This is Part 4 from our series Five Best Practices for the Translation of eLearning Content.

Plan for Translation

When writing and designing an eLearning/Training course, it is important to consider from the outset whether the course will be translated into other languages, even if it is only a possibility for the future. Planning for translation helps to make the translation process faster by avoiding potential issues from the start. Changes made during production have the ability to complicate and delay processing by requiring updates to be made across the many facets of an eLearning/Training course. However, these can be limited or avoided with thoughtful considerations about the written material, the design, and the platform.

Involve Target Language-Speakers in the Writing Process

One way to avoid issues in translation is to write the source text while collaborating with linguists in the desired target languages. It is important to do so to avoid writing content that may be difficult to translate. Working with a linguist can ensure that all of the text will work well culturally and contextually once translated into another language. It is much more expensive and time-consuming to rectify issues found after a document is translated, which requires making changes to approved static source content, which would need to be rewritten and re-approved before being sent out for translation again, and then re-formatted into the chosen program and all of its accompanying parts, with adjustments made to include the new material. The process is much simpler, and faster, if such corrections are avoided or caught early by working with a linguist, so that the document for translation is complete, approved, and final by the time it is sent out. If updates are unavoidable, any changes should be meticulously tracked to ensure quality and version control, and that all changes are made where necessary.

Consider Viewer Experience

Another way to improve the translation process is to consider the viewer’s, and the translator’s, experiences. This is especially important if extra features are going to be included in the eLearning/Training program like narration and audio/video content. These features can often be quite difficult to implement, but it can be done, if it is worth it for the viewer experience. Material split up into smaller pieces and more slides is easier for the viewer to follow and digest, and easier to work with for translation. Simpler content is more easily translated in context without confusion, and having smaller pieces of content makes it easier to move the segments to match them to audio and visual cues.

Work with an End Design in Mind

Along with writing content that works well for translation, it is also important to have plans in place for the design of the course, while the course is being written. Knowing the scope of the desired end product helps to ensure that all of the steps are planned for and taken to create that product. Any reference materials can be planned for and inserted into the material from the start, and corresponding materials in the target language(s) can be found if available. In addition, end specifications should be given at least prior to publishing. Specifications regarding outputs are often tied to the tool they use, and so having a fully-documented specification for all languages and any special features like audio, video, etc. is important to ensure that the generated final version matches the client’s desired product.

Consider the Project as a Whole

Translating an eLearning/Training course requires a lot of planning. A project will run more smoothly if the written content, audio/visual features, and design elements are created with translation in mind. Involving linguists during the writing of course content can help to ensure a more final and more easily translatable document. This can help to avoid changes to source material that will require implementation across all parts of the process, from translation to formatting. It is also important to consider the viewer experience and what is required to meet that experience, while also maintaining a budget and timeline, and to consider the steps necessary to create and implement that content. Finally, it is important to have the whole picture in mind before sending any material to translation. Taking these steps help to ensure that the translation process of an eLearning/Training project maintains a timeline and budget as best as possible.
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