Did you know that the worldwide eLearning market is projected to be worth $325 billion by 2025? Yes, that's billion with a 'b'. But to capture a bigger slice of that pie, you'll need to launch in foreign markets.
Okay, so that means translating the text and dubbing (or subtitling) the content, right? Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. You’ll need to localize the platform to adapt it to the linguistic, regional, and cultural differences that affect how people interact with it.
The localization process involves coding, market research, design, translation, and even voice-over talent. Fortunately, it isn’t as difficult as it sounds. A localization company can help with all of the above, but there are a few things you can do to make their job easier.
Here are five tips for a successful eLearning localization.
1. Internationalize Before Your Launch
Even if you don’t plan on launching in foreign markets initially, you still need a platform that can easily adapt to any language or region. That means enabling code that supports:
Different characters and symbols
Time and date formats
Any other regional differences
Although you can internationalize retroactively, it’s easier to localize a platform that already has the code for the changes you’ll need to make.
2. Get to Know the Target Market(s)
Just as you conducted market research for the English version of your eLearning platform, you’ll need to do the same for any international markets. Look beyond the typical metrics such as age, gender, educational attainment, and income, and dig into cultural differences you may need to address.
Say you want to launch a math app for kids ages 5 – 7 in Latin America. Since children are graded using a number system (1-10) there, it wouldn’t make sense to give them an “A+” when they get all the answers right.
3. Choose a Localization-friendly Design
You already know a good user experience is essential. It won’t matter how useful or informative your content if users have trouble navigating the platform. As you work with a designer, be sure to point out which elements may need to change during the localization process. That includes:
Typefaces and fonts. Although the words are used interchangeably, it’s helpful to know the difference. A typeface is the overall style of the lettering (Times New Roman, Arial, etc.). And a font is the size and weight of that typeface (Bolded Arial in 12 points.) You want to make sure any typeface you choose is clear and easy to read in the language of the target market.
Text boxes and white spaces. Characters in some languages take up more space than others. The same is true for words. A Spanish translation of English text can take up to 25% more space, for example. Make sure the designer knows she needs to leave enough white space for text boxes to account for this.
Images and graphics. You’ll want any images or graphics to reflect the culture of the target audience. That may mean swapping them out each time you launch in a new market. Before you start building the site, consider using a content management system that makes it easy to upload, replace, or delete images.
Symbols. Depending on the country, you may need to change symbols that indicate whether someone answered correctly. A green check and a red x may not make sense in every market. Nor will a thumbs up. Always consider how learners will perceive a symbol before you launch.
Colors. Colors hold different meanings in different cultures. While red is the color of passion in the West, it symbolizes good luck in China. As you work to localize your platform, let the designer know which colors need to change and why.
4. Write for Translation
If you already know that you want to launch in another language, why not make the translator’s job easier? Here are a few pointers for writing content that is easier to translate:
Write short simple sentences and short paragraphs. This will help ensure that the text will be clear and easy to read in other languages.
Use active voice whenever possible. It not only reads better in English in many cases, but it’s easier to translate.
Avoid jokes, idioms, and metaphors. These can be difficult to translate and may end up confusing users instead of helping.
5. Hire a Professional Translator and Voice-Over Talent
Although you may have someone on your team who speaks the language, you’re almost always better off hiring a professional translator. A good translator not only knows how to adapt the text to the target audience, but can provide guidance on:
Rules for hyphens and line breaks
If your e-course includes audio or video, a professional native voice-over artist can make all the difference. The speaker will know how to modify her voice to add context, and she'll make it easier for learners to understand the video.
Bonus: Test Before You Launch
As with any product, you should take it for a test drive before you launch. Even if you don’t know the language, navigate through the different sections to see how they look. And don’t forget to open it in different browsers and on different devices with different bandwidths.
If someone on your team speaks the language, ask them to give it a review. Have them pay particular attention to any major translation errors, symbols, or images that could interfere with the learning experience.
Working with a Localization Company
Localizing your eLearning platform for a new market may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. By following the tips above, you’ll help ensure a successful partnership with your provider and start the road toward international success.