3 Essential Hints for Translating Your Virtual Training

by Allan Dodson

Any training professional will tell you that consistency is an important key to rolling out a company-wide initiative. Every worker, from Bangor, Maine, to Honolulu, Hawaii, must get the same message so they can perform tasks in the same way. For many companies, eLearning has been a revelation, providing easily duplicated activities-based training from coast to coast.

But what about your workers in Seoul? Or Moscow? Or Lisbon? For international companies, global training consistency can be challenging. Even if your training department speaks every language in your company’s portfolio (which they most likely do not), training can still be tripped up by cultural differences. A sentence or remark that plays in Peoria might be offensive in Oslo. If you’re dealing with 20 or more languages, the task of translation — or even finding a good translation company — can be daunting.

Fortunately, Interpro is well versed in training translation, with a wealth of experience in eLearning as well. And experience is important. Senior Project Manager Adriana Romano points out that translating a Storyline course can mean translating a number of items, including on-screen content, audio overlays, videos, graphics, navigation controls, interactive assessments, attached documents, and even mouse cursor movement captures.

Your translators have to be up to the task, but there are many things you can do to help them along. Here are three hints for great translations to get your global workforce on the same page.

Hint #1: Prepare Your Content

One of the best ways to wind up with great translations is to create content that is easily translatable. Christie Wroten, writing for eLearning Industry, provides several ideas on preparing content. A few important thoughts are:

  • Avoid idioms and colloquialisms. Every culture loves their colloquialisms, but few cultures share the same sayings and idioms. A local phrase may end up “lost in translation.” I recall a story of a friend who spent a great deal of time trying to explain the punning phrase, “If it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it,” to a Spanish-speaking cab driver who was equal parts amused and bemused by this non-translatable phrase.
  • Provide plenty of space for on-screen content. If your text boxes are the perfect size for English content, chances are pretty good they’ll be too small for some other languages. Give your words room to breathe, and you’ll save valuable time and money when it’s time to translate.
  • Check your images. Do you have a wonderful photograph with an American flag fluttering in the background? Yeah, you can probably see why that would be a problem. Be sure your images have universal and global appeal.

Hint #2: Localize!

A few years back, a young lady became a YouTube sensation by translating popular American songs into other languages and then translating them back into English. The results were often strange and hilarious. But, of course, you’re not going for “strange and hilarious” with your training, right? The best translations are NOT just word-for-word. Taking local cultures into account is an essential part of global training.

As Business Development Manager, Dean Haman, says, “[. . .] when people are presented with content in their native language, it creates an inclusive and welcoming environment for all. Statistics show that 90% of people prefer learning in their native language. By giving your learners a course that they can understand, you show that you care.”

One of the best ways to be sure your translations have local color is to use local talent — native speakers of the language who have lived (or who currently live) in the cultural environment. They’ll be able to advise you on hitting just the right note with the local crowd. And be sure to test your translations with in-country people before letting your training go out into the world.

Hint #3: Train Your Translators

You would never, ever send someone out to conduct a training session if that person didn’t understand the intent of the training, would you? Yet we often provide “just words” to translators without giving the training the proper context. If your translators can actually experience the training, they’ll do a much better job translating for a worldwide audience.

Be sure your translators understand the content and the purpose of the training. Connect them with SMEs in your company who can instruct them on the finer points of the content. It’s pretty simple: More knowledge = better translations. It takes a little extra time up front, but the benefits are enormous.

Translating virtual training does not have to be difficult. Start with an experienced company that you can trust, and provide them with easily translatable materials along with content knowledge that will allow them to make the best decisions. Your training will move hearts, minds, and bodies, from Kalamazoo to Kathmandu!

Allan Dodson is so much more than a writer and instructional designer. He’s helped develop strategy in Fortune 500 boardrooms, and he’s taught acting skills to 4th graders. He’s developed training programs for everything from hair highlighting to pest control to DSL lines, and he’s made presentations to C-level execs, teachers (tough crowd!) and all workforce levels. In short, he has the experience, versatility, creativity, and energy to move projects large and small, and he’s ready for any challenge. Allan is currently an Innovator within ttcInnovations’ contractor network.