Localising eLearning: why culture means as much as language

Julie Giguere, MD of translation agency Asian Absolute, explains why localised online learning is about more than accurate translation

The global eLearning market is growing fast. Recent estimates suggested the market accounted for $165 billion in 2015 and could reach $275 billion by 2022*. Conservative estimates say that every $1 spent on eLearning results in $30 worth of productivity. Global growth is significant at around 7-8% every year. In some places, though, it’s growing even faster. India and China, for example, grow at over 50% every year. Malaysia, Brazil and Indonesia aren’t far behind. Moreover, by 2017, the global mobile learning market had already hit more than $12 billion and it continues to expand at a significant pace.

Localisation of such content can involve the translation of text in xml files, localisation of Flash animations, voiceovers, subtitles, functional and linguistic testing into multiple languages, dependent on your target audiences. This can require the recording of several hundred mp3 files for each language, which is no small matter given that different voices might be needed for multiple characters in any e-learning programme. As well as having each audio file checked by a linguist for accuracy and completeness, post-recording quality assurance is required to ensure all files are error-free before being incorporated into the builds. 

The completed builds can then be released on a rolling basis so that the learners can access content as early as possible. It might be best for voice recordings to be spread across several sessions for each language, with additional time scheduled into each session for re-recording problematic audio files from the previous session. This can save both time and money, ensuring that all audio files for each module are completed on time. 

The success of these projects requires a high degree of planning and scheduling to avoid unnecessary communications and to keep costs to a minimum. The recording studio and the voice talents should be booked well in advance and additional translators assigned to ensure audio scripts are translated in line with your original schedule. Voice talents should receive a copy of each script a week before the recording date so that they can rehearse their parts properly. A meticulous approach to optimising workflow and schedule is instrumental in completing the project on time and to everyone’s satisfaction.  

In addition to e-Learning being used to facilitate the learning experience, localisation is also important for universities in the UK because of their need to continue to attract lucrative income from overseas students

However, in addition to e-Learning being used to facilitate the learning experience, localisation is also important for universities in the UK because of their need to continue to attract lucrative income from overseas students. The importance for the higher education sector to present itself effectively in international markets cannot be underestimated especially with recent research from University College Londonreporting that Australia is overtaking the UK as the world’s second biggest destination for international students, with Canada catching up fast. A previous analysis this year had found that overseas students added £20bn to the UK economy, so retaining them and attracting more is economically essential. 

When it comes to localising content and collateral, it’s important to know that any new recipients will be receiving the same consistent message as those in the territory in which the content was originally conceived. It can be a complex exercise. But, for example, university websites aimed at targeting potential students from Asia, need to have theirdigital content localised rather than simply translated.

This may mean targeting the specific dialect spoken in each particular target market.  Knowledge of cultural colour symbolism, references, and more, should ideally be implemented for all visual content too, whilst using the time, date, currency and other formats which your target users are accustomed to will make them feel more at home on your website. The university’s digital presencewill need to behave in the way that a local user expects. This can be as simple as being laid out for a language that reads from right-to-left. This encourages a user to keep comfortably browsing your site for longer.Translating your keywords into another language is rarely, if ever, going to get you good results. Proper keyword research needs to be undertaken for your new market or you risk missing out on what huge sections of your audience will be searching for.

For more information, visit asianabsolute.co.uk