Translating an elearning project into another language

 

Translating an elearning project into another language



February 27, 2024

Over the last thirteen years, we have designed and developed a huge amount of custom elearning modules for charities that have then needed to be translated into alternative languages. This has included modules in:

  • Arabic
  • Japanese
  • Chinse
  • Spanish
  • French
  • Russian
  • Ukrainian
  • Turkish
  • German
  • Italian

All of these projects have been translated in either Storyline or Rise. Luckily, both tools make it reasonably easy to manage the project. Still, there are many things to consider and prepare for (we’ll cover that in another blog post or two).

Here, we want to focus on the options available for charities for translation (i.e., who will translate your text).

When considering who will translate your module, there are four main options. In a moment, we will present these options and suggest the pros and cons of using these options.

Before you make your selection, it’s important to consider the following:

  • How will you ensure the translator isn’t altering your text? Ensuring the accuracy of your module is vitally important.
  • How will you ensure the quality of the translation? The module is your intellectual property; it will be your charity’s name, and poor-quality translation will reflect badly on the organisation.
  • How will you ensure your intellectual property is protected from misuse by the translator in the future?
  • Which version of a language do you need? For example, do you need European Spanish or Latin American Spanish? Matching the translator to the specific type you need is essential.

 

Context review

Before we look at how to translate your project, it’s important to explain what a context review is. This is a crucial step that is completed after the new version of the module (in the new language) has been created and a quality check has been performed (to ensure the new language has been fully applied and that it hasn’t caused layout or formatting problems).

The module undergoes language scrutiny in this phase to assess its readability in the given context. Words can carry diverse meanings based on their usage and the subject matter being discussed. This review also includes someone checking to see if any issues have occurred when importing and formatting the text. This is particularly important in languages like Arabic, where changing the text from left to right can impact its presentation.

We recommend that clients use internal resources to complete this review, for example, asking members of your target audience to complete the module and provide feedback. This can be completed in the same way you complete standard quality checks (i.e. using a tool like Articulate Review).

 

Getting your text translated

Let’s explore now the four options for translating the actual text.

 

Option 1 – Volunteer or staff member

Pros: This will be the cheapest option and may not involve any additional cost. A staff member or someone working closely with your work will be in a good position to understand the content and context of the topic.

Cons: Translating is more than just being able to translate text like for like. You will need to consider how you will check for technical and grammar accuracy.

 

Option 2 – An independent professional translator in the relevant country

Pros: This involves a cost, but in our experience, it’s the cheapest option of the paid solutions. You may also find a professional translator is faster as they are not bound by the project management process of a translation company.

Cons: This option only allows for one person in the translation process. This means no external checking process is completed before you add the text to your project. A local translator may change the meaning of your text or subtly alter its meaning for a local audience. This may be OK for some topics, but you may wish to keep your official line for more sensitive topics. For example, when creating a course around sexual and reproductive health, a local translator may try to apply local sensibilities that soften or change your message.

From a logistical perspective, it can be difficult to source translators in local countries and coordinate with several local translators to keep track of their progress and preferences. There are also the usual challenges of working with someone in another country regarding work practices, time differences, country-specific holidays, etc.

 

Option 3 – An independent professional translator in the UK

Pros: This involves a cost and is likely to be more expensive than a local translator. Depending on their availability, you may also find a professional translator is faster as they are not bound by the project management process of a translation company.

Cons: This option, again, only allows for one person in the translation process. This means no external checking process is completed before you add the text to your project unless you get the text checked by a local speaker within the organisation before you apply it.

 

Option 4 – Translation company based in UK

Pros: This option should include several quality checks (automated and manual). This helps to ensure the resulting translation is of the best quality. This type of company will provide you with a dedicated project manager who will act as a liaison between you and the process. They often work with a range of local translators, so you can benefit from local language expertise but with high-quality checking from peers and faster turnarounds because they use a bank of translators. Their translators are experts in the language, so they will ensure the content is grammatically correct, not just translated. For common languages such as French and Spanish, they may be able to allocate translators with knowledge of the topic you are covering. For example, if the course relates to finance or medicine.

Cons: This will be the most costly of the options. They are also not infallible, so, despite that higher price, you may find the translation isn’t 100% as the local audience would expect. Although the grammar quality is high (and this is positive), we have found some context reviews criticise the text because it doesn’t sound as natural as they might prefer.

 

Conclusion

You may have guessed our preferred solution, but to clarify, we prefer to use a UK-based supplier who coordinates with local translators, provides an impartial approach to the language and carries out quality tests of their outputs. In our experience, this is the easiest solution. A caveat to that is when a client has a tried and tested translator they have a good working relationship with and can coordinate with on our behalf.

Whoever you choose, consider how you will verify and check your translation before the project goes live with your overseas audience.

Come back again for more elearning translation tips!

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