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How to Translate Your E-Learning Materials

Contributed by Sirena Rubinoff |

Offering an online or e-learning course in multiple languages is one of the best ways to boost your exposure and earnings. However, such courses tend to include multimedia elements. Translating these accurately is just as important as translating large sections of text accurately. Your course won’t be valuable to foreign language customers if e-learning translation errors result in confusion.

Thus, you should adhere to certain best practices when you decide you wish to offer your course in more than one language. The following tips will help you work through this process efficiently, without wasting a lot of time, money, or resources.

Gather Your Files

Too often, e-learning developers submit files for translation, only to, later on, realize that some files were missing or overlooked. They end up having to submit the additional files separately, adding time (and expenses) to the process.

Staying organized and gathering all your files together in one central location helps you avoid this problem. Whenever you decide to translate your course into another language, you’ll be able to submit all the necessary files to the translation services provider without having to worry about oversights.

Extract Text from XML Files

Publishing the initial version of a course in XML format is a smart idea if you plan on translating it in the future. A translator can easily extract text from an XML file, translate it into the desired language, and insert it back into the file. It’s the most efficient approach to this task.

Many tools you might use to develop an online course, like Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate, are already designed to make exporting XML files as simple as possible.

Don’t Illustrate Individual Letters

The desire to animate text in an online course is understandable. Animation ensures that important points stand out, and it ensures that the info is expressed in an entertaining manner.

However, some developers choose to animate individual letters within words. While this may help drive a point home if you’re only offering the course in one language, it’s unwise if you ever want to translate your course. For each language you translate into, the animation will need to be re-created. This eats up a lot of time and also requires you to make sure the animation contains no cultural implications that may be misinterpreted.

That’s one reason why you should decide if you’re going to translate your course before you even begin developing the initial version. Knowing that you plan on translating it in the future helps you to refrain from including elements that will make the translation process more time-consuming than it needs to be.

Use Scalable Vector Graphics

When you translate text into another language, the amount of space it takes up on the screen can change. This is a problem if you’ve incorporated multimedia elements. Text that fits perfectly with the other elements in English may take up too much space in another language.

That’s why developers should use scalable vector graphics, or SVGs when creating graphic elements. They can easily be scaled down if necessary. If the translated text is substantially larger than the text in the original version, you won’t need to spend a lot of time changing the graphics.

Don’t Record Without a Finalized Script

If you’re translating an online course into another language, there’s a very good chance you’ll have to record lengthy audio tracks in the new language. Make sure you hire an experienced translation agency to develop the translated script and get everyone involved in the project to approve the final script before you start recording it.

Review it carefully for any mistakes; if there was a translation error in the script, you may need to re-record the audio, adding a lot of time and expenses to the project. What’s worse, if you overlook it, you may even publish your course with the error, resulting in confusion for your customers. Then you’ll have to decide whether to spend time and money removing the course so you can re-publish a correct version, or whether to simply let an inferior product represent your brand.

Be Careful Hard-Coding Text

When a text element has been hard-coded or embedded into the source code, translating it will be time-consuming. It’s important to carefully review the code of your e-learning course. You want to identify areas where hard-coded text and multimedia elements could make the process of translating it difficult.

Depending on the nature of your course, you may have several developers working for you. Make sure they understand you plan to translate it in the future, so they are also careful when hard-coding elements.

As an e-learning course developer, you know you often need to rely on assistance from others to create the strongest possible product. While there are many steps you can take on your own to facilitate an easy, accurate translation process, you will also need outside help. When it’s time to actually translate the work into another language, be sure to hire industry professionals.

Even if you use the ideal file format, exercise care when embedding hard-coded elements, and take the time to properly organize your multimedia files, you may still spend more time and money than necessary if you rely on a translation app or an amateur. By hiring the right team, the process will go much more smoothly.


Sirena Rubinoff is the Content Manager at Morningside Translations. She earned her B.A. and Master’s Degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern. After completing her graduate degree, Sirena won an international fellowship as a Rotary Cultural Ambassador to Jerusalem. Sirena covers topics related to software and website localization, global business solutions, and the translation industry as a whole.

Author: Jamie Irvine

My name is Jamie Irvine and I have been a Sales Professional since 1997 and an Entrepreneur since 2009.

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