken down in to bite-sized chunks, making the content easy for the learner to digest. This is pretty standard practice when producing engaging elearning.

It’s best to avoid colloquialisms, which are informal terms of phrase, which can cause confusion when translated, and to those who don’t understand informal terms.

In addition to this, think about character sets. These include the alphabet, punctuation and numbers which make up a language. Did you know that the Chinese written language has over 20,000 characters? That’s a lot compared to the English character set, which has 114. It’s an extreme comparison but the difference in the volume of text, graphics and code affect the course weight, which will affect how long it takes for the course and each screen to load.

Let’s think of the English course weight as a glass of water and Chinese course weight as a glass of thick, luscious smoothie. If you try to drink each of them through a straw, which represents the learners’ network connection, the water can be drunk quickly with little effort; the smoothie, though, takes time and effort to drink. If a screen takes too long to load the learners could become frustrated and this will in turn hinder the learning process.

What is their existing knowledge?

You need to know if your learners will understand technical language and acronyms. You need to know if they are comfortable in their understanding of the ‘basics’. Do they need user guides or policies included as a resource in the course?

If your learners need to have access to resources from the course, find out if they need to be translated and if only specific sections within large documents are relevant. If this is the case, suggest only including that section.

Will learners in one location need to know something which other learners do not?

In most cases, our clients will need to train all of their staff in the same processes and procedures, regardless of their location in the world. But in some cases the emphasis of the learning will differ from area to area.

For example, while learners based in Europe might need to know more about the process of packaging a product, their colleagues in Africa need to learn how the production process works and health and safety in a production environment. But everyone in the organisation needs to learn basic policies and the history of the company.

So what’s the key point to remember when creating a localised e-learning course? Preparation is key.