Gino Dino
By
December 17, 2020

A Fundamental Guide to Smooth Training Translation Process

guide to training materials translation-1For companies looking to engage new geographical markets, training material translation comes hand in hand with expansion.

 

Whether you want more breadth of reach or depth of market penetration — if you have your feet on the ground and a workforce that requires onboarding, uptraining, or cross-training in a different language, you’ll need e-learning translation.

 

The problem is that you might not know how to proceed in a way that maximizes your investment.

In the decade and a half that ATL’s been providing localization and translation services for clients around the world, we know by experience that anything from software localization to marketing translation can be daunting for companies for many different reasons.

 

 


 

 

 

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In your case, if you’re looking to localize e-learning and training materials, you might even be wondering if it’s worth partnering with a translation agency for a full-fledged project when simple document translation might be enough.



The short answer: it most definitely is.

 

Participants in e-learning have been shown to retain five times more material without increasing the time spent in learning, and every dollar invested in online training has been proven to result in $30 worth of productivity increase, according to research from IBM.

 

 


 

 

 

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You already implement your own training regimens for your current teams, so localizing those materials for new languages and cultures is a no-brainer. Your most pressing concern is how to make the entire training material translation process as smooth as possible.

 


Preparing for the Translation Project

 

 

preparing for translation project

 


The most important facet of translating training material is the same as e-learning: ensuring the accurate understanding and transfer of knowledge.

 

Localizing the material of an entire training course into five languages by simply directly translating the words just won’t work.

 

 


 

 

 

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Properly localizing e-learning ensures student or trainee engagement in order to motivate them to learn and comply. This means taking into consideration international formats, cultural and contextual nuances, appropriate imagery, and more.

While not every project concerning translating training material is the same, there are general guidelines that should help you evaluate what you need to consider when localizing e-learning.

 


Who is Your Target Audience for the Proposed Training?

 

 

target audience for translation of training materials

 


The student and learning profiles between your current and international teams differ not just in language but also in culture.

 

Beyond that, cultural differences can further branch into popular references, workplace culture, lifestyles, and norms, among others. Understanding your learners and updating student profiles for your training material is a key factor in maximizing their engagement and thus their benefits from e-learning.

Zeroing in on your learner profiles for every target language ensures that you translate the training material in a way that maximizes their engagement and thus their acquisition and transfer.

 

 


 

 

 

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For example, according to a study performed by Carnegie Melon University on cultural variations in learning, the differences between the student-teacher relationships in Western and Eastern cultures could very well dictate a different approach to classroom-based training sessions.

 

In the University research paper, a Korean undergraduate is quoted as saying “In my country, students learn one way: from teacher to student. In the U.S., students learn many ways.” Another student reflects on Chinese learning norms: “In my country, there is a hierarchic relationship between teachers and students. Students must pay absolute respect to teachers. For instance, a student can’t interrupt the teacher by asking questions.”

 

 

What Knowledge Can the Proposed Training Provide?

 

 

knowledge symbol i.e translated training materials

 


This would ultimately depend on whether you’re doing onboarding, uptraining, cross-training, or something else entirely. Understanding what gaps there are to fill helps identify whether you already have the training materials to be translated, if you need more, or if you might need to merge some modules or use different tools or platforms for e-learning delivery.

Identifying these gaps, the processes, and tools to fill them reveals what technologies and methodologies you already use that can safely be adapted, which ones you need to change, and what you need to add.

 

For example, due to new standards stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, your original classroom-based learning modules will need to be delivered through synchronous webinar platforms complemented by asynchronous e-learning modules designed to emulate practical experience.

 

In this case, the localization required far exceeds translating the words in the slides your instructors are projecting in training rooms.

 

 


 

 

 

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It is also important to note that “gaps” in this sense need not be small. The gap could be a skill gap, which is usually the case and what companies often want to remedy through translating training material.

 

It could also be a process maturity gap where the training team process is not at the same level as your current team, so the learning curve is more significant.

 

 


 

 

 

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Then there are cases where the knowledge being acquired and transferred does not apply to the team being trained.

One example is an e-commerce company that needed sales process training translated into Japanese. They realized after completing the translation of over 40 modules that the sales process or strategy being translated didn’t align with Japanese business culture. The Japanese team had to modify the sales strategy before adapting the translated training material.

 


What Base Version is Available for Localization Into Multiple Languages?

