e-Learning Localization: Your Guide to Inclusive Global Training Programs

Adjusting company training for a global team presents a unique challenge: though English is widely used in business, only 20% of the worlds’ population speak it fluently, and only 5% are native English speakers. What’s critical is that there’s a noticeable difference when someone learns in their native tongue, even for those who speak English as a second language.

Localizing training addresses this issue, offering substantial benefits to international businesses with diverse teams:

  • Better knowledge retention: In-language, culturally relevant eLearning programs make sure that critical information, particularly about compliance and safety, is fully comprehended.
  • Increased inclusivity: Creates an environment where every team member feels valued and included.
  • Competitive differentiation: Creates a highly skilled global team that gives your business a competitive edge.
  • Improved employee retention: Organizations report a 25-60% increase in retention rates when eLearning is available.

Yet these benefits come only from localization founded in deep cultural understanding and precise technical implementation: a successful localization process requires careful consideration and expertise.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the unique challenges involved in localizing eLearning content, along with our top strategies for effective execution.

The Art of eLearning Localization

Localizing eLearning isn’t just about translation; it’s about tailoring the learning experience to meet the needs of your global team. Here’s what that involves:

  • Linguistic accuracy: More than simple word-for-word translation, it’s crucial to recraft content where necessary to preserve the original message’s intent and tone and guarantee clarity and understanding across languages.
  • Cultural considerations: To make the learning experience more engaging for everyone, content should be tailored to suit the target culture. This may necessitate everything from changing imagery and design to avoid causing offense to changing the way information is presented to better align with cultural norms (more on this below).  
  • Technical compatibility: Guaranteeing that eLearning materials work flawlessly on the devices and platforms preferred by users in each region makes sure no learner gets left behind due to technical difficulties.
  • Legal and regulatory compliance: Adapting eLearning content to comply with local laws and standards on data privacy and accessibility safeguards both learners and organizations.

Each of these components is key to a successful eLearning localization strategy that educates and empowers your global workforce.

Diving Deeper on Adapting Content for Cultural Relevance

It’s not enough to translate words; messages need to be presented in the appropriate cultural context to remove barriers to comprehension.  When you develop your eLearning program for your headquarter location, the result may have been blind to cultural preferences.  This means you may need to adapt content to align with local learning styles, customs, and values without distorting the original intent.

Here’s what that looks like in practice:

  • Learning styles: In every culture, individuals vary significantly in how they learn.  However, culture does influence learning style to an extent. To effectively localize eLearning content, the way information is presented may need to change to better suit cultural context. For example, learning in some Asian cultures tends to favor rote memorization and group work over individual effort, so employees from those cultures may be more comfortable with information presented in these formats.
  • Relevance: Adapting a module on teamwork might mean changing sports metaphors that resonate in one country to local equivalents elsewhere to maintain engagement. In another example, lessons that discuss diversity and workplace discrimination will be more impactful if they’re adapted to be relevant to the target culture and to the specific types of situations that are likely to come up there. While the details may change to suit the target culture, the result is that the original message of respecting others’ differences is more easily understood. This task requires care, sensitivity, and deep cultural knowledge.
  • Graphic design and imagery:  Cultural expectations impact how learners perceive everything from the visual design of your eLearning course to the images and symbols used, and these elements may need to be adapted accordingly. Even the colors used may need to be altered to meet cultural expectations, as they carry different meanings in different cultures.

Depending on the scope, subject matter, and goals of your training program, these elements can be adapted to be more globally acceptable or more specific to a particular geography.

What Makes eLearning Localization So Complex?

When localizing eLearning content for a worldwide audience, organizations face a complex set of challenges (aside from linguistics) that require strategic insight and careful execution. Let’s take a closer look at the complexities involved:

Desktop Publishing Challenges
In translation, texts tend to expand and contract as they move from one language to another. Scripts can be read left-to-right (like English), right-to-left (like Arabic), or they can be character-based (like Japanese), and layouts must be adjusted accordingly to keep information from getting muddled on the page.

At the same time, you may need to change the fonts used to display the text if they don’t support the target language and its script.

Different Technological Landscapes
With global audiences comes a broad spectrum of technology use, including a range of different internet speeds and a mix of preferred devices and software. Creating eLearning content that is universally accessible and functional remains a significant challenge. For example, what if your online course loads quickly on the high-speed internet available in urban centers, but lags on the slower connections in rural areas?

Scalability and Consistency
As organizations grow, keeping eLearning materials consistent and up to date across languages and regions, while also scalable for future expansions, is essential.

Global Compliance
Local laws and regulations concerning data protection, privacy, accessibility standards, and employment laws vary significantly across borders, complicating localization efforts.

Beyond that, eLearning modules that deal with legal compliance will require adjustments to align with local laws and standards.

Managing Resources Effectively
Balancing the ambitious goals of localization with finite budgets and resources demands creativity and efficiency to achieve high-quality outcomes without overspending.

Addressing these hurdles head-on is essential for creating eLearning content that is not only translated but truly tailored to meet the diverse needs of an international workforce.

How We Handle eLearning Localization

Our eLearning localization process is designed to help you navigate these challenges, step by step. Here’s how:

Defining Goals
Every project kicks off by pinpointing key objectives. Is the priority rapid deployment, precision in translation, or staying within a budget? Setting clear targets guides the entire localization process.

Developing a Style Guide
A thorough style guide is a must-have to maintain consistency across all materials. It covers everything from the formatting of dates and times to the formality, tone, and brand voice. The guide might also dictate customization in colors, design, and imagery to resonate with each target market.

Develop a Glossary of Key Terms
Establishing a glossary ensures that every term is translated accurately and consistently, maintaining the integrity of the content across languages.

Source Content Preparation
Before localization begins, we refine the original content by removing idioms, slang, and abbreviations and simplifying complex language. This “cleanup” makes the translation process smoother and the content more accessible.

Leveraging Technology
We’ll create a plan for when and how to use technology, like whether to use artificial intelligence (AI) for translations or opt for human-driven transcreation. AI can also streamline multimedia localization workflows with synthetic voice-overs and assist with dubbing and subtitling. Other types of translation technology, like computer-assisted translation and translation memories, can also enhance speed and consistency.

Post-Editing and Quality Assurance
Skilled linguists then review the content, making corrections and ensuring cultural relevance, proper formatting, and suitable layout, imagery and user interface (UI) adjustments.

Once localized, content undergoes comprehensive testing within the LMS or learning platform to ensure flawless performance across all components.

The final step sees the polished, localized eLearning content delivered, ready to engage and educate a global audience.

Through this structured yet flexible approach, we tackle the complexities of eLearning localization head-on. Our goal is clear: to deliver content that not only spans the globe but also deeply connects with every learner it reaches. Our process has helped eLearning giants like Coursera subtitle 5 million words in 3 months for a massive eLearning localization program, and we can help you, too.

Are you ready to make your global training programs truly effective? Connect with us now to begin localizing your eLearning content so that it resonates with every member of your team, everywhere.