How to Create One Storyline Course with Multiple LanguagesOne of the most powerful things about e-learning is the ability to reach learners wherever they are—all over the world. But it also poses the question: how do you speak to your audience in their native tongue?

Many training orgs tackle this challenge by creating separate courses tailored to the nuances of each audience’s language. This approach may mean added production time and cost, and can end up being a reporting headache as well. What if you wanted to streamline things by creating one course for everyone, all in one Storyline project? Can you even do that? And if so, how?

Good news: thanks to the power of Storyline’s layers, variables, states, and triggers, you CAN fulfill this linguistic feat of e-learning awesomeness! So let’s jump in and take a closer look at three of the most popular methods.

The Branching Method

One approach that many folks use is to create different scenes in their project for each language. To make this work, all you need to do is present learners with the option to choose their preferred language at the start of the course. Through the use of a “jump to scene” trigger you can direct them to the appropriate scene.

Here’s a short video demonstrating how this method works.

Pros:

  • Branching is probably the simplest way to provide learners with language-specific content.
  • This method also gives you the freedom to use layers and states to create a more interactive experience.

Cons:

  • Your LMS can only track and report on one quiz result slide. This isn’t a big deal if your course doesn’t have a quiz, or if you’re not tracking a quiz score. But if a quiz score IS important, you may want to consider using the layers method described below. This forum discussion also has some extremely helpful pointers and examples to show you how to make quizzing work with multiple languages in one project.
  • Branching can also be a great way to make static content feel more interactive, but when you’re dealing with multiple languages in the same project, it can complicate navigation.
  • If your course has a lot of content that involves audio, video, or animations, this approach may cause your project’s file size to bloat.

The Layers Method

Another method used by many folks in the E-Learning Heroes community is to add localized content to layers. The appropriate language layers are triggered through the use of a true/false variable, some buttons, and a few simple timeline triggers.

Here’s a short video showing how this method works.

Pros:

  • Using layers gives you a pretty straightforward way to provide localized content in a single Storyline file.
  • By using layers, you’ll still have the option to use custom states to keep things from feeling too static.

Cons:

  • Typically layers are used for adding interactivity to your course. Managing multiple layers for different languages on every slide can get complicated when your content needs to be interactive. Overall, that makes this method a better fit for content that’s fairly linear and concise.

The States and Triggers Method

Many Storyline users find it’s easiest to create all of the objects in their course (e.g., text boxes, buttons, callouts) in their native tongue, have it translated, and then add the translated versions of those objects as an object state. This method requires the use of buttons, true/false variables, and some triggers to change the object state based on the variables.

This one’s a bit easier to see than it is to explain, so here’s a video demonstrating how it works.

Pros:

  • Similar to using layers, states give you an efficient way to serve up localized content.
  • Once you’ve built an object with all of the correct states and triggers, it’s quick and easy to copy and paste to carry over the triggers.

Cons:

  • Updating localized text on object states can be a bit tedious.
  • Changing object states means using more triggers as well—more than the other two methods.
  • Keep in mind that you’re restricted to layers for adding interactivity to your course, since object states will be reserved for language-specific content. That means adding things like a hover effect to your localized buttons really isn’t an option.

Additional Considerations

Regardless of which method you choose, there are a few more considerations to keep in mind as you tackle the challenge of multiple languages in a single Storyline project.

  • A limitation of having multiple languages in one Storyline file is that you’ll have to pick one language for the course player text labels (the menu, the resources tab, navigation buttons, etc.). This can present a challenge if your learners can’t understand that language. Here are some workarounds that can help:
    • Create a navigation primer in your course for each language. To learn more and see some examples of adding navigation help to your courses, check out this article.
    • Build a custom menu and navigation buttons on slides, rather than relying on the built-in course player menu. This workaround gives you the flexibility to control which language learners see. Check out this free download for some custom menu design inspiration.
    • If you’re comfortable working with javascript, this forum thread offers some code for changing the course player button labels on a slide-by-slide basis.
  • Here’s a great tip from the ELH community: when it comes to planning the layout of your course slides, start with the lengthiest language. For instance, some German words can be incredibly long! So if you’ve planned a layout around English phrasing, you may find yourself redesigning the screen layout to accommodate the much lengthier German translation of that text.
  • Multiple language courses tend to take longer to design and develop. Things like budgeting for translation, hiring voice talent with the right dialects, and getting native speakers on board to scrub storyboards and scripts and provide feedback can really eat into your timeline. Jeff Kortenbosch wrote this great article, The Hidden Project Within Your Project: Translating Your E-Learning Materials, which is full of practical ideas for addressing these challenges and more.
  • If you need to deliver your course in more than three languages, you're probably better off sticking with separate project files, rather than using any of the above methods.

More Learning

As with most things in Storyline, there are a lot of different ways to achieve the same end—each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Along with all of your other design decisions, it’s a good idea to consider how each approach may impact learners and training outcomes before you dive in.

This is a popular topic in the E-Learning Heroes community, with practical tips and advice peppered throughout various discussions. Here are few rich threads to explore if you’re interested in learning more:

Building Multiple Language Versions in One Course

Multiple Languages in Storyline

Localization Strategies and Variables

We’ve also got a nice assortment of articles for localizing your content. Check out the following links for some helpful how-tos.

How to Use Storyline’s Translation Feature

How to Localize the Course Player

What’s your preferred method for working with multiple languages? Any tips or tricks you’d like to share with others? Leave ‘em in a comment below, or add your two cents by kickstarting a discussion on the Building Better Courses forum. And we’d love for you to follow us on Twitter, where we post the latest and greatest news about everything e-learning.

Want to try something you learned here, but don't have Articulate software? Get a free 60-day trial of Articulate 360 to check out Content Library, Storyline 360, and more. Also, be sure to come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning.

4 Comments
Nadine Monn

This year, I built my organization's first multilingual tutorials (English, Spanish, and Korean). Because we didn't have a lot of built-in interactivity, and we were limited to demo sites for screen captures, I used the layers method. Translation was accomplished in-house by our bilingual staff. The viewer selected the preferred language on the second screen (the title one displayed "Begin" in all three languages), and the remainder of the tutorial's content displayed in the preferred language. The only difficulty came with the Glossary and Resources sections on the player unit. Our work-around was to use a three-letter abbreviation (ENG, ESP, KOR) to designate the language used for each entry. You can view them in action here: Employer Decision Support (http://pensions.adobec... Expand

Tom Kuhlmann
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