4 Reasons Cultural Research is Important in eLearning Localization

Culture influences how we think and behave in almost every circumstance. We are steeped in our cultures from birth, and some things we take for granted could be completely unheard of in another part of the world. When we learn, we also use our cultural context to absorb the material and gain insight. With eLearning becoming an important part of ongoing training efforts for businesses around the world, localization of the material is becoming a critical consideration. Localization includes not only translation of the eLearning course, but adjustments made to the course’s content to make them culturally relevant. So why is doing this so critical to students’ learning? Here are 4 reasons cultural research is important in your localization efforts.

1. Idioms and Sayings

Every language has their own idioms and sayings that don’t have direct translations. Frankly, these can be very confusing to those who aren’t native speakers (or at least fluent). These sayings and idioms often relate directly back to the culture (such as: “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”), so cultural context is essential for them to carry any meaning. Researching sayings and idioms, or leaving them out entirely, is essential to successful localization.

2. Humor in eLearning

Humor is universal—but what different cultures find humorous varies greatly. When you’re translating eCourses, be aware of any jokes or humorous examples you’re using in the content. What people from one culture might find funny, others might see as confusing or downright offensive. Doing your research will help you to use humor tastefully in your eLearning courses.

3. Culturally Offensive or Confusing Images

Images are an important component of eLearning courses. Photos and graphics break up the monotony of text, and help students learn the material more efficiently. However, it’s important to think about the implications of the graphics you use when you’re translating the material. Gestures, symbols, and scenarios in images might seem useful or funny to you, but think about whether they could be confusing or controversial in other cultures. For example, in the Middle East, the thumbs up sign is very offensive. Even colors carry cultural significance, and may influence perceptions more than you would ever think!

4. Culturally-Rooted Scenarios

When you use a scenario to make a point in an eLearning course, it helps bring context to the concept, and can help students make sense of the material. Examples can be key, depending on the type of course. However, scenarios and examples are all rooted in culture, and you may need to rethink them when focusing on localization.

Stay Neutral, or Customize Each Course

If you’re limited on the funds you have available for eLearning localization, it makes sense to focus most of your budget on producing one course and several translations. In order for this to be successful, you might have to sacrifice some personality and cultural context to make it work. Stay neutral, and make sure the scenarios and examples you use are applicable to multiple cultures.

If you have a bit more room in the budget, consider additional localization by optimizing each version of the course for its target culture. This takes more research and resources, but it can make the course much more engaging and informative in the long run.

Save Time and Money with a Localization Partner

When the time comes to translate your eCourses, you don’t want to be scrambling to meet your deadline, or struggling to find the right translator. Get the ball rolling early, and start looking for a localization partner early—you’ll be able to get advice on creating your course and optimizing it for translation. A qualified localization partner can save you time and money while ensuring that the finished product is of the highest quality.

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