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How to Get Started with eLearning Localization

Multilingual eLearning solution

Verity Hartley at LanguageWire Verity Hartley , Marketing Specialist, LanguageWire ||  Reading Time: 5 minutes

Over 95% of all companies will have an eLearning solution implemented by the end of 2022.

With a growing remote workforce that could be located anywhere in the world, the need to make eLearning accessible to different language speakers is now essential.

On the plus side, there are numerous benefits.

Localizing your eLearning allows for your message to have a broader impact across your company and can expand its reach to more people.

It also provides a good look for your brand, showing that you take the time and effort to recognise your global partners’ roles within the organisation.

Training in a learner's local language has also been shown to provide greater consistency of results among learners, with an IBM report (PDF) in 2013 showing over a 50% boost in productivity.

If you have already created a fantastic range of learning and development tools for your primary language audience, now is the time to translate it for a global one.

Let's look at the key steps you need to take.

An audience speaking many languages

Identify Your Audiences

Before translating your content into another language, you need to understand who your audience is. They are far more than just the language they speak, and you’ll need to adjust your content to match different cultural needs.

Ask yourself: Who are they? What do they speak, and where are they based?

Do not overlook variations within different languages. This will introduce additional cultural challenges. Languages tend to go beyond territorial boundaries, and two locations within your company may speak the same language but very differently. Your audience overview needs to consider this and decide whether to provide your content in one language version or localise for both options.

What Content Needs Localizing?

Start by reviewing all your existing eLearning services and content. Does it fit with your new audience? Perhaps some of it is irrelevant to their location, or different regulations and legal requirements could present new content gaps.

What types of content do you need to have localised?

You may need to consider:

  • Videos and Subtitles
  • Interactive Tools and Games
  • Web Pages
  • Training Documentation
  • Presentations
  • Learning Management Systems (LMS)

Performing a full analysis may surprise you at how many different types of content use language and need to be updated for additional audiences.

How to Localize Your Content

Once you have your list of content items in your training program that you need translating, you need to look closer at their constituent elements to make sure nothing is being missed in the process.

Small sections of text, metadata, embedded content, and imagery can often be overlooked during a translation project. Carefully analyse each part of your learning program and make detailed notes of each part that needs to be changed.

Website text and images


On-screen or printed text will make up most of the content in your learning journey. It will need to be translated to the target language in all assets. Don't forget text that has also been embedded into images and videos.

As we have said in another blog, pure translation differs greatly from localization. You could translate the text in your training program into your target language and leave it at that. However, you would quickly find that your eLearning program will not resonate with different cultures as well as you had hoped.

Idioms and humour will not translate well between languages. Humour is extremely subjective, and cultures tend to have a very different sense of what is funny and what is not. Best to try and keep humour to a minimum and ensure that any idioms have an equivalent in your target language.

When in doubt, keep it simple by using neutral language or use a local expert.


Choosing the right imagery for your eLearning project is essential. You want to engage your learners and evoke the right emotions from them. As we know, images can transcend languages more powerfully than words.

However, across diverse cultures, images can have very distinct meanings. For example, using images of culturally significant locations in Europe will not resonate in the same way with people on the opposite side of the globe.

What may symbolise home and comfort to your local culture could represent exotic faraway lands to someone on the other side of the globe.

You also need to be careful of offending other cultures when choosing images. A classic example would be the 'thumbs up' gesture, which in many English-speaking cultures means 'great job' or 'well done'. However, it is a gesture intended to cause great offence in Arabic cultures.

Be wary of adding text directly onto an image, as you will need to remember to translate each version manually. Embedded text can be easily forgotten in a localisation update, especially on web pages.

Different web template design options

Design and Layout

Languages will take up different amounts of space in elements on your web pages, documents and learning tools. You will need to flex your design when translating into a different language to accommodate the text space required.

This could mean redesigning a lesson in your eLearning authoring tool to fit the content better or finding a better way to express yourself more succinctly in your target language. Experts in Desktop Publishing will be required to keep a consistent look across all your materials.

Colours also have different meanings to different cultures. For example, many worldwide believe the colour blue to be a symbol of masculinity.

However, in China, it is a colour associated with women. The Chinese had no cultural reference for the colour pink until outsiders introduced it. In fact, the Chinese word for pink translates to 'foreign colour'.

If you used blues and pinks to define binary gender in China, it would have no frame of reference and would not be automatically recognised by your audience.


Another design consideration should be the fonts that you choose. Specific fonts work better for some languages than others due to their size and alignment.

A font could have a height setting that makes accents impossible to read. Some fonts may also not offer any locale support for alphabet variants. When choosing a font, it is always best practice to choose one that provides a good number of locale options.

Also, consider the text direction and flow. Some fonts may better support left-to-right reading, while some are better designed for the inverse.

A video player

Video Localization

You will need to take everything mentioned above when localizing video content. The design, layout, colour scheme and text may all need to be adjusted to meet the needs of a global audience.

The narration needs to be recorded in the local language. When doing so, consider the accent of the native speaker you have recording the script. Neutral accents are best, and you should find a voiceover artist who can be understood by everyone. This is especially important to consider when you have several language variants.

Subtitles are an essential part of any video production, regardless of language. You will need to provide subtitles in all language versions, including your primary language.

As an interim solution providing subtitles to existing content could enable you to get your eLearning solution to market more quickly without a full localisation project. If you are limited in your budget, a good subtitling provision on your videos could be enough to help your target language consumers get some value from your learning program.

Keep It Simple

For a successful eLearning localization project, you need to focus on the basics. Make sure you know whom you are targeting (not just their language), what materials you need to update and how you need to adjust them for the local culture.

With a growing global workforce and more of us working remotely, eLearning localization is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have for your enterprise.

LanguageWire are experts in getting your eLearning localization services. Contact us today if you want to learn more about how LanguageWire can help you localize your eLearning materials for a global audience.

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