What Gets Lost During Translation of Online Courses?

What Gets Lost During Translation of Online Courses?
Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy


The process of adapting a product or content to a particular location or market will often require translation.

According to a 2014 Common Sense Advisory survey, 75% of customers said they are more likely to buy products and services if the product information is in their native language.

But then again, there are some drawbacks too.

What Can Get Lost During the Translation of Online Courses?

Translations are becoming an increasingly important aspect of all online courses in an age of global business.

Online course translation is a thriving industry, with many cases of it being done extremely well as well as done poorly.

However, it's especially important to ensure successful localization and maintain the essence of the source content of the online courses during their translation.

That’s because users are relying on the course to learn something new.

Therefore, they often lack the context and background information necessary to deal with minor inaccuracies that they might miss while browsing a daily website.

There are particular areas on which we must concentrate while translating learning material to ensure that no learning material component is lost or mistranslated.

Here’s a list of things that can often go wrong during an online course translation process:

4 Things That Can Go Wrong During an Online Course Translation Process

1. The Language and Context

The first is the linguistic context of the translation. It is best practice in any area of translation to ensure that idioms and phrases are translated according to their overall meaning and not just the meanings of individual words. This is especially important in online learning.

A mistranslation of idioms and phrases can make an entire paragraph meaningless or even alter its context, which can negatively affect the student’s education and the course's effectiveness.

2. Connotation

It's also worth thinking about the connotation. Take the words ‘fat,' ‘flabby, ’obese,' and ‘chubby,' for example. The first two have a negative connotation, the third is neutral, and the fourth is positive.

It's particularly important for any course involving communication strategies or other soft skills where the subtleties of language are important to match the connotation of a word in the target language.

3. Corporate Tone

The corporate tone is another aspect that can be lost during massive localization ventures involving several translators.

Therefore, quality management is crucial, and investing in a style guide written in the target language is always a good idea.

When translators know the type of tone they want to achieve, they can maintain continuity, and rewriting the online course material takes less time.

4. Subject Experts

Although maintaining continuity is a primary objective when delivering a learning curriculum, taking into account local culture is also crucial.

For example, there may be variations in the actual content offered between various translations of a course that deals with soft skills such as management and communicating with people, depending on the target market for each translation.

To ensure such a seamless transition from one language to another, the translators need to be experts in both the subject matter along the source and target languages.

Remember that translation entails more than just direct translations of text; it also entails tailoring the content to the target audience.

Localization of online courses, if done correctly, may provide significant benefits to students.

It's critical to understand the course's subtleties. Taking the time to do so will result in us gaining substantial benefits from localizing the online course material.

What Are Other Things You Should Look Out for When Translating an E-Learning Course?

The following things need to be considered when translating your online training course:

  1. Content: Ensure the content is appropriate to the learner if the course includes real-life scenarios and examples. For example, while localizing a sales course, use examples to illustrate the proper local etiquette that must be considered for client communication.
  2. Visuals: While text localization is critical, images and color must also be considered. For instance, white is regarded as the symbol of purity and elegance in Western countries, but in many Asian countries, white is a mourning color.
  3. Standards: Standards such as date, time, currency, measurement units, etc., need to be localized for better relativity. As the area changes, so will the time, currency, and measurement units.
  4. Graphic User Interface(GUI): The Graphic User Interface (GUI) must be customized to meet your multilingual students' needs. For example, during English to Persian or English to Arabic translations, remember that Persian and Arabic are read right-to-left (RTL), while English is read left-to-right; therefore, the GUI should be adapted accordingly.
  5. Content Volume: Since some languages are more verbose than others. Therefore online course localization should also consider the expansion and contraction of the material after translation. For example, English to Mandarin translation can make the text volume shrink by 20%, while it expands by 40% when translated to German.

At GMR Transcription Services, Inc., we provide online course translation and eBook translation services. Contact us to get accurate translations of your online course translated into other languages at affordable rates, within quick deadlines.

We provide translations in multiple languages, including English to Spanish translation, Spanish to English translation, Mandarin to English translation, English to Mandarin translation, and much more.

Also Read: Google Seeks Linguists' Help to Tune Up Translation Services

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Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy is the Cofounder & President of GMR Transcription Services, Inc., a California-based company that has been providing accurate and fast transcription services since 2004. She has enjoyed nearly ten years of success at GMR, playing a pivotal role in the company's growth. Under Beth's leadership, GMR Transcription doubled its sales within two years, earning recognition as one of the OC Business Journal's fastest-growing private companies. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids.