training a global audienceThe Expand team has been plugging away on an internationalization project for a top client. Projects like these are always interesting with their own set of challenges, and we love tackling them.

As it’s been a hot topic around our offices lately, we thought we’d share some tips from our experience working on internationalization projects. Take note, since we’re located in the U.S. and work primarily with U.S.-based clients, we’re writing from the perspective of starting with an eLearning course in English for an American audience, then revising and translating that course for multiple global audiences.

In a 2010 article for Learning Solutions Magazine, eLearning pro Adam Eling observed many companies inadvertently treat the internationalization of their training programs as a line item on a to-do list. In their view, the heavy lifting has been done in creating the English version, now “we just need to get it translated.” There’s so much more to it if you want the program to succeed and maintain solid partnership with international colleagues.

Based on our experience, here are six things you need to carefully consider when planning a global training initiative:

  • Language. Make sure you work with a good translator. There are words in different languages that don’t have a direct translation. Also, most languages have both formal and casual speech, and you want to ensure your course speaks to each audience in a way they find natural.
  • Culture. There are things different cultures find acceptable or offensive. If not careful, you could be very surprised to find something completely innocuous in the original training material is, when translated, completely inappropriate in another culture. Sensitivity to cultural differences is critical.
  • Technology Standards. These can vary greatly around the globe, especially Internet speeds and access. Ensure your content and platform will work seamlessly on the technology in each global market.
  • Regional or Local Operational Differences. Retail locations or manufacturing facilities likely operate slightly differently depending on local laws, resources or other factors. Be sure to account for these variations in your training content.
  • Images and Music. While these are finishing touches that take a training course from good to great, what’s appealing in one culture may not work in another culture. So, you either need to find imagery and music that’s as culturally-agnostic as possible, or consider the possibility of replacing these things for each international version of your training. This can be costly, so it’s important to think about this in advance.
  • Captions and text-on-screen. If you’ve designed your course to accommodate so many text characters per screen, that can cause problems when translating into other languages. Depending not only on how words and phrases are translated, but the alphabet of each language, text-on-screen can take up a lot more or a lot less space than your original version.

You want your training program to be as impactful in each country as it is in the U.S., right? Treat each version as its own project requiring a high level of care and attention-to-detail, and you’ll be well-positioned for success.

photo credit: Global clocks