When training multilingual teams, there are six critical steps designed to make your life a lot easier and your project more successful: know your audience, choose your content, consider language requirements, assemble the right team, complete localization during the design phase, and protect your linguistic asset.
Know your audience: To start, you must know your audience, and I mean know them very well. Develop a strong understanding of their education levels, motivations, and cultural impacts on learning styles (Hofstede’s Cultural Differences in Learning Styles would be a great place to start). Understand any additional cultural considerations such as customs, cultural attitudes of subject matter, communication style (formal or informal), and how your learners respond to instructor’s gender, religion, and age. Be sure you understand how the 7 learning styles are impacted by language and culture. Set the right expectations and be creative.
By prioritizing content for localization, you will have a roadmap from which to work. The ever-popular Agile methodology is not recommended for localization projects. You need a step-by-step process to stay on track or your project could get sideways quickly.
Choose your content: As you look at all the content you may need to have localized, start with the areas that have the biggest impact or greatest value. Leadership development, safety training and compliance programs are great places to start. Along with your checklist, each task should not only have a completion date, but also a delivery schedule.
Consider language requirements: Whether your target language is Japanese or Spanish, each language has its own unique requirements that should be taken into consideration when developing your project in English. If you know your project will need to be localized and you build your course so that they are internationalized, you will have prevented most of your localization challenges. Understand that most languages grow at about 125% of English so the white space you can work with will be limited. Then there are those languages such as Hebrew that go right to left, or up to down, such as Japanese. These complexities add a whole new set of localization issues. If you don’t use American jargon or slang or images that are solely Western, these steps will streamline the process and you will have fewer localization needs and costs. Although you may want to hit it out of the park, remember that less than 20% of the world’s inhabitants play baseball. And not every culture in the world teaches or learns informally. So, before you start on the development of your next learning project, be sure to understand your global audience, in-country stakeholders and their culture. You will be grateful you did.
Assemble the right team: With localization it’s all about teamwork! Include as many of your stakeholders and end users in the beginning and throughout the project. That includes your localization service provider partner, review team, and your QA and testing team. Include your stakeholders early in the development stage. Be sure all stakeholders understand the cultural impact your project will have on each of them In-country reviewers can make or break your localization project. Too often they are the last to be added to the team. Projects are localized then sent for “review.” And since the reviewers have no real understanding of the project, they mark it up like a fourth grade English teacher. Although often these markups are subjective, it still creates a bottleneck. When it comes to review, there is strength in numbers. As many in-country reviewers (preferably with roles that represent your target audience) should be brought in as soon as you choose a localization partner. How your in-country reviewers and localization partners collaborate will have a huge impact on the success of your project. Developing glossaries and style guides from the onset of the project will shorten the life-cycle of the review and could very well save you a lot of money. The goal is to get your review team to work with your provider and be a committed part of your team. The buy-in you get from them is crucial to the project’s success.
Complete localization during the design phase: An equally important task is to choose the right localization service provider. Choose a partner who understands your industry, your company and the project subject matter. There are hundreds of localization providers out there. Most are jack-of-all-trades, and provide translation services across all industries so what’s the value there? However few focus on a handful of industries, even fewer are committed to serving just one industry. Partner with a company who understands your challenges, needs and goals and whose experience will help you avoid serious landmines and critical errors.
Protect your linguistic asset: Lastly, protect your investment. You spend thousands, sometimes even millions to create your company’s communication. You safeguard your intellectual property and have an entire legal team overseeing all copyrights. You need to treat your translated materials with the same prudence. Did you know if you use online translation tools you put your intellectual property into the public domain and you may give up any non-disclosures you have? Your multilingual assets are valuable. Be sure to correctly manage all translation memories and glossaries, which are just as much your intellectual property as the source files you created. And a crucial part is the management of other linguistic assets, such as style guides and the authoring tools used to create them. You need to be sure your agreement with your localization (translation) provider insures they deliver all translation memory files when they deliver your project. These files are the building blocks for your future multilingual projects and will help with consistency, quality and save you money.
By using these 6 crucial steps when developing your multilingual training strategy, you will have fewer headaches on your next project and much higher success.