Training a multilingual workforce can be a challenge.

You have to be aware of the language barriers that may prevent employees from receiving the full benefit of your eLearning materials.

Barriers can also include things like slang, gender-specific language, and cultural references. What’s acceptable to some cultures may be considered rude or offensive to others.

But that doesn’t mean you should shy away from creating a diverse eLearning course. There are plenty of reason having a multi-language course can impact your business as a whole, too.

Here’s what you need to know.

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The Benefits of Multi-Cultural Elearning

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Translation can help workers identify with materials as well as improve retention and engagement, but there are plenty of other reasons why having a multi-language course could work in your favor.




Easier Communication

One of the most obvious benefits is having a way to communicate with employees in their native tongue. According to the Information Please database, 329 million people now speak Spanish as a first language, and 328 million speak English.

With Hispanic and Latino workers making up 15.8% of the manufacturing workforce and 36.7% of maintenance jobs, the need for bilingual or multilingual training is all the more important.

Of course, Spanish isn’t the only language that you’ll need to use. Over 1.2 billion people around the world speak Mandarin Chinese, for example.

Greater Range

Having multilingual material is also important for companies looking to send employees (or work with employees) overseas, as it can make travel and communication effortless for those in other countries.

By opening up coursework to multiple languages, you will also be one step ahead of your competitors who may be limited to one language. You also have the ability to hire a more diverse range of workers with varying skills that you may otherwise have overlooked.

Employee Satisfaction

While English is still the primary language for most industries, opening up multi-language options will allow your workers to use whichever language that makes them most comfortable. This can lead to a more satisfying experience for your employees as well as improved job satisfaction overall.

Tips for Translating Course Materials

Of course, one of the hardest parts of creating multi-language eLearning is the translation process. Which materials do you translate and how? Here are six basic rules to follow to create diversity in your eLearning materials.




1. Think About Localization

Localization is the process of adapting your materials to a specific locale or market. Before you start translating all of your coursework, consider which cultures have the most current or future impact on your company.

Do you plan to expand overseas? Which countries will your international employees live and work from? Where do your current employees live and work? What nationalities make up your current workforce? These are all things to consider before investing in translation.

You wouldn’t want to spend time and money translating everything into a remote dialect that no one will ever use.

2. Leave Room for Translations

Some languages take up more space than others. For example, French, German, and Spanish phrases can take up to 20% more space than English phrases. Character-based languages like Japanese or Chinese take up to 15% more space depending on the format.

If you’re creating slides, text documents, or even videos, remember to use space wisely. Keep in mind that some English words and phrases do not have direct translations in other languages and may require more space to explain and adapt.

3. Consider Subtitles and Voiceover Usage

While the fastest and easiest way to provide translation to current eLearning coursework may be subtitles or text-translations, voiceovers can actually be more effective for native speakers.

Consider adding voiceovers to videos in particular, as subtitles can take up more room when translated or be harder to read from greater distances. Also consider the benefits of either for those who are hearing or sight impaired as well.

4. Consider Design, Graphics, and Text Usage

Be careful using text on images in your coursework that may be difficult to replace or translate down the line. Image selection should be taken into account, as some gestures and symbols can be offensive to certain cultures. Try to avoid using images that include region-specific items, like currency symbols.

You should also use universally friendly fonts that can be easily converted to local languages. Ariel or other Unicode fonts will be the easiest to translate into languages like Russian and Chinese, as they don’t use Latin alphabet. Custom or elegant fonts, on the other hand, may be problematic for symbol-heavy languages.

5. Select Acronyms and Jargon Carefully

If you are dealing with course materials that involve technical jargon that may be difficult to translate, it’s best to do some research or ask a native language speaker how to include those translations.

It’s also important to define, clarify, or eliminate any acronyms, abbreviations, or slang that other cultures may not understand or find offensive. If you’re unsure if an acronym or expression is appropriate, ask. There may be some terms that used by the dictionary or services like Google Translate that are not actually widely used in other cultures.

6. Enlist Subject Matter Experts

Unless you are a bilingual or multilingual speaker, it’s best to enlist the help of professionals to translate your coursework. Even those with a rudimentary knowledge can miss important elements that may cause problems down the road.

Here at Jenobi, we provide translation and localization services so our customers can maintain a consistent, dynamic global training and communications program.

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Final Thoughts

Adapting the content linguistically and culturally to the target market is paramount to the success of your business. If you have a diverse workforce, you will want to make sure your eLearning training is accessible to as many different cultures as possible.

Consider the locale and languages of your current or future employees and identify the primary languages and dialects of your target audience. Take note of preferred terms, slang, acronyms, signs, symbols and other language indicators that may need to be translated.

And finally, if you’re not sure whether your materials are being translated effectively, ask. Don’t be afraid to seek help from the professionals to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your coursework.

Jonathan Davis is an accomplished professional with experience helping Fortune 500 companies achieve success in employee communication and training programs. Jonathan focuses on delivering reliable, successful outcomes that increases employee engagement through highly targeted deliverables, creative messaging and robust programs.