This is Part I from our series Five Best Practices for the Translation of eLearning Content.
The way you design course material can make a big difference when it comes to translating that material for another culture. From a translator perspective, costs and difficulty go up when there is content that requires extensive reworking to make it understandable in another language. These costs pass through to you with every language you require. Fortunately, you can avoid this by considering a few simple things early in the course design process:
Who is going to be using this course? What commonality do you have with them and where will you lose them? Avoid using acronyms without clearly defining them and regional references that won’t resonate in another culture (sports metaphors are a prime example, i.e. ‘He knocked it out of the park’). Religious references (unless you are writing about a religious practice) are especially problematic. These provide an opportunity for confusion, misunderstanding, or even offence in a target language, even if they provide embellishment, clarity, or humor in the source language. For eLearning translation it is best to keep content as neutral as possible, while still getting the desired ideas across, so that they translate into other languages and cultures as well.
It is much easier to translate material that has been written with the intent of translation, rather than to have to go back and change a static document in the midst of translation. Using direct language that is researched, reviewed, and specific to the subject of the course material, minimizes the opportunity for mistranslation. It is important to meet the needs of the course while also maintaining the tone and interaction experience desired, while considering how that experience will come across in the target languages.
It is very important to ensure that, once the material is written, it is correct before it is sent to translation. Making changes in the midst of the translation process can add steps and create a ripple effect, especially if it is being translated into multiple languages and multiple media formats like video voiceover or audio. It is important to ensure that any terms, names, figures, measurements, etc., are correctly spelled, calculated (i.e. decimal into metric) and included, and that the content is reviewed by experts in the field. It may seem simple, but small problems not found before or at the beginning of the project have the potential to grow into big headaches later on.
Preparation is key when writing for translation. If you consider the steps necessary to create the same engaging and worthwhile experience in other languages while creating your training/eLearning project, it will help you to write the best program possible for all audiences. With the proper research, language choice, and quality checks, eLearning translation can be a smooth and more cost efficient process.