SPBT 2013 confirmed that pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers are embracing e-learning and CBT like never before. Many newcomers to language and translation view overseas support as a straight-forward translation effort. But when it comes to globalizing e-learning or training programs, anything but the simplest courses will require considerable effort beyond "just" translation.
We have written before about the challenges for localizing e-learning content. While there are lots of big decisions and small nuances, in our experience global training managers who understand the following five aspects will have a much easier time translating their e-learning content.
1. Single language or multilingual GUI?
There are benefits to both scenarios. Single-language courses are easier and can be adopted more easily. But training groups with responsibility to support an ever-growing list of countries and languages find that a multilingual approach yields savings in time and cost down the road (see here for an example).
2. Text expansion
This issue is not unique to e-learning. Text in many languages is longer than the English equivalent, which means your containers need to be flexible. Be sure to avoid constrictive frames or boxes and be cautious with horizontal navigation bars, menus, and link regions.
It's important to plan ahead. For instance, one provider says that their three biggest languages for e-learning translations are Chinese, German, and Spanish. These languages will require vastly different amounts of screen real estate.
3. Sentence structure
Translations should read as if they were originally written in the target language, so keep your writing clear, simple, and direct.
Use bulleted lists to break up long paragraphs. Keep your sentences short, and minimize the use of compound and complex sentences. Edit your writing to see if any sentences can be split up or shortened by deleting unnecessary filler phrases. Use active voice as opposed to passive voice, which is less direct and more difficult to translate.
4. Words, words, words
As we mentioned before in a different context, simpler language is better than text full of culture-specific slang, idioms, and expressions. Be careful with abbreviations, acronyms, and new technical terms and try to avoid gender-specific pronouns. It's also helpful to build a translation glossary to assist your translator with words that may have a unique meaning in your industry.
And as always, be concise without leaving out necessary words. Re-using text and avoiding unnecessary minor word tweaking can reduce the number of words to be translated (and thus translation costs).
Cultural icons differ around the globe. Use universally recognized symbols to make sure people in any county will understand your e-learning course. For example, it's probably best to avoid using a Dollar sign, road signs, or culture-specific gestures such as a thumbs up. Translating text in images is a pain because embedding text in a graphic or placing the text on top of a photo creates additional time and cost during translation. So if at all possible, keep text out of your images.
Paying extra attention to these five areas during your e-learning course development brings many benefits —for you and your learner!
ForeignExchange Translations provides specialized medical translation services to the world's largest medical device and pharmaceutical companies.