Six Tips for Translating Your eLearning Course

In our prior blog entries, we addressed considerations you want to make when building a course from scratch if future translation is likely. In this post, we will talk about how to tackle translating an existing course. While there are some considerations in common, translating an existing course can be an entirely new challenge. Below are a few tips you can ponder as you begin the process of translating an existing course.

1. Consider priorities for translation

Every project has a budget, and though you’d like to hire native speakers to come in and entirely re-shoot your video, that approach is probably not feasible. Instead, review the elements in the course and evaluate which items are most important. Can you translate just the transcript to allow users to process the story easier, or do you want to translate all buttons and resources as well? Do you want to replace the audio track with translated audio, or do you want all translated versions to be available in one course? All of these considerations will have an impact on your budget and on the learner’s experience, so you will want to balance these options carefully as you plan your next steps.

2. Decide how much you want to localize

In the same vein, budget may drive how much localization you can achieve for each course, but you should consider any localization you can achieve that is within your budget. You particularly want to be aware of any actions by talent or characterizations that would be inappropriate for a particular culture or any policies that might exist in the country where the courseware was created which would not apply globally for cultural reasons. For example, if you have a scene in your course where an employee questions her superior’s advice, this might not be considered acceptable behavior in countries like Japan or India, where authority is more strictly enforced than it is in countries like the United States or Denmark.

3. Collect items not automatically included in translation exports

There are a variety of items that may not be included in an average export for translation, depending on the software you used to create the course. Most commonly, items like buttons or plugins that may be added separately (such as menus, breadcrumbs, or other add-ons) may not show up on the exported script, so you will want to ensure that you create a list of those items and insert the translated text separately. You should include any resources that are attached separately so they can be translated as well.

4. Review photos and graphics

As you review your course, don’t forget to look carefully at graphics and photographs for words or images that may need to be adjusted for other countries. This could include photographs with words on them, but could also include, for example, photos of cars driving on different sides of the road. You may need to select new some images for some translated courses.

5. Scrutinize external links

You not only want to ensure that any external links you’ve attached to your courses are available in all the countries where your courses will be translated (most of the time they are), but you also should check to whether the site offers a translated version for each language, since some websites offer unique links for a variety of languages.

6. Assemble a translation glossary

Review the course for words that are unique to your company or your industry (this should also include important acronyms). Once you have assembled a list of these words, you can have them translated internally or choose to leave them un-translated. This glossary should be forwarded to your translator so they can incorporate these unique words into the translations.

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