E-Learning translation: how to minimize integration costs

Most e-learning clients only think about translation and localization after they’ve already designed a course in English. However, designing with localization in mind saves time and money.

Here are issues that instructional designers can address during the development and authoring stage to minimize e-learning integration costs.

Provide white space

Everybody talks about the importance of white space, so it shouldn’t surprise you that it’s important for localization also. Many languages expand in translation. Italian, Spanish, French, and German all require 20-30% more words and characters than English. If there is no room for text to expand, reformatting and redesigning becomes necessary.  If you are using voice-overs, keep in mind that they will also get longer, unless you take steps to condense the script during translation.

Don’t get fancy with fonts

Minimizing font variation reduces the cost of integration. If you are using special fonts, the localization team may need access to the licenses. The best strategy for creating a localization-friendly project is to supply a version of the module that uses the fonts included in the authoring tool.

Limit audio syncs

The number of audio syncs and the complexity of the animations bear a direct relationship to integration costs.  For example, a voiceover in a different language will require re-syncing of the on-screen animation. In addition to the text expansion issue, differences in syntax can require rearranging the visuals. If you want a complicated animation scheme, ask yourself: are all your audio syncs really necessary?  You will save money later if you keep it simple now.

Add cue points

To make it easier for localizers to re-sync the audio with the animation, each file should contain all the necessary animation-audio syncs as cue points in the timeline. Although they are not necessary for the animations to function, cue points provide a single point of reference for localization engineers and lessen the chance of error.

Why are cue points important? Because, in addition to expanding during translation, some languages use different rules of syntax than English, and sentences will be rearranged. For example, in English, we generally use a Subject Verb Object (SVO) structure: “You have much to learn.” Many other languages including Hindi, Japanese, and Korean, default to SOV: “You, much to learn, still have.” Arabic tends toward VSO: “Still have you, much to learn.” Yoda, the Star Wars character, uses OSV: “Much to learn, you still have.” (Yoda doesn’t need e-learning, but the drift, you get).

Avoid unlabeled layers and objects

It’s very frustrating during localization to come across things like “untitled layer-1” because their role in the module is not clear. By using descriptive titles for objects and layers you make it easier for integrators to find editable content quickly and efficiently

Never embed text in images

Translators use tools to draw out the translatable text and re-integrate the translated version into the e-learning platform. If text is embedded, the text is “stuck,” and the graphics will need to be re-created using a desktop publishing software like InDesign or Photoshop. This separate desktop publishing step will add costs to your e-learning localization project.