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  • Writer's pictureRick White - Director of Client Services

3 Cultural Considerations When Developing Global eLearning Content

Creating successful training programs is a challenge for any organization. If your workforce is global, you’ll need to add the language and cultures of your employees to that challenge. How do you take these factors into account to ensure that all your learners receive the same key messages, and are given equal learning opportunities?

This is where a robust localization process comes to play.

While translation allows you to convert text from one language to another, the localization process adapts your content to be culturally relevant to a specific region and market. It is easy for the translated text to lose cultural significance and meaning for the learner if it is not suited properly to their needs. Localization allows you to take the learner’s culture and background into account, and as a result, experience consistent training outcomes for your organization.

To ensure a seamless, end-to-end product that educates and trains your employees of all cultures and backgrounds, here are some simple tips to consider when creating your English eLearning content.

1. Avoid Colloquial Language

Compared to other cultures, Americans tend to use colloquialisms more frequently. Chances are you’re using idioms, slang, and metaphors regularly, without even realizing it. While this type of colloquial speech may not seem like much to you, one simple idiom or line of slang can change the entire meaning and intent of a sentence for a non-native speaker.

It’s easier said than done to train yourself to catch these phrases when you are writing out all of your content. So we recommend getting in the habit of keeping your language as clear, concise, and simple as possible - even for complex topics. When you write simply, without embellishments, humor, or idioms, it's easier to translate the meaning and intent behind your sentence, no matter the language.

2. Respect Social Customs

Differences in social customs can dictate how learners participate with and understand your material. For example, in some Asian cultures, learners tend to be more passive than in American culture. While it’s common for American learners to participate vocally while learning, Asian learners can be a bit more subdued. Plus, some cultures even view the roles of their instructor differently than Americans in that they expect the instructor to take responsibility for their learning, rather than themselves.

Additionally, gender norms vary widely between different countries and cultures. It can be very easy to have a hidden gender bias without even realizing it, so it is important to look at the big picture of how the content comes across. Being culturally sensitive to various gender roles and expectations within your eLearning materials via the process of localization will provide a lot of value to your learners.

3. Be Careful With Visual Cues

Cultural backgrounds influence how images are perceived, no matter your original intent. For example, common hand gestures in America like the thumbs-up have negative connotations in other countries. The same goes with images featuring the subjects in perceived provocative situations and stances. While the picture may seem innocent to you, someone in a more conservative country may find it offensive to see males and females holding in a tight embrace, or wearing clothing that is low-cut and shows a lot of skin.

Color is also a huge graphic design factor to remember, as various color interpretations can impact the learner’s overall experience. For instance, in Korea, the name of a person should never be written in the color red, as this is an honor reserved for the dead. Yellow flowers carry negative connotations for Iranians and Mexicans, while white flowers are usually only used at funerals in Asian culture. The color black in the United States and Western Europe is typically thought of as the color of mourning, while other cultures use the color white.

The Benefits of Localization Services

When working with a global workforce, any organization must invest in the process of localization. Working with a translation and localization service provider will ensure your eLearning content is culturally appropriate while accommodating the needs and preferences of every learner.

At Language Intelligence, we help you speak the language of your learners. Our team is backed by linguists who can help to provide an end-to-end translation and localization service no matter the size or scope of your eLearning project.

Learn more information about our eLearning localization services by getting in touch today!


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