Challenges in E-Learning Translations and Why They Are Essential

E-learning has boomed in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic, making it one of the world’s fastest-growing and most profitable global markets. Naturally, this has generated increased demand for translations related to online learning, especially as global technology adoption and work-from-home policies attract people from all over the world. Below, we share some of the unique challenges these translations pose and why they’re worth the time and investment.

What are E-learning translations?

E-learning translations include any type of educational content delivered electronically, chiefly corporate onboardings and orientations, virtual training or professional development webinars, online modules, online courses, and other instructional material. Because this content is intended to teach and inform audiences, it must be uniquely engaging, clear, and user-friendly, as well as provide seamless technical interactions.

Main challenges with E-learning translations

The nature of E-learning lends itself to several challenges when translating. In particular, it requires special attention to user experience, cultural context, and quality assurance.

User Experience

If you’ve ever endured a clunky onboarding module full of glitches or fuzzy graphics, you know how quickly attention can be lost due to a poor user interface. E-learning grapples with numerous translation features that challenge user-friendliness. Text expansion or contraction between languages, for example, can cause the text to no longer fit within key interactive elements like clickable buttons or animations. Furthermore, this type of translation often involve videos; when translated into a new language, the speaker’s voiceover of their translated lines may no longer match the speed or motion of images in the original.

Cultural Specificity

Translating E-learning presents a problem of cultural specificity: if you’re localizing your E-learning content for another culture, how can you make sure it translates effectively? This is especially important when it comes to visuals, humor, and pop culture references, since what’s fun and engaging in one country or language may be offensive or simply confusing in another. For instance, while U.S. audiences may “get” a niche reference to the rules of American football, the same reference used in any other country will likely result in blank stares.

Quality Assurance and Version Management

In addition to problems related to translating text and images themselves, there’s a logistical issue with E-learning translations: version management. For companies that are spread widely across the globe, operating in multiple languages and offices, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain comprehensive updates for E-learning content. Quality assurance is more crucial than ever, but also harder to implement.

Why translations are essential for E-learning

If they’re so tricky, are they really worth it? The answer is a resounding yes. Companies that aspire to a global reach now have the global workforce to go with it. Not only are remote and flexible work options extremely popular among workers, but from an employer perspective, they open the doors wide to a global talent pool.

To onboard and train international team members, E-learning in multiple languages is essential. It might seem obvious to say, but people learn better when material is presented in their native language and in a culturally relevant fashion. In fact, depending on your location, translated content is also the law—regulatory compliance policies could mandate that employee handbooks, inclusiveness policies, and other training materials be translated if a certain percentage of your workforce does not primarily speak English.

For the best results, professional language service providers should cover all aspects of the E-learning translation process, including multimedia designers and project managers on their teams alongside expert linguists.

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