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Mar 13

If You’re in eLearning, Translation Glossaries are Your Friends

Let’s say you’re designing an instructional course on software designed to help your client’s sales team more efficiently keep track of their quarterly targets. Or maybe your client is in the pharmaceuticals industry and she’s come to you to design an online course intended to keep her employees up to date on all the latest industry regulations.

Let’s go one step further and say that in either scenario your client gives you two months to develop the course. Maybe at first two months doesn’t seem like a big deal, but then your client asks for the course to be available in six languages. And on top of that she wants people on her team to review the translated courses once they’re completed.

You think, somewhat nervously, “okay, I guess I’ll just create this course and send it over to a translation provider. No big deal.” You think it couldn’t take more than a few days—after all, it’s not like the course is being redesigned from scratch. It’s just being taken from one language and put into another. “Can’t we just call Google?”

While it’s tempting to think of translation as a fast and straightforward process, company- or industry-specific terms can very easily lead to delays if they aren’t used in the translation the way your client anticipated. That’s when client review becomes client re-work.

If your client gave you a tight deadline, going back and forth between your translation provider and client with revisions on the full text isn’t going to do anything but make everyone feel a little bit more than overwhelmed. But there’s one proactive step you can take to avoid long-term hassles: create a glossary.

Creating a Translation Glossary Will Save You Money

Well, actually it’s your translation provider who creates the glossary, not you. Your end client reviewers would just need to review and approve the translations in the glossary. But what is it really about glossaries that make them so special? And why should you have your translation provider create one before they localize your eLearning content?

At first you may think: “Do we really have to create a glossary first? Isn’t that just going to delay the project? Can’t we just dive straight into the translation?” Sure, we could dive straight into translating your existing content, but you risk delaying the project even more and spending more money (roughly 15% more¹) if you don’t have your translation provider create a glossary at the beginning.

Last year, just to give one example, we had a client send us a short survey and invitation email for Japanese. The end client wound up rewriting the translations during the in-country review stage because without a glossary, there was no way for our linguists to know how the end client expected the company-specific terms to be translated.

The cost for implementing those changes near the end of the project? Roughly $200. While that may not seem like a lot (it was a small project, after all), consider the fact that our quote for creating a glossary, which would have prevented most of these changes, was around $100.

The Process for Creating a Glossary for eLearning Courses

When linguists create a glossary for your eLearning course, they’ll first sift through all written content and screenshots for any company-, industry-, or course-specific terms and compile them in a spreadsheet. Those terms are then sent to translators for the different languages your client requested.

While the general rule for most translation projects is that you send reference materials to your translation provider—such as documentation, screenshots, or software—to ensure terminology is consistent across different forms of content, it’s especially important that you send along reference materials when it comes to eLearning courses.

That’s because the translation process for eLearning courses is often more complex than regular translation jobs. Your course may be filled with voiceover audio files or subtitles. You might have text-based animations that need to be synched with recorded audio. There might be interactive buttons that open up screenshots of a specific UI component of the software the course is designed to train users on.

There are many variables that a translation provider will have to consider, but one things for certain: across all these variables, terminology should be consistent.

Once the translators are done translating the glossaries, you’ll receive them and then send them off to your clients for approval. There may be some initial back and forth, but once your clients have signed off on the glossaries, your translation provider can get to work on localizing your courses. And when it comes time for the final full translation review, the terminology will be there, translated exactly as the end client expected.

As with any project, the more preparation you put into it, the bigger the payoff. While it may seem like the actual translation process is being forestalled by first going through a glossary creation process, the amount of time you actually wind up saving on the back end is well worth the initial investment.

But that’s not all—your translation provider will be able to use that same glossary in the future when you throw similar project their way, allowing you to reap the benefits well into the future.

If you’re interested in learning more about our eLearning translation services and how we might be able to help you, check out our eLearning localization page to get a little more insight into our capabilities.

¹ http://content.lionbridge.com/how-to-create-a-translation-style-guide-and-terminology-glossary/

Daniel Stächelin

As Editor and Writer, Client Insights, Daniel is responsible for both internal and client-facing content. A writer with a sincere dedication to his work, he combines his analytical skills and creativity to bring new insights and clarity to any given subject he writes about. Formerly the Editorial and Inbound Marketing Assistant at Language Intelligence, Daniel has proven his keen ability to research, edit, and write. He has worked as a freelance editor, journalist, and German to English translator for a number of online publications. He holds a BA in German Studies with a minor in Professional Writing from UC Davis and an MA in Literary Translation Studies from the University of Rochester.

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