Internationalizing and Localizing Training Materials

ARTICLE | WED, 02/09/2011 – 01:00

By Emmanuel Margetic, Marketing Director, MultiLing Corporation

Businesses are made up of multiple elements. Information, processes, people, and legal filings all play into what constitutes a company. Should a business expand into a foreign market, certain people in that market would need to understand elements of that business, in many cases, to the same degree as employees in its primary location.

For any of those elements, one step is necessary to get a business to function properly or run effectively—training. Training can be the key to maintaining brand quality or office feel, not to mention just making things go as they should. As important as it is, though, most businesses don’t realize just how tricky it can be to transfer training material to a new market.

The Process of Translating Training

Translating in general can be difficult, but translating e-learning and training presentations poses a unique set of problems. Effectively doing so without losing the power of the presentation requires a