As humans, we are constantly learning. Your customers want to learn about the features of your product or service. Your sales team wants to get up to speed about the latest innovations in your new release. Your company’s support units need to know your product inside-out to deliver great service to customers. Finally, your employees may want to familiarize themselves with the new systems you are implementing.
Thus, the need to learn is everywhere and high-quality training material is key to a successful launch of any product or adoption of new processes. Yet no matter how intuitive your product or software is, there will always be some kind of learning curve that users will have to endure. How easily one goes through that curve depends on the quality and availability of training material.
For global corporations, it inevitably points to the need to localize training content. This brings several benefits:
- Consistency of brand image. A lovely-looking product brochure means nothing if the instructions are either not in the local language or have been translated with many errors.
- A shorter learning curve. It leads to a better product experience, which can generate word-of-mouth marketing.
- Less pressure on call centers and other supporting business units. Users understand your product properly, thanks to your training material, which in turn triggers fewer calls to customer support.
But quality localization of learning content often proves to be difficult for many companies. It’s usually because they neglect one or all of the below best practices.
1. Provide for eLearning localization from the start
Production of training material in global companies is typically part of a larger program that includes the development of a product or service or the launch of a new software release. The localization of both the product and training material is typically managed by the same person.
With such demanding programs, it is all too common for the training material to slide down on the list of priorities. When this happens, the quality criteria for training localization tends to slip as well. As a result, training material is not localization-ready and is done on a ‘best-effort’ basis.
2. Strive for clarity
Remember: ambiguity in, ambiguity out. If your documents in the source language are chocked full of ambiguous, superfluous and long sentences, the translation may not convey accurate messages. And, a clear relationship between the text and visual elements may go missing. You also need to avoid idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms that may not translate well. If they must be used, footnotes need to be provided to the translators.
For training videos that include animations and voice-over, establish a clear script with verbal cues that link the animations with the spoken word. You don’t want your language service provider (LSP) guessing when to launch an animation.
Beware of embedded items such as videos, links to external webpages or other sources, and animations. Consider carefully whether these also need to be localized for a complete understanding of the material.
3. Provide context
Sometimes, the production of training material is outsourced. When this is combined with the LSP not being involved from the start, localization can quickly become chaotic. The LSP often has to work without valuable context information, which can really make or ruin translations.
Individual source files are handed over without the translators or LSP having visibility and knowledge of the three contextual elements that are necessary for producing meaningful localization:
- Knowing the user. This is helpful in determining the right tone and terminology to be used. The most typical groups of end-users are customers and internal groups such as sales, product support, or software users. The language used for these two audiences might determine factors such as formal versus informal and technical versus non-technical language.
- Knowing the product. Having at least a basic understanding of the product or service gives the localization professional the context they need to provide meaningful translations. A typical example is training on a software product. If the translator is not aware of the purpose or flow of an application, there is a risk of producing disjointed, incoherent translations.
- Keeping it all together. Training material typically consists of various formats and files that are, content-wise, all connected to each other. If one or some of these are handed over to the translators without visibility into the full package, translation quality can easily become inconsistent. Knowing how all files will eventually fit together in the end product can help translators connect the dots textually by troubleshooting issues in the source material and creating consistency in translations.
In our experience, we have found that more often than not, many pain points in globalization can be avoided if localization of training material is treated on par with that of the product. Companies that equally support both domestic and international customers and employees understand this well. Indeed, the promise of marketing is delivered through high-quality instruction videos and tutorials that help optimize the user experience, regardless of language or location.