Expert Tips: How To Do eLearning Localization Right

The Internet has permanently changed the way people learn. Education, business, even hobby interests are now taught online. If you offer an eLearning resource only in English, you are missing out on literally millions of potential students.

You can expand your audience even further by considering eLearning localization for your course.

Ponder this:

There’s no question the Internet is shrinking the world, making information from far-flung places as accessible as the corner library. But cultural divides are as big as they ever were.

In the U.S. alone, more than 67 million people speak a primary language other than English at home. And while English may be “the language of business,” it’s inaccessible to at least 75 percent of the world’s population.

With so many non-English speakers in play, the reasons for translating eLearning courses are clear. But “translating” is not as simple as it might seem. Localization plays a key role in translating eLearning courses.

Why eLearning Localization is Critical

The eLearning boom has created exponential growth in the availability of robust, user-friendly tools like Rise 360. These applications make it easy to build high-quality courses with little technical background.

One thing many of these elearning platforms can’t do, however, is accurately translate your course into a different language. And to be frank, that’s probably a good thing.

Google Translate Fail

Today’s course creators have learned to look beyond translation and search for eLearning localization. Human translation (HT) has been proven to be far superior to machine translation.

If translation converts material to a target language, localization converts it for a target culture. It takes translation to the next level. For example, say you want your online class to be available in French. D’accord.

But wait. Do the French speakers you’re targeting live in France? Senegal? Haiti? Canada?

One language, four very different cultural lenses.

Localization considers cultural nuance. A translated course may be grammatically correct, but a localized course is culturally correct. The colors, symbols, date formats, units of measurement, and colloquialisms in localized material all make sense to the viewer and convey the intended message of the course.

Elements Of Quality Localization

Localization is critical to ensuring learners get the full benefit of your eLearning course. Quality localization ensures all eLearners have the same experience regardless of which version they use.

Relevant Cultural Examples

Your localization partner should be well versed in the regional dialect of the area you are targeting. If a company promises they can translate your course into Spanish, be sure to specify whether their translators are familiar with all the nuances between European, Mexican, and Puerto Rican dialects.

Some eLearning material, like technical training, requires little cultural interpretation. Other material, like sales training, can be heavily dependent on cultural context. You need a translation partner who not only understands how the language differs between the Netherlands and Suriname, but also variations in norms and customs.

You might not think about the importance of localizing things like currency symbols or units of measurement. But telling eLearners in Europe that a machine part is rotating at 150 miles per hour probably won’t make the impact you’re hoping for. Learners who have spent their lives using the metric system may have a limited frame of reference for whether “150 miles per hour” is fast, moderate, or slow.

Text Expansion and Contraction

When your eLearning course includes written material, video, or both, you need a translation partner with multimedia capabilities (often called Multilingual Desktop Publishing). Text often expands or contracts in translation, and if you don’t account for this, video images won’t match the narration and written material may run off the screen.

Choose a translation partner who offers the ability to work with various project source files (multimedia project files, eLearning course authoring files, etc.) allowing all of your eLearners to have the same high-quality experience and positive outcomes.

Visual Elements

Even if the translation is pristine, unfamiliar visual elements can leave eLearners confused or feeling like outsiders.

When localizing your eLearning course, take care to use imagery with diverse people so learners see someone who looks like them.

Some symbols are universally understood, but other images and even colors can take on very different meanings in different parts of the world. Your translation partner should work with you to make sure the visual elements in the translated course all align with the intended messages.

User Experience

A conscientious translation partner will take care to localize all parts of the user experience. Date and time formats, hover-over text, and navigation buttons are some of the little details that are easy to miss in the translation process but are hard for eLearners taking the course to ignore.

The eLearning Localization Process

For the fastest and smoothest experience, look for a partner who can shepherd your entire project through localization from beginning to end.

Multilingual Glossary

Depending on the course subject, your partner might suggest developing a multilingual glossary before the project starts. The translation provider will review any previous translations you’ve had done and any internal glossaries you use to familiarize translators with words, terms, and acronyms likely to come up in your material. If a client has a linguistic SME (Subject Matter Expert), it is key for your translation partner to work in tandem with your linguistic reviewer(s) to establish the baseline for the approved glossary terms.

Establishing a multilingual glossary of your preferred terms before the project starts keeps your translated eLearning course on brand and reduces the need for revisions later in the project.

If you are likely to have ongoing needs for translation, work with a partner who uses translation memory (TM) technology, which stores your translations in a database so the same terms can be easily retrieved for future projects. Working with TM tools ensures consistency of terminology from project to project, and allows for efficiencies which enable the work to get faster without compromising quality.

Visual Content

The eLearning localization process begins with localizing the visual content of the course, including navigation and interactive content. If your translation provider uses in-country translators, you have an extra layer of confidence that the finished course will be culturally appropriate.

Audio Content

The audio content is next to be localized. Professional translators translate the script and review pronunciations before native speakers trained as voice actors record the audio. Voiceover recording should be conducted in a professional studio-setting with a director, and sound editing work engineered into the eLearning course files prior to delivery.


Once the audio and visuals are synchronized, the course is validated. Validation should be a key part of a professional localization process. Once the course is published, native speakers fully QA the course by actually taking it from start to finish – including quizzes and assessments – to make sure that nothing has been missed.

Finally, the course is published to your specifications, ready to be presented to your multilingual audience of eLearners!

Other Related Articles to eLearning Localization:

Translating Your Rise Course is Easier – and More Important – Than You Think