Localization of Learning: Best Practices

Author: Aviral Kapoor

What is localization?

Leadership of any global organization today is culturally informed and sensitive and therefore understands the importance of localization. Every L&D professional today is more than aware of the term localization. So what does localization mean and what does it entail for L&D teams?

By traditional definitions, localization means translation of content. It is the process of translating Learning—or any other content—into a different language and adapting it for a specific region.

The Over-emphasis on translation shadows the more important component of this definition…adaptation.

Localization is not mere conversion content from one language to another. Training, if merely translated, can not only impede understanding due to loss of context, but also might end up being offensive to cultural sensibilities.

Localization means adapting content to the intended geography of use. This entails keeping in mind some best practices.

Best practices for localization

Language and content

  • When writing course content, avoid idioms, culture-specific phrases, slang, or expressions because if translated, they lose their meaning and context. Moreover, something that may be culturally appropriate or acceptable in one geography may not be acceptable or may even be offensive in another.
  • Avoid using abbreviations and acronyms.
  • In using examples, try using scenarios or examples that are globally relevant. If at all you need to use examples that a culture identifies specifically with, make sure to mark them out for localization.

Visuals and media

  • Colors are of particular importance for localization considerations. It is interesting and important to understand that the meanings attributed to colors vary from culture to culture, and the same color may have different, even contradicting meanings in different geographies around the world. For example, red may symbolize purity, life, and vibrance in some countries, whereas it may symbolize rudeness, aggression, or even violence in others. Green is often associated with environment, nature, progress, and wealth in many countries, but there are countries where it has negative connotations. Just like companies adopt a set of color palettes for their marketing campaigns and adapt colors as required for campaigns around the globe, learning materials, especially eLearning, should be designed for such adaptation.
  • Visuals, symbols, and icons differ across borders. For example, learners in several countries would recognize a dollar sign, or a thumbs up, but learners in some countries might be confused by those symbols or even offended. Similarly, some attires may be the norm in one country while in others they may not.
  • A key strategy global L&D teams adopt is to use images that depict the company's global nature and diversity. This effectively eliminates the need to invest too much time and effort in localization, and also serves to highlight the organization's global footprint and focus on diversity.

Authoring and development of output

  • When developing eLearning, choose authoring tools or frameworks capable of supporting multiple languages. Choose frameworks that do not require rebuilding a course when localizing for multiple languages.
  • Look at the way the screens are designed to ensure they will cater for variations in text length as a result of the translation. Some languages, such as Arabic, are read from right to left. Consider these implications in your screen design.

Finally, work with local experts to make sure the eLearning course will be understood in the intended way in a particular geography. Also perform user testing with people in the target geography.

These practices can go a long way in ensuring that learning is equally effective for employees of an organization across geographies.

Aviral Kapoor
A poet and eLearning, Technology, and languages enthusiast. Currently based out of Berlin, Germany working as Content Expert at eWandzDigital Services.