The checklist to getting your eLearning translations right

In ‘The Checklist Manifesto – How to get things right’, Atul Gawande, a surgeon, writes compellingly about the advantages of drawing up and referring to checklists to tackle complex tasks. He provides many examples in diverse fields such as aviation, skyscraper construction, financial investment, as well as in the life-threatening field of surgery.  When properly constructed and applied he makes the case that they can be used successfully to provide protection from failure in any goal or activity you wish to accomplish.

He recommends that checklists be brief and to the point. They provide reminders of the critical, important, but often simple steps that need to be addressed to carry out a task that, however professionally qualified or skilled you might be, you might miss or overlook.

With this is mind, we have put together a checklist for anyone who has decided to globalize their eLearning content and is on the point of handing over the job to their nominated LSP (Language Service Provider).  These steps, done prior to the handover, will make the task of localization more straightforward, save time (and therefore money), and the high quality of the translations will encourage your local audiences to buy into your messages with enthusiasm.

  1. Content. Produce/adapt your copy to be Culturally ‘Neutral’.
    No jokes, jargon, culturally sensitive images or colours, no acronyms that translators will not understand, or confuse non-native speakers.
  2. Design. Produce templates to allow for text expansion of up to 35%. Take this into consideration for general text, slide presentations, and subtitling .
  3. Graphics. Make text editable by using layered graphics.
  4. Fonts. Ensure your fonts support all the languages you want to use.
  5. Audio/Video. Limit number of characters to reduce voice-over costs and ask for sample voice tracks for in country review and acceptability.
  6. Audio/Video. Scripts to be culturally neutral as other documents.
  7. Handover. All source copy and scripts, design templates and graphics are final agreed versions at handover.
  8. Handover. All/any relevant style guides, reference material, glossaries, Translation Memory databases handed to LSP.
  9. Communication. Communication network and timetable between your company, your LSP Project managers, translators, and in country reviewers agreed and in place.

We restrict our checklists to 9 items, the suggested limit of working memory, and make sure we stick to one side of paper. Try to bear in mind that it is just the ‘killer items’ that need to be included, the steps that are most dangerous to skip but nevertheless sometimes get overlooked.


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