Who has International Learners? Learning in a Secondary Language

Sep 06, 2012

Hello Heroes! Today's eLearning How-To post by David Anderson is great timing for me. I'm currently planning projects for  system training that will be going out to our international offices. I would love to hear from other community members who have experience developing training in a secondary language. 

Actually, I'm interested in both sides- experience presenting training in a secondary language and training that has been translated.

What has your experience been? Any lessons learned that you can share with me? Have you found that audio hinders the learning process? Do you create the courses and audio in English (or other primary language) but provide translated Closed Captioning/Notes? 

Looking forward to your input!

15 Replies
Bruce Graham

Hi Natalia,

My experience so far has been this:

1> In multi-language projects, arrange it so that you choose ONE language, and run the ENTIRE conversion/production process from end-to-end, just to figure out exactly how things work out in your organisation.

2> Plan the steps, and ensure they are totally understood by everyone in the chain.

3> Understand the issues prior to starting the project, and set expectations - for example, that not all courses will end up looking the same, because the amount of text will differ between countries, so one course may be in Font X 12 point, while the original is in Font X 18 point.

4> Even if you put the task out to a translation house, get insiders to QA it, and some business nuances will be inevitably missed.

5> Currently have 2 x varieties of project on the go - "translate everything", (slides, notes and audio), and "translate everything except the audio", (which is the cheaper option, but they can just kill the volume, and read the Notes, which are literally an exact script for the v/o).

Still in the middle of both projects, but those are the lessons so far.

Hope that helps.


Natalia Mueller

Bruce! I'm so pleased this is an area you are familiar with. Thank you for your input. 

It's an interesting situation really. For this implementation, we are supporting 6 international offices. All of the management teams speak English in varying degrees of fluency. Then they turn around and train the staff who do not speak English. Historically, they have been accustomed to courses that use zero interactivity, advanced vocabulary, screens full of text with simultaneous audio and locked controls that require them to pause each screen if they want to go at their own pace.  

Thankfully, I'm not the cause of that but now it's my task to deliver the remedy. 

 In this case, I can see the benefit of providing the script in text form. It's quite a departure from what I typically do, but if I'm looking at what is the most effective and within my constraints, providing the text in English or translated seems like the best method. 

Here's what I'm trying to decide

  • Create the entire course as I would for native English speakers but provide full text in Notes/CC as an option (English or translated)
  • Design the courses as text based. Scrap the audio completely. Use Storyline's translation export functionality to convert the English courses into multiple versions by language. 

It's difficult for me to let go of the idea of audio completely, but I don't see the benefit of including it other than just providing the option. Plus, all audio would be in English. My timeline/budget constraints only allow for text translation.

I'm really just throwing my thought process out here. If you (or anyone else) have any additional comments or ideas for me to consider, I'd love to hear them.

Also, do you provide a text alternative in your courses? Do you have a method you're happy with, ie. timed text boxes, note panel, etc?

Thanks so much!


Tricia Ransom

Hi Natalia,

I just went through this in July. Here is what I learned:

  1. No idioms/US-specific references. IE "the almighty dollar".
  2. Allow 20-30% space in text boxes for translation. Think German.
  3. Never use less than 20 font in text boxes. GUARANTEED to reduce your text.
  4. Images over words.
  5. Determine the languages you're translating to...for example we had MUCH drama with Castillian Spanish vs. Mexican Spanish.
  6. Get the software translation team involved early and learn how each button/field on the screen will be translated. Your script/ textboxes might refer to "The Last Name field", but on the screenshot its called the Surname field.
  7. Decide NOW if you are going to have the elearning reflect the actual translated screen. If you do keep in mind who is going to capture those translated screens? If not you, make sure you provide all info, including HOW to capture the screenshots. For example - person capturing screenshots must have computer set to 1024 x 768. They must have the bottom toolbar minimized. They must have all browser toolbars turned OFF (such as google, yahoo, IM, etc.). 
  8. Decide now what the course navigation buttons are going to stay. For instance, in Storyline they are Next and Prev. Do you need to translate the German equivalent of Prev or the entire word? Things like that.
Bruce Graham

Well, one thing that I have learned recently is that the import/export process is incredibly fast, so do not charge by the hour, as I did!

