Five Tips for Creating and Translating Culturally-Inclusive E-Learning

The world is connected in a way most of our grandparents couldn’t imagine. Today, whatever we create and share with the web will be viewed by people outside of our home country, culture, and our personal identity. That even includes this blog post.

American culture doesn’t always portray the cultural differences that really exist within our borders. However, when you’re producing e-learning, particularly e-learning that’s going to be translated, it’s that much more important to account for them. You likely don’t have the budget to redesign your courses for every possible cultural shift. Instead, these five considerations will help you communicate more effectively across language and cultural barriers, and make your culturally diverse learners feel more included.

1. Use simple sentence structure.

The meaning of your message is best translated when you use simple sentence structure—think simple, but informative.

Do use simple sentences, like:

  • Pay special attention to these jet lag tips when flying east.
  • Clients buy less product when the cost goes up.
  • Learners appreciate simpler sentences.

Don’t use complex sentences, like:

  • Since jet lag is worse when flying eastward, these tips are especially important on the eastern leg of your trip.
  • When the cost goes up, clients buy less product.
  • Simpler sentences are appreciated by learners.

2. Avoid using colloquialisms.

Each language has common sayings that don’t translate well and colloquialisms occur more often than you think. Avoid using these whenever possible. You must train yourself to catch these phrases before your course goes into translation.

Do use phrases other cultures can understand, like:

  • I was feeling sad because they weren’t getting along.
  • She was going to go, but she doesn’t want to anymore.
  • Are those new running shoes?

Don’t use common sayings or colloquialisms that won’t translate well, like:

  • I was feeling blue because he was driving her up the wall. (phrase and aphorism)
  • She was gonna go, but she doesn’t want to no more. (contraction and double negative)
  • Are those new Nike sneakers? (brand and regional difference)

3. Minimize onscreen text.

Use text modestly onscreen. Remove non-essential text to help improve the accuracy of the translated message while maintaining your specific learning objectives. Not only will it help to avoid information overload for your learners, but it’ll also minimize the risk of an incorrect translation in languages where line breaks may change the meaning.

Do use onscreen text sparingly, like:

Don’t use an abundance of onscreen text, like:

4. Choose images carefully.

Images are extremely useful in maximizing the impact of the content’s message—they can also help or hinder its ability to reach a wider audience if you choose diverse and inclusive images.

Also, keep gestures innocuous and attire modest for women AND men. Choosing the wrong type of image of people, in particular, can cause your learners to disengage, or worse, be offended.

Do use images that will resonate with multiple cultures, like:

Don’t use images that may not register with some cultures, like:

5. Research the culture.

If you already know which languages your course will be translated into, take advantage of this and do the research. In the case of translating for multiple languages, find opportunities of common ground between their respective cultures. Choose phonetic names that might be easier to pronounce in multiple languages. Avoid stereotypes and embrace diversity in your design decisions.

Do use character names that are represented in multiple cultures, like:

  • Alexander
  • Ali
  • Maleek

Don’t use character names that are difficult to pronounce or unique to a certain culture, like:

  • Christopher
  • Joao
  • Whitney

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but rather a stepping stone to help you start.

It’s easy to simply translate the words in a course and send it off, but without representing cultural diversity, it may not resonate with your learners and therefore may not provide you the maximum return on investment (ROI). Humans are complex—It’s good sense to pay attention to other cultures when designing e-learning. This can help start a dialogue that uses our differences as an opportunity for outreach, understanding, and deeper connections. It will require you to think critically and have a wider perspective.

It will not always be easy, but your learners will notice that you took the extra time, rather than making only English/Western culturally relevant design decisions.

Good luck, bonne chance, paç fat, and if you need assistance translating your courses and ensuring they represent the cultural diversity of your learners, Artisan can help! Contact us to learn more about our translation process and how we can help your e-learning reach learners across the world.

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