eLearning Localization

Have you ever faced the challenge of managing eLearning translation, or localization of training into other languages? It can be a little tricky. Especially, for those who have never made courses for a global audience.

If you find that your training will need to localized, don’t fall into the thinking that you don’t have to consider the localization until the original course is complete and approved. There are decisions that you can make during the early stages of course development that can make localization easier and save you time and dollars (learn more about localization here).

Let’s take a moment to consider three things when doing eLearning localization:

1. Graphic User Interface Design (GUI) and Button Design

When selecting buttons, especially buttons found within your Graphic User Interface (GUI), consider using buttons that are symbol-based versus buttons that are text-based. An example would be a home button being represented by a home icon (symbol) or the home button containing the world “Home” (text). Most all cultures understand the meaning of the house icon as “home” and do not require text on the button to explain its function. Utilizing buttons that can be understood by all cultures and languages will save you the time and money of having a new buttons created for each of your required languages.


(Money saving tip!) If you find you must create buttons that contain text, make sure that you save all of your original source files. Localization companies will charge a much heftier fee if they are not provided source files and must create new buttons from scratch.

2. Instructional Design Process

During this stage of development, an Instructional Designer will make sure that you indeed teach to your audience what you want them to learn. It is critical that you tell your Instructional Designer up front that your course will be localized. When developing the content, it is vital that it is written so it is applicable and non-offensive to all cultures. If there are distinct topics of your training (such as sexual harassment or gender in the workplace) that will not translate well to particular cultures, make sure to note these areas so they can be examined and redeveloped for a particular audience. This will save you tons of time.

3. Image Selection

Another item to consider is the selection of your images.  To avoid having to swap out images within different localized versions of your course, make sure that your images and graphics will be understood by individuals of all cultures and languages. Stay away from photos that have text, but rather, use images that can speak without words. For example, look at the two images below. One uses words to communicate while the other uses an image or symbol. Both images mean the same thing, but one will be understood only by an English speaking audience. If you select the image on the left, you will have to replace that image in each of your localized courses.



Extra Bonus Tip

Make sure that the images you select do not exclude a particular group or culture. For example, when used to enhance the topic of “currency,” which image below would ensure global inclusiveness?

American currency

American currency

currency from around the globe

currency from around the globe

Now you understand how to save time, money, and heartache. And hopefully you now have a solid understanding that having your course localized shouldn’t be a last minute idea or an afterthought that will be considered once the native course is complete. Lastly, when developing your training, keep the end product in mind and put yourself into the shoes of all of your end-users, not just the ones who live next store.

eLearning Brother Family Tip

Update 11/21/13: We recently another great tip by Benjamin Wade, an eLearning friend and member of the eLearning Family. He said, “Also, consider in your design that different languages will take up more or less space than the original language, and may be oriented in a different direction. So you’ll need to plan flexibility up front for different spacing requirements.” What a really important tip to keep in mind with your eLearning translation projects. Thanks again Benjamin. We really appreciate your great feedback.


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