Nine strategies for multilingual eLearning success

Learning has always been a privilege, available only to those with the means. At one time, learning about different countries and their progression meant reading about them in books or research papers and watching documentaries. Yet easy access to the internet and smart devices have democratized learning. Knowledge is now just a click away because eLearning has harnessed the full power of the latest technologies. And language services have paved the way for exchange of information at a global level.

For good or bad, the pandemic fast-tracked and improved the existing eLearning movement. When COVID-19 brought growth to a standstill, organizations had to find a way to sustain themselves. Their focus was to retain talent as well as upskill them while being at home. Adapt to eLearning — that was the call of time! Soon, organizations already on the eLearning bandwagon found ways to improve it. The ones on the sidelines used this opportunity to train their employees. 

Benefits of localized corporate eLearning modules for training employees

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 48 million Americans speak a language other than English at home. The 2017 Global Language Monitor study reported that there are now 203 million multilingual speakers worldwide, up from 191 million in 2016. This growth will only continue: By 2025; there will be more than 260 million multilingual speakers. These statistics make one thing clear: organizations need to think about language services now. Not tomorrow or next quarter — next year will be too late. 

With remote work being adopted as the new norm, multilingual eLearning is becoming increasingly important for global brands. To be successful in a multilingual environment, businesses need employees who can communicate effectively with customers and co-workers in their target language.

Multilingual eLearning courses can help achieve this goal by providing employees with the ability to learn in their native language. eLearning courses can also be customized to match the specific needs of each business, making them an invaluable tool for training and managing a multilingual workforce. Our experience with varied eLearning organizations has taught us that careful planning and execution are pivotal to a multilingual eLearning courses’ success.

Here are nine key strategies that will help you make your multilingual eLearning strategy a winner: 

1. Determine your target languages and audience: When creating a multilingual eLearning course, it’s essential to understand your target audience. This will help you to create course content that is relevant and effective for your learners in their native tongue. 

2. Choose culturally neutral multimedia elements: Visual learning is great, but finding culturally neutral yet relevant multimedia elements is equally challenging. Adapting a video to achieve cultural relevancy is not just a challenge but a highly-costly endeavor as well. While creating the course, try to use fewer elements or ones that are neutral. For example, the classic Thumbs Up denoting that you agree with someone in most of the cultures is considered offensive in Afghanistan, Iran or Iraq (Source: Prestige Online).

3. Adaptive design for easy content alterations: Content tends to vary in length depending upon the languages in question. Hence, it is crucial to leave space in the design to accommodate the length variation. Additionally, eLearning courses need to be curated in a futuristic way by keeping in mind that the content might need additions or alterations. 

English: Hello, citizens of the world!

Russian: Здравствуйте, граждане мира!

Sudanese: Halo, warga dunya!

As you can see, the original sentence is longer in Russian but shorter in Sudanese.

4. Check narration pace in case of voice-over: Text variation will mean audio variation in most cases. To ensure that the audio is timed correctly, you will have to add pauses or speed up the speech recording based on the language, the narrator’s pace, and visual elements.

5. Make your course inclusive: Add subtitles, closed captions, and multilingual audio to make your course accessible to all employees including those with hearing or visual challenges. They also help those who do not understand English. Closed captions are especially helpful when people consume knowledge on the go, don’t have access to a headset, or are in a crowded place. 

6. Streamline your courses: Localization also includes adapting multimedia graphics, videos and voice narration. For example, you may need to use a different voice actor who can speak the target language with a proper accent. Or, you may need to change the visuals to reflect local customs and traditions. 

7. Work with native linguists and Dedicated Project Managers: You should partner with an experienced language-service provider (LSP) to get the best quality translations and localizations. Localization is a time-consuming and laborious task. Most companies prefer to handle their localization in-house. By partnering with a trusted LSP, companies can boost their productivity by outsourcing localization to native linguists skilled in the relevant industry. 

8. Implement a good LMS: Choose your learning-management system (LMS) wisely: Make sure it can handle characters and fonts specific to all your target languages. Tools such as Articulate and Captivate facilitate the division of presentation from content and make it simple to import and export linguistic resources from the development environment.

9. Use a comprehensive TMS: Using a translation-management system (TMS) keeps your source file and translations all in a single place, helps you manage your translations efficiently and streamlines collaboration across teams. What’s more, you can add translations to a translation memory (TM) and create Glossaries to maintain consistent brand communication. 

With these nine key strategies, you can rest assured that the message and impact of eLearning won’t be lost in translation! Not only will it solve the talent shortage, but also improve your diversity and inclusivity quotient. Let’s bridge the language gap, together! 

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