6 Best Practices for Translating E-learning Courses

September 14, 2016 | 2717 Views

6 Best Practices for Translating E-learning Courses

Jeff Tenut

Founder & VP of Solution Design | DiscoverLink, Inc.

According to a 2014 report by TDn2K and the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance, 28% of hourly employees in restaurants are Hispanic. Spanish is the primary language for many of these workers, but quite often training materials are only provided in English. In order to properly prepare Spanish-speaking employees to work in a restaurant environment, it’s important to offer training in Spanish.

It’s well known that learners retain more information and are better able to apply it when training is presented in their native language. In fact, in a study by the Journal of Extension, Spanish speakers improved their knowledge scores by more than 50 percentage points after their training was conducted in Spanish. Improved retention leads to better performance which, in turn, creates more opportunity for advancement for Spanish speaking staff while improving overall bench strength for the restaurant. With turnover rates and recruiting difficulties at an all-time high in the restaurant industry, it’s more important than ever to retain and develop good employees, including those who speak Spanish. 

However, when it comes to e-learning, not all Spanish courses are created equally. Whether you’re developing e-learning courses in-house or leveraging a third-party provider, here are six things to look for in an effective and immersive Spanish course: 

1)      Optimized for Translation

An effective Spanish translation starts with an English course that is designed with translation in mind. Jargon, slang or expressions that are specific to a particular culture will not translate clearly and should be avoided. Similarly, English abbreviations or acronyms will not make as much sense when translated into Spanish. And, it’s always best to avoid long bulleted lists as onscreen text. The use of graphical highlights to emphasize key points is more effective overall and also simplifies translation. The best translated courses were planned, written and designed with translation in mind so the text is primed for the translator and the design utilizes visual communication techniques that cross cultural borders. 

2)      Closed Captions

Closed captions are becoming more popular, but they’re not always optimized for learning. Many courses use captions that are no more than a big, static block of text that isn’t timed to the action on screen. Effective closed captioning should be broken down into small bites synced to the narration and the specific content the learner is engaging with at any given moment. For learners who prefer to read, this creates a more immersive experience, makes it easier to follow along and prevents reading ahead without paying attention to the course. 

3)      Optional Captions

Everyone learns differently – what is helpful for one learner may be just the opposite for another. That’s why it’s a good idea to make sure your courses’ captions are optional. Some learners will retain more information from reading along with the course, while others will find the text to be a distraction and a hindrance to their learning.  Having this optional feature will ensure that all of your learners get the most out of their training. 

4)      Narration

While many courses claim to be “available in Spanish” often these courses are narrated in English, with the only Spanish appearing in the subtitles. This mix of two different languages appearing simultaneously can lead to a disjointed and even confusing experience for the learner. By making sure your course is narrated in Spanish, you ensure that your material and information is communicated clearly. 

5)      Onscreen Text

So you have the Spanish closed captions and narration, but what about the onscreen text? The onscreen text is meant to support and emphasize your key message, and that cannot be achieved if language is a barrier. Translating all on-screen text, as well as activities and quizzes, helps ensure your message is received. 

6)      Restaurant Setting & Terminology

Location, location, location. Your employees won’t be working in a warehouse, so their training courses shouldn’t take place in one. Viewing course examples in a familiar restaurant setting, with properly translated restaurant terminology, will help employees understand how their training is applied to their real-world job. 

There are a lot of important factors to look for when selecting a Spanish e-learning course.  But there are also many options for off-the-shelf training in Spanish that enable you to quickly provide your Spanish-speaking team members with top-notch training.  DiscoverLink offers a wide variety of Spanish courses across our Employee Compliance, Manager Compliance and Employee Development programs, which follow the best practices outlined here.  In fact, we like to say that our courses “hablan Español.”

A condensed version of this article appeared in the August issue of Hotel Management.net

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