Here are some tips to ensure delivery of a consistent and efficient multilingual e-learning programme.

Remember that there are two ways you can go about it. You can leave it all to your e-learning vendor and trust them to outsource to the right Language Service Provider (LSP), or you can have your e-learning vendor work alongside your preferred LSP.

Localising e-learning courses is primarily an exercise in translation and localisation engineering, so if you’re happy with your current LSP it normally makes sense to use them, guaranteeing translation continuity and consistency with previous translated materials.

Develop the build with localisation in mind

Right from the briefing stage notify your e-learning vendor that the course will be translated into foreign languages so they can develop a build with localisation in mind. You should warn them if you intend to have the course made available in right-to-left languages such as Arabic or Hebrew so they ensure the build can easily be converted.

Through sensible design the localisation engineering work can be minimised, with translatable text appearing in easily-translated xml and html files instead of Flash and image files. Read more about e-learning and Flash localisation to find out how you can save time and money by having your original build designed in a localisation-friendly way.

Choose your LSP carefully

Whether you engage an LSP to work alongside your e-learning vendor or allow the latter to subcontract localisation, there are some key points to consider when selecting an LSP:

  • Do they use professional translators and reviewers with expert knowledge of your industry plus experience translating learning materials?
  • Do they have a documented localisation process which includes translation, editing, QA, and scope for client reviews?
  • Are they certified to a quality standard such as ISO or BS:EN 15038?
  • Do they offer intelligent, long-term management of translation assets, e.g. terminology glossaries and translation memories?
  • Can they provide skilled voice artists and recording studios if required?

Put your vendors in direct contact

If you decide to engage an LSP to work alongside your e-learning vendor, you should put them in direct contact. This way they can agree on a proposed schedule as well as discuss technical and process issues together, and avoid using you as a postman.

Take advantage of translation memories

Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) Tools (not to be confused with Machine Translation) save each segment of translation in a database called a translation memory (TM), allowing them to re-use each time the same segment of text appears for translation in the current or any future project. As well as ensuring consistency within your translated course, using a CAT tool will reduce the cost and timescale of future projects and updates.

Just as importantly, using a CAT tool translators can work directly into the build or source html, xml and JavaScript files. With this technology widely available it’s almost never a good idea to translate a storyboard then copy and paste the translated text manually into the build. This old-fashioned process risks the introduction of typos and errors, and requires many more hours of engineering and review time.

Agree on translation review stages before you start

As with any translation project, ensure that the translated builds are checked by native speakers of the target languages. Most LSPs should offer this service.

Be aware that line-breaks need to be set manually for certain languages, including Arabic, Japanese and Thai. Again your LSP should handle this, but it’s important to check if they don’t explicitly mention it.

You may also like to have your own in-country reviewer check and edit the translations. Decide in advance if, and when, you want to carry out the review of the translation. Translations can be reviewed:

  • In Word format before engineering. Translations can be exported automatically from the CAT tool into a bilingual format, enabling your reviewers to make as many changes as they like.
  • In the final build. This is faster but amends can be costly if your reviewers want to make a lot of preferential changes.

Ideally you should obtain a localisation quote that includes 1 or 2 rounds of amendments, but be prepared to pay more for this. Remember to schedule enough time for review – it may take more than a full day’s work to review the translation for a 1 hour course.

Obtain competitive translation quotes

Bear in mind that it’s hard for an LSP to estimate the likely word count of a course before production work on the English course has commenced, and thus to commit to a quote, whereas an e-learning provider can more easily estimate the volume of translation work since they will be writing the course. This may tempt you to allow the e-learning vendor to bundle the localisation work together with the e-learning work when you award them the contract to produce the English course, eliminating the possibility of competitive quotes from your LSPs.

If you want to obtain competitive quotes before the English course is developed, you could ask the e-learning vendor to provide an indication of the maximum word count of the English course. Then invite all LSPs to submit estimates for the translation based on that figure, with the final fees to be determined by the actual word count of the English course. This exercise can reduce translation spend significantly.

Watch out for budget over-runs

Be aware that localisation costs are heavily dependent on word count, which makes it hard to finalize pricing and scheduling until the English build is at an advanced stage. You can expect to get:

  • A rough estimate at English storyboard stage
  • A fairly close estimate when English alpha / beta versions are produced
  • An accurate, fixed quote when English gold build is approved

The e-learning vendor should take responsibility for sending all translatable text to the LSP, since any text or file omission will delay the translation and localisation processes.

Finally, keep in mind that any voiceover will push up cost, even more so if subtitles are included and synchronised with the audio.

When it comes to e-learning, you can rest assured we’ve successfully handled some of the most complex, large-scale projects.

For more information on multilingual e-learning, please read our e-learning and Flash localisation and multilingual voiceover and subtitling articles.

Please feel free to contact us to discuss services you need, or enquire for a free quote.