eLearning Localization: Adapting Online Courses
eLearning localization is the process of adapting an online course for learners in a specific geographic location. Less than 20% of the internet population understands English, yet only a fairly limited number of online courses are available in foreign languages. Localizing your content can help you reach learners in fast growing markets, and gain a competitive edge in a crowded market.
Once you’ve identified a lucrative market for your courses, it is time to form your localization strategy. What is your localization budget? How much do time do you have to launch? Will you localize all aspects of your course or only the important ones? Here is everything you need to know to formulate your eLearning localization strategy.
What Aspects Can Be Localized?
Translation focuses on text and meaning. Localization has a much broader scope. In eLearning, localization covers:
- Units of measurements, dates and currency
- Spellings and local expressions
- Names, examples, references, slang
- Idioms and abbreviations
- Colors and fonts
- Images, illustrations and gestures
- Music and accent
The following aspects of your course can be localized:
- Website or application (where the course is presented)
- Course information and FAQs
- Reviews and testimonials
- Community section and comments
- Study and reference material
- Tests and quizzes
- Video subtitles
- Video on-screen text (OST)
- Images and graphs
- Marketing material and supporting legal documentation
How Do You Decide What To Localize?
Some regions require complete localization, whereas in others, localizing a few aspects is enough. To decide, you need to consider several factors. Here is what you should consider when you make your decision:
1. English Proficiency
Where does the region rank on the English Proficiency Index (EPI)? If the country ranks high on the EPI, you might only need to adapt some aspects and could leave the others as they are.
2. Cultural Match
Will your target audience understand the cultural references and examples in the course? If your course was originally created for German audiences, most of the references will be easily understood by learners in western Europe. However, in regions like the Middle East or south Asia, you might need to adapt or recreate some of them.
3. Cultural Sensitivity
Are your learners in a region where the culture is completely different from yours? If so, you might need to conduct an audit of your content to make sure that the examples, references, names and gestures do not offend your target audience.
4. Strategic Decision
If you are just testing out a new market, you may start with only localizing the descriptions, reviews and subtitles. Based on the performance, you can invest in translating voiceovers, comments and OST. If you see big potential in a region, you can opt for the complete localization of your assets.
5. Age Of Your Target Audience
If your learners are in the K-12 or seniors category, translating just your subtitles won’t do. For these learners, you need local language voiceovers and translation of onscreen text.
Localizing all aspects of a big course can be expensive—you need to decide which assets are the most important and give a high ROI. As a rule, translating text is much cheaper than translating audio. Doing voiceovers or dubbing costs five to eight times more than translating subtitles.
When do you want to launch? There are several steps involved in localization, from extracting content and translation, to typesetting and linguistic testing. Depending on the time you have, you can cut out or add different processes.
Some countries legally require that you translate your legal documents, policies and information. Your platform or partners also might require you to localize some aspects of your course or supporting documents.
Human Translations Or Machine Translations?
eLearning courses have a lot of content. Using human experts to translate every aspect of your course can be expensive and sometimes unnecessary. Most big companies use a combination of human and machine generated translations to meet their goals—without breaking the bank! Remember, machine translation output is only good for major languages. If you are trying to reach learners in Tagalog, Georgian, Pashto or any other minor language, machine translations are not an option.
How you decide to do the translations depend on your language pair, audience, budget and timelines. However, there are some generally followed best practices that can make your decision easier.
- Marketing content, course description and FAQs
These sections are critical for user acquisition and it is very important to get them right. These sections should be translated by highly skilled native linguists with experience in marketing/copywriting.
- Tests and quizzes
If you offer degrees or certificates of completion based on test results, your questions and answer options must be accurate and translated by a linguist with expertise in the subject.
- Course material
If the course material will be offered in a single-language document, this must be translated by a human linguist with subject expertise. If you are providing bilingual material where the translation acts as a support/reference, machine translation might do.
If you are providing subtitles just as support to non-native English speakers, you can get away with machine translated content for major languages. If your learners do not understand English, you need human translated and synced subtitles. If your subtitles will be used as the script for human voiceovers, they definitely need to be translated by a qualified human translator.
Voiceovers are the most expensive part of localization. There is new technology that enables automated voiceovers; Depending on your budget, timeline and goals, these could be a suitable option. However, most course publishers still use human voiceover artists.
- Comments, community sections and reviews
These are typically machine translated as they are not a crucial part of the buying or learning experience.
To succeed in a new region, it is not always necessary to localize every aspect of the learning experience. You need to understand your target audience and devise a strategy that works for them. Don’t be afraid to keep experimenting and testing to find the perfect formula!
The localization process includes translators, proofreaders, typesetters, transcriptionists, voiceover artists, audio engineers, video editors and project managers. Sometimes, these teams are scattered all over the world. Before you start localizing, find a trusted partner who can advise you and help you execute your global project.