eLearning Translation Optimization FAQs
Updated: Sep 23
There are a number of steps eLearning course creators can take to make translation faster and more cost-effective. These FAQs address these steps from the perspective of our eLearning translation project managers.
Translating eLearning courses, with their many media types and specialized learning management systems (LMSs), present some unique challenges. If you are able to take the following things into consideration during the authoring process, you’ll see faster translation turnarounds and more culturally accurate results.
How do I optimize Video and Audio?
Do your courses include multi-media components? These can be the biggest challenge for translation vendors. Finding voiceover talent, editing content that may be significantly longer or shorter in length when translated, editing the new tracks into the source files…all can be costly and challenging.
Perhaps the simplest decision you can make to cut costs for multi-media translation is to choose to subtitle rather than overdub. Subtitles don’t require voice talent, however there is evidence that learners do better with audio in their language read by a native speaker. If your target languages are common and in wide use, it will be easier to solve these challenges. If you’re delivering training in less common languages you’re going to need an extended timeline. Discuss this with your language service provider (LSP) at the beginning. They will build their quote based on the time required to find and manage these processes.
What do I need to know about Localization?
Course designers should do research on acceptable communication practices in the country where the courses will be delivered. For most major markets there are cultural guides available to help you navigate the waters without mystifying or insulting your learners. Getting this right when you write the course will ensure it is more effective when translated.
Often, your translation project manager can help with these localization challenges, based on their experience managing many translations for many kinds of content. Pick their brains.
Should we provide Scripts and Transcripts?
If you are translating audio, supplying a script or a transcript with the source files will speed up the process. Otherwise your LSP will have this done and bill you for it, a step that lengthens turnaround time. Another advantage of providing a script is that the LSP can quickly spot language that may represent a challenge from a pronunciation, length, or cultural perspective. Ideally they should see this before your record your source language audio so any required changes can be made.
Who handles Desktop Publishing (DTP) for the translated content?
Taking text content from a design file and translating it often requires some redesign to make the translated content fit into the design. Unless your designer speaks the target language, it is best to let the LSP have their experienced multi-lingual DTP designers manage the process. Make sure you provide the original design files rather than exporting the text, which takes it out of context.
What is the recommended method for Delivering Files For Translation?
To put it bluntly, send all the files you have created. We love XML files but providing context for the translators is critical. Seeing the layouts, visuals, learning flows and how the course engineering is structured makes a big difference. Try to avoid revising course content after you’ve sent it out for translation. Otherwise you’re going to pay for those revisions.
What Courseware (LMS) Platforms do you work in?
We work in all the major courseware applications. There is a list of them on our eLearning web page. If you have a proprietary platform or process or use a platform we haven’t worked in, share or let us know so we can familiarize ourselves with it. Most platforms will export and import XML files, the preferred general format for translation workflows. We can help you with any issues you run into if you select this option.
Why PDFs are not good (really not good!)
Sending PDF versions of designs or screenshots is going to cause a lot of extra work on the translation side, so much so that we’ve written a blog post explaining why they are so problematic.
PowerPoint decks and slide decks in general
Slides basically fall under the DTP challenge but text length changes can affect information flows and animated transitions. This is one place where having your source PPT or slide authoring files is critical so we can duplicate or adapt the functionality. One important tip that can apply to many of the content pieces referenced here is to not hardcode or embed text into an image. It should sit in a text layer above the image. Hard-coded text can require us to reproduce the entire graphic from scratch so we can add the translation.
SCORM and xAPI, publishing and compatibility
SCORM and the Experience API (xAPI) were created to help learning content flow across various platforms. However, not all platforms implement these protocols in the same ways. If this compatibility is a requirement, as it often is with government and DOD training materials, check in with us to make sure we can maintain these standards during the translation and reformatting processes.
We realize that this article is really a wish list for translation project managers and that many of these ideal circumstances simply won’t happen. But if your course designers and project managers are aware of them and anticipate them you will definitely avoid roadblocks and unnecessary expense.