I think I managed to get 13 minutes out of 5 x French courses for those 2 parts of the equation!

The main time will be spent altering the design as the length of text boxes etc. changes.

You need to think about how you will synch voice and text/images - that will take some time, especially if you do not speak the languages, as you will need to get the native speakers to do timings that you then translate into the Timeline.

As with all my projects, where there are several repeated elements, I try to agree on a flexible charge within large boundaries for the first iteration, then price the other based upon whatever this throws up.

Hope that helps.


Rich Johnstun

About half of the projects I do have to be in the 11 languages we support for our associates. As always, Bruce has provided solid insight. When I have multilingual projects I do typically avoid audio. It's tough because my background is in audio video and I hate to put that away, but I take it as a challenge to see how interesting and engaging I can make the content without the use of audio (similar to actors without speaking parts). 

In the cases where I do use audio, I get "sentence for sentence" audio translations. This is the only way I've found that I've been able to really get the timing right. Even at that, I know it's not quite the same. I have a list of people I leverage in the local regions to provide feed back on the timings and what not so I can make adjustments. 

Maya Speights

We are currently translating modules into 40 different languages.  We ensure the english version is perfect and tested prior to sending out for translation.  Even after translation we send to SMEs to review and revise, some translations aren't exactly what our company needs or means to say and our SMEs catch that for us whereas the translation company wouldn't know.

The English version has audio and video.  The translated versions are not narrated but they still have video, we use swf.config files to run captions along the bottom of the video in each non english language. 

I am hoping the storyline export/import translation feature is as functional as they say it should be or i'll have a lot of editing to do.

Please note, if you are translating into any language with double byte characters, beware, they sometimes go haywire and you have to ensure you have the right font.  We have to use completely different fonts for Chinese Traditional and Chinese Simplified.

Good luck and enjoy.

Sean Speake

Nearly everything I design ends up in both French and English. Storyline's new translation import/export rocks. But you can end up spending a lot of time reformatting to make the other language fit.

Some great advice here. We try as much as possible to do end to end in English before starting French, but it doesn't always work out.

If your client is doing the translation, be sure to have someone in the business do a smart read so that terms are correct. If you have system screens, provide them to the translators to ensure consistency.

When you're designing, leave at least 30% space for alternate languages, maybe more.

If you're doing audio in both languages, have someone from the business present to check for pronunciation.

Double check acronyms. Sometimes a direct translation of an acronym ends up being something offensive or silly.

Where and whenever possible, keep your English as sparse as possible. The more space you save in English, the more space you'll have for other languages. Also, some translators charge by the page.

I'm sure there's more I'm forgetting, but I'll add to this if something occurs to me.

Teresa Donnelly

Hi there,

I know this chain is over 3 years old, but it's linked on most translating related topics.  I have a question.  Is there an import feature in Storyline 2 so I can import all translated text?  Or do the slides need to be re-created with the translated text?

I have 6 courses that I am going to have translated into Spanish.  I plan to have a "En Espanol" button on the main course that will guide the Spanish speaking learner to that path, while the English speaking learners will continue down the English speaking path.  It would be so much easier if there was an import feature.  :)

Natalia Mueller

Hi Teresa-

If you already have the course designed in English with the English text on the slides, you can first use the export feature to pull all text out into a Word doc table. If you use that same table to complete the Spanish translation you can then import it back into SL and all of the English text will be replaced with the Spanish translated text. As long as you kept the table intact and didn't change anything other than the text, it will maintain all of the original text formatting (fonts, size, color, etc) You still have to go through and adjust some formatting, resize text boxes, etc to accommodate the differences in word/sentence length but it's still much faster than starting from scratch. 

If you are using 2 separate paths, it's probably easiest to first save a second version of the English file, translate one of them and then copy all of the Spanish slides into the remaining English file. Maybe someone else knows a faster way. I haven't done it in a while. :)

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