Ten tips for an optimal multilingual e-learning production

You are about to create an e-learning resource targeting a multilingual audience. Good point! But did you check the ten following points? Let’s find out…

1) Cultural references

Avoid ethnocentrism! Culture, symbolism or even taboos are not universal. That is a masterful statement of the obvious! Let’s take an example: if you want to represent security services, do not display the picture of a policeman in a Polish uniform if your target audience is not only polish. The same goes with colors: white is traditionally linked to purity in most of western countries, while it might be linked to the idea of death in eastern countries.

2) Scenario

Different cultures have different ways of thinking and this will influence your pedagogical approach. Some people are more used to the inductive method, while some others are more familiar with the deductive one. So what pedagogical approach should you choose? Try to analyze your target audience upstream of writing your scenario.

3) Wordplays

Your e-learning production is full of puns, spoonerisms and clever rhetorical excursions? Good for you! But not so good for the person who will be in charge of translating all these messages whose incongruity has the power to evoke laughter.

4) Expressions, pronunciation

Sometimes, even writing in a unique language can be an issue. If your audience is both French and Belgian for instance, watch out: the pronunciation and some expressions may vary. Did you know that these two countries use different words to say 70 and 90?

5) Appropriate layout

Keep in mind that traditionally, people tend to read from the left to the right because it is the way Romanian writing goes. But what about Arabic or Chinese writing? Since their text goes from the right to the left, or from the top to the bottom, the global perception of space will not be the same.

6) Optimal space for your text

Some languages use more words than others in order to express the same idea. That is why you need to think about what space will take each language in your page. Avoid creating text areas that are too small to save you some precious time when you will work on the translated version of your e-learning production.

7) No text in your pictures

If you work with a graphic designer, explain to him the context of your production. Do not put any text in your pictures if it is not the same word in the languages you are using. For instance, the picture of a letter with the text “invoice” will probably not make sense to you Portuguese audience. Also, keep in mind that simple pictograms in your template will be more efficient than buttons with a text written inside.

8) Navigation

All the people do not have the same practice of multimedia, depending of the place they live. For instance, North American countries have more experience with the Internet than South American countries. As a result, the generation gap is less visible in North American countries and most of the people are familiar with surfing on the Internet, even if sometimes the navigation is a bit different than what we are usually used to see. Depending on your target, adapt ergonomics so all the people will be able to use correctly your e-learning resource.

9) Optimal tools

I will talk about the tools that I know the best because I use them for my job: elearning maker and elearning gallery. I think it is useful to work with these tools when doing a multilingual e-learning production because you can export, translate, and import your texts very easily, directly from a simple excel file. You don’t need to create page by page a new resource in the translated language.

10) Technology

Keep in mind that different countries might have different levels of technologies. Even on a national scale, there are some differences if you compare the speed of the computers, the bandwidth, and so on. Imagine what it can be on an international level!

And of course the last tip that goes without saying would be: test, test and test! Good luck with your multilingual e-learning production.