Corporate training is a $200 billion industry. It’s evolved significantly over the past several years, moving away from uninspired slides with endless bulleted text, to trainee-centered programs focusing on interactivity and sophisticated visuals. But why has corporate training evolved into such a lucrative industry? It’s simple: the world’s leading companies have come to realize that their wealth lies in their talent, and training their global workforce in a culturally-sensitive way is crucial to their continued international growth.
eLearning is popular for many reasons, including:
- Reduced cost — in the traditional training model, 40% of every dollar spent on training was spent on travel costs
- Virtualization of teams — people are working more and more from home and employees are located all over the world
- Branding — companies want to train and rally their employees worldwide around their brand
- Employee productivity and retention — a more knowledgeable employee performs better, faster and feels more satisfied with their job
- Customer satisfaction — a well-trained employee in the service or retail sector tends to translate into a happy, paying customer
From a localization perspective, eLearning projects can present many challenges. A few reasons for this are:
- There is a high degree of language nuance — especially when the training emphasizes marketing and branding. This requires a concerted effort to find the most appropriate translators who are familiar with transcreation and copy adaptation.
- There are many elements to an eLearning localization project: translation, multimedia production and audio. For those projects with voice over or subtitles or a combination of both, there’s also onscreen text localization and possibly other elements. All these elements have to be taken apart, then recompiled in each of the languages.
- For the voice over element, it’s critical to find the right voice for each target language. There are also decisions that need to be made as to the type of voice over, pronunciation guidelines, and timing.
Tiffany & Co.: An eLearning mini case study
One the most memorable localization projects Acclaro has worked on was a training video for Tiffany & Co., called “Welcome to the World of Tiffany”. The video’s goal was to get new hires infused into the company culture and give them an introduction to the brand. The video presents a woman onscreen who gives an overview of the Tiffany brand. Then there is a visual representation of Tiffany in pop culture, such as scenes from the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
For the U.S. market, this speaker (also known as a “talking head”) was chosen with the utmost care, as she had to have the right look, tone and energy level. Tiffany wanted a similar experience for their markets abroad and we had a couple of choices: replace the onscreen speaker with a local one who spoke the translated script, or dub the script and leave the existing presenter on-screen. Tiffany opted for dubbing. Therefore, we spent a good amount of time screening voice talent for just the right voice and tone in each market.
When localizing audio, there are many decisions to be made. One of them is whether the audio should be dubbed or subtitled. If dubbed, the question is whether to lip-sync or not. Dubbing works very well, though it may seem odd to have a Caucasian woman speak Chinese! If the talking head is a well-known personality (such as a CEO or a celebrity), subtitling is recommended.
Once the voice talent was selected, we had to address the pronunciation guidelines: would product names and brands be translated or left in English? If left in English, would they be pronounced the English way or with a local accent? These guidelines were defined before recording began, saving us precious time in the studio.
Now, to technical challenges. Tiffany had a timed video (most corporate videos are timed). With timed videos, you have to sync translations with onscreen action. As many foreign languages expand from the English (Russian, for example, expands around 40%), this can be quite a challenge. If you have ten minutes of English video, this could easily become fourteen minutes of Russian video. Ideally, the English video will allow for some expansion, so that the translated versions don’t sound hurried or constrain the translation process too much to fit within the allotted timing. However, it is typical to try and fit the translation within the time restrictions.
As we’ve seen with this Tiffany & Co. project, eLearning and corporate training have come a long way in the past ten years. So has the sophistication of its localization. Before you take your eLearning program global, download our eBook for the best practices for training and eLearning translation and localization.