After weeks of preparation, design, development, and deployment, not to mention countless thousands of dollars spent, you’ve deployed your training program in the United States to rave reviews throughout your U.S.-based offices. There is no doubt that the learner retention and adoption figures are extremely high, and there’s a buzz throughout the company about how much better this course is than the one used for the past five years. Now, there is just enough time for you and your team to “toast” to the success of the U.S. deployment and pat each other on the back before Phase Two. The next stage in the process is global deployment to train your employees in various non-English-speaking countries...

It is at this stage that most training departments move in one of two directions. Either they will move ahead with a plan to localize their material in a professional manner (whether internally or externally), or they will treat the localization of their courseware simply as an item on a checklist, leaving their international, non-English-speaking employees with training material of extremely low quality and low cultural relevance. Choosing the latter will certainly reduce the materials’ effectiveness, retention, and adoption, as well as possibly offending the international colleagues. If you’d rather not see your company move down the path of global training mediocrity, here’s my list of eight tips to help you ensure exceptional global training without breaking the budget.

Eight tips for exceptional global training and lower training costs

  1. Develop with global training in mind – If you know that you will eventually use the training material overseas, make sure to use a culturally neutral style when developing the course, which includes leaving out American-centric terms and phrases (e.g., “first and goal”). Also be very conscientious of the graphics and stock photography used in the course – some imagery can be offensive in other cultures or not make sense (e.g., thumbs up).

  2. EXPANSION, EXPANSION, EXPANSION – When localizing into other languages from English, it is important to understand that language expansion issues will arise. (In other words, sometimes the translated text won’t fit the space available.) This includes not only the onscreen text, located in the course .xml or PowerPoint files, but also the text in graphics. In addition, the amount of time required for voiceovers may increase, so make sure you plan accordingly.

  3. Use subject matter experts and professional linguists – When developing a course, you have subject matter experts (SMEs) available to work with the development team to ensure the course is accurate and relevant. The same is true when you move into the localization phase. Make sure that your team not only uses linguists who are professionals (whether internal or external), but also uses linguists who are knowledgeable in the particular field being covered by the courseware.

  4. Create a course manifest – A course manifest is essentially a course “recipe” and it will enable your team to efficiently locate the specific files needed by your international team, internal localization department, or localization partner for localization of course materials. Without a course manifest, you could waste time and money translating and localizing unneeded files. The course manifest also makes it much easier to determine if there are any missing files.

  5. Limit the number of characters requiring audio recording – The simple truth is that the more characters you have requiring audio, the more expensive it is going to be to localize the course. If you have five characters in your English course that require audio, and you need to localize the course for ten different countries, you now have to pay for fifty voice-talents (worldwide). The easiest way to save on studio costs is to limit the number of characters onscreen at the same time, so that the same voice talent can record multiple characters.

  6. Finalize audio scripts before recording – Have you heard the old saying, “Measure twice, cut once”? The same goes for audio; double-check your script before recording and save yourself the time and expense of re-recording.

  7. Limit the use of video – Video production can be quite costly and it doesn’t “translate” that well. There is no perfect solution to localizing a video for your international audience because recreating video is expensive, subtitles can be hard to read in the typical space allotted to videos in an e-Learning course, and voice dubbing can be very awkward since it is hard to match voices (think of a 1970’s martial arts movie). The best alternative is to use “avatars” or still photography.

  8. Hosting and streaming – Many countries lack the high-speed internet infrastructure that we enjoy in the United States, Canada, and parts of Western Europe. For that reason it is imperative that your training team determines the download and streaming capabilities where your training will be hosted. A failure to successfully judge the hosting and streaming capabilities of your international offices will have a detrimental impact on their ability to access the training your team worked on so diligently.

After putting forth incredible effort on your English training materials, don’t diminish your global training effort through substandard course localization. Instead, use the same professional approach for the localized course and follow the eight tips listed above. Your international employees and colleagues will be happy you did.