11 Tips for Building Translation-Friendly Courses (Tips 1-5)

The convenience of instant and relatively inexpensive communication allows even the smallest business to communicate, sell, and even hire employees in a worldwide market. However, training a multi-lingual workforce can be a challenge. Below are some tips to help you create courses so they are easier to translate later on. If you keep these tips in mind as you build, you will save yourself a great deal of frustration later on when translation is requested. For brevity’s sake, this blog post will cover the first five tips; the final tips will appear in the next post.

1) Rethink your interface.

Translating and adjusting graphical buttons can be a challenge because a word that is five letters long in English could end up being twice the length in another language, requiring graphics people to readjust the button’s size and shape for each translation.

Instead, consider creating buttons that indicate their purpose with symbols. A menu button could be composed of three horizontal lines. The “next” and “back” buttons could be arrows pointing to the right and left. Your media controller can be composed of the universal symbols for “play,” “pause,” and “rewind.” The resources button could look like a folder. This will help minimize the words you need to translate.

To help your students learn the meaning of the symbols, create a short orientation video at the beginning of your course that explains the symbols used in the course. If you keep these symbols consistent throughout your training, your students will quickly become familiar with the meaning of each button.

2) Consider diversity.

Many companies have established policies toward encouraging diversity in their media, but this becomes a particularly important consideration as you write a course that will be viewed worldwide. You want your learners to be able to identify with the characters in the story, so trying to diversify representation as much as possible helps the course feel as if it could take place anywhere rather than in only one country.

3) Be mindful of character actions.

Actions that may seem innocuous in the United States can have diverse meanings across the globe. A “thumbs up” may be a gesture of approval in the United States, but in Australia, it has a very negative connotation. Showing the soles of your feet to another person is considered an insult in parts of the Middle East. There are so many actions that have a variety of meanings that it would likely be impossible to account for them all without conscious localization, but you can save localization headaches later on by limiting large or extraneous gestures from talent as you shoot video.

4) Reduce colloquialism.

In the same vein, you want to keep the tone of your conversations in mind as you write. While you want to write conversationally, you should also be aware of words that could be challenging to translate into other languages or which could make the dialogue seem too casual in more formal cultures, especially if the character is talking to a superior.

5) Evaluate graphics.

When possible, instead of putting text on a graphic, consider adding the text as a separate text box in the course, especially if you’re using SimWriter to build your courses. SimWriter exports all text from text boxes to make translation review easier, so any text you can add to the stage in a text box rather than on the graphic itself will export in our Export Review Document and show up for translators when you pass the document on to them, making translation faster and more efficient.

What do YOU think? Share your tips and tricks for building a course that’s easier to translate in the comments below or at any of our social media links at the bottom of the page. And join us later in the month to learn our last six tips for building a course that’s easier to translate!

Sara Crow has helped facilitate dozens of course translations for clients and has built dozens more from scratch with future translation in mind in her role as an Instructional Designer for NexLearn. She has over a decade of professional writing experience and a couple of shiny writing awards under her belt and enjoys spending both her work day and her free time helping people create storylines relevant to their needs and engaging for audiences across the globe.

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