Online training is a powerful learning vehicle—it allows people to learn on their own schedule (asynchronously), at the own pace (on-demand), and on their device of choice (flexibly). And developing online training via an LMS is scalable, as you can train thousands in a short time. So, it’s a natural leap to use this same learning vehicle to expand your company’s global reach by delivering your online training in multiple languages.
But the trick to growing globally is thinking locally. One size does not fit all when it comes to language, culture, norms and communication preferences.
A key tenet of learning design is to strip away distractions and make the content easy to consume, allowing the learner to actually learn. Delivering training in the learner’s native language helps keep focus on the learning content. But simply translating from one language to another is not the answer. Content must be adapted to local channels, “or localized”, to make it more globally accessible. Otherwise, you may leave your learner (your employee, your partner, your customer) lost, confused, annoyed, insulted—or running to your competitor.
We’ve all heard the translation error stories, ranging from the hilarious to the epic failures. Here’s another cautionary tale. In 2009 HSBC bank was forced to launch a $10 million rebranding campaign to address the damage done when it’s slogan “Assume Nothing” was mistranslated as “Do Nothing” in various countries. Oops.
Do Something—the right thing—to deliver online training in multiple languages.
Is there a case when you could simply translate an existing training module directly into a new language? Perhaps, but unlikely. Follow best practices to localize the content and context of your training. Content may require cultural, linguistic, regulatory and legal reviews. Localize—don’t translate.
Sound complicated? Not if you enlist the right people and products.
Your LMS is your International Best Friend
Choose the right LMS and the bulk of your work is handled. A LMS that provides localized training experiences will already have all the contextual nuances of the languages supported embedded in the learner-device interface.
Fully immerse learning experiences may require any special objects integrated in the training—documents, video, audio, and graphics—to be localized, too. For additional localization work, hire a professional.
Call In the Professionals
If you are willing to manage the project yourself, hire freelance translators and localization experts. Hire translators certified by a reputable organization such as the American Translators Association. Professional translators know the contextual nuances between languages in which they hold certifications. (Your international employees or partners are probably not qualified, certified translators.)
Or, go full tilt and outsource to a company that specializes in localization services. It makes most sense to outsource your project if it is large and complex (localizing in several languages simultaneously, creating localized graphics/audio/video, specialized work by software and QA engineers, etc.) Outsourcing work is never a hands-off process, though. Stay involved, however you choose to delegate localization work.
Test, and Test Again
Localization errors can be comical. Not so funny if the errors are yours, though.
Employees, partners and customers are not certified translation professionals (probably). But, they are valuable testers. Tap into their expertise and ask them to review or beta test your localized training before going live. By reaching out to these groups, you’ll build relationships and loyalty while validating the quality of your international training modules.
Test to ensure that language differences haven’t “broken” your training interface. For example, German text is typically longer than English text. Chinese text is often shorter than English text. Ensure your content is not cut off or swimming in white space.
And test your training content on all devices your learners use.
Planning Saves Time and Money
Localization can become a budgetary slippery slope. Excellent project management (outsourced or in-house) and up front planning for localization will help you to achieve your goals.
Design your original content so that references to cultural humor and situations are minimized, to make content reusable. Making content generic, but never boring, allows the localization work to begin early enough so you can “simship”, or simultaneously release, your original training course with its localized versions. “Simshipping” shows your international audience that they are not second tier.
Video, audio, and graphics are often the most engaging training devices—and often the most complex objects to localize. Before you create these objects, determine their necessity. If they are necessary, you can cut costs by subtitling or dubbing video, and subtitling audio. Decouple text from graphics to increase reusability.
Expand Your Global Reach
Done right, delivering online training in multiple languages accomplishes more than simply training your workforce, partners, and customers. A well-planned multicultural training program can help you build and strengthen relationships and invest in your company’s international success.
What are your experiences in multilingual online training? How has your international training program helped to solidify business relationships and increase your bottom line?
Gauri Reyes is a talent developer and learning leader with extensive experience in roles ranging from software management to managing the learning function in organizations. She is Principal Learning Strategist and CEO at Triple Point Advisors and Founder of the YOUth LEAD program. Follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.