 

 

business team assessing content on computer

 


The base version is the original source for all materials to be translated.

 

In most cases you already have a finished training curriculum that you want to localize into various languages. That is your base version. However, what you need is a scrubbed base version with neutral language and zero cultural references to ensure that it’s easy to adapt into other languages and cultures.

 

 


 

 

 

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Do you already have a completed course that simply needs to be scrubbed into a neutral version? Will your base version suffice for every language based on the first two guidelines, or will it require some changes?

 

Do you need new base versions, for example for businesses expanding into new markets with entirely new processes where no training material currently exists?

Scrubbing the base version often comes with very detailed requirements, but overall, you’ll need to:

  • Review all textual elements to prepare for issues in localization such as idiom use and humor and other generally culture-dependent factors. This requires a native speaker and ideally an in-country reviewer to help with the evaluation and preparation of a completely neutral base version.

  • Review the length of all text translations and if they fit into the training materials layout once translated, as text expansion or contraction can take time to correct when discovered too late. This would require coordination between translators and graphic artists and/or software developers depending on the format of the training materials.

  • Review all non-text elements such as graphics (illustrations and photos) and videos with in-country native reviewers to ensure no offensive, questionable, or irrelevant material gets by. Avoiding potentially offensive graphical elements is self-explanatory, but ensuring relevance in graphics is sometimes put to the side.

    Remember that the goal of e-learning is the accurate understanding and transfer of knowledge, which in turn relies on student engagement. Irrelevant elements reduce engagement and are detrimental to learning and training.

  • Review the tone, voice, even gender of any voice actors for audio voiceovers or dubbing in the training materials, for cultural nuance and accuracy. Again, the inclusion of an in-country, native speaker is quite important.


Naturally, factors identified during the course of exploring the earlier guidelines will need to be addressed. For instance, if the base version training material is mostly textual content but you realize that the target audience will benefit most from audio-visual material, the localization then expands beyond text translation and layout concerns, and into voice dubbing.

 

 


 

 

 

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In some cases, the base version increases in content volume from the actual original source in English, or its original language. This is due to some international teams needing new platforms, new formats, or new approaches that will work best for them.

In our experience, each client will have different needs based on their industry, experience, market penetration, and budget, among others.

 

So, it is indeed true that it will be by a case to case basis, but these three guidelines form a good foundation for the evaluation of what it takes to translate your training material. While they’re not definitive nor exhaustive, keep in mind each guideline can be expanded upon, broken down, or adapted as needed.

 


What Does the Process of Training Materials Translation Look Like?

 

 

illustration of i.e training materials translation process

 


The process or flow of translating training material generally follows a single route:

  • Evaluate the material for localization - using the guidelines above, consider what needs to be done and how.

  • Prepare all relevant materials for translation - extract all text from original formats, which ranges from transcribing video scripts into text, to simply taking all the text from a presentation.

  • Localization - the actual process of translating everything required, from the text to the audio.

  • Client review of translation - before everything is put back together, ideally an initial round of reviews is carried out to make sure translations are accurate and up-to-spec.

  • Revision - in case there are any revisions required after the initial client review. This step can also mean additions instead of revisions, since during the initial review it might dawn on the reviewers that additional content may be needed.

  • Adding in multimedia - this includes the new graphics, recording of audio and voice lines, and anything multimedia other than text. This is most important for audio-visual material, as e-learning material without audio or video elements might not need a separate process and all the recommended replacements and adjustments for graphics, illustrations, photos, charts, and diagrams can be reviewed during the initial client review.

  • Review of multimedia - a second round of reviews for translated multimedia material.

  • Second round of revisions or additions - again, mostly for the multimedia material.

  • Putting it all together - this is the multilingual desktop publishing (DTP) or localization engineering part, where all translations are put into their formats and platforms.

  • Final QA - the direct testing step involving beta users who are native speakers and ideally stakeholders in the process so that their input can be put into the proper context of e-learning.

 

 

Who Should Translate Training Materials?

 

 

illustration of teams to choose for translation

 

 

There are quite a few potential areas of failure or delay, which is why companies often partner with translation companies to deliver on-time, on-budget, and on-spec.

 

You may want to attempt to translate your training materials in-house, using your Sales & Marketing team or freelance translators. Just make sure to weigh all the pros and cons of these solutions.

 

If you decide to hire translation services, they will help you evaluate the project and walk you through the process from start to finish to maximize your investment in training materials translation.

 


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