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How can companies localise e-learning?

in Education and Training

Businesses with an international presence need to harness the power of technology in order to improve communication and ensure staff are completely up-to-date regardless of their geographical location.

E-learning has turned into one of the most effective technologies for businesses looking to train and educate their workforce across borders. However, no matter how impressive your training programme is, language is a difficult barrier to tackle.

It is not as easy as simply translating through a programme either, as it is easy for mistakes to be made. Instead, businesses need to make sure their translation takes into account cultural differences and variations of the tone of voice.

All e-learning programmes should be properly localised and tailored to the area they are in. The Cornerstones of Effective Learning Localisation from the Computer Education Management Association (CEDMA) addresses the importance of effective translation processes, noting: “The second most obvious aspect of localisation is translation. In many eyes it is so critical to localisation many people assume that to localise something it simply needs to be translated.

“This is not as simple as it sounds, as translation involves interpreting the meaning of a text in one language and then producing the equivalent text in another language, while still communicating the same message.”

Why localised translation is not easy 

Localising e-learning is not an easy task for employers, especially those who operate in a number of different countries.

The CEDMA report outlined some of the biggest issues that come with localised e-learning, ranging from language issues to incompatible technologies.

“The most common misconception about translation is that there exists a simple “word-for-word” relationship between any two languages, and that translation is therefore a straightforward and mechanical process,” the report read.

The authors also touched on the fact that translation problems are compounded when they are applied to the e-learning environment, which is interactive in nature and measured regarding the learner’s understanding of a message.

Elizabeth Henning, Duan van der Westhuizen, Jerry Maseko, Rabaitse Diseko and Sarah Gravett, authors of Adapting cultures for localisation of e-learning: multicultural overcompensation or access to global learning pathways?, have suggested that the “global elearner can be likened to a traveller that has to appropriate different texts, that has to become semiotically and linguistically adept and that has to appropriate the global discourse community with savvy and also contribute critically to its expansion”.

One problem that the report looks at is the use of stereotypes in localised e-learning, which can often be counterproductive to programmes.

“We have given examples of studies in which there is ample evidence that learners appropriate culturally unfamiliar texts with some scaffolding. We draw the conclusion that the assumptions may be based on stereotypes and a position of  “othering” learners in unfamiliar places.

“This very positioning, we would argue this disadvantages such learners, instead of giving them the intended edge,” the report read.

How can businesses improve localised e-learning?

In order for companies to make sure their e-learning is as effective as possible, research is absolutely vital. Project managers need to be keenly aware of the tone of voice,  the correct writing style and the proper vernacular.

The tone of the language is particularly important. It may be the case that an informal approach is being used when a formal one would be more effective.

The CEDMA report explains that dialects and other adaptations of language need to be considered. For example, many words vary between English and American English, and similar differences are found in other languages.

By doing all of this and keeping in close contact with staff involved in the programme, businesses can increase the chances of providing successful localised e-learning.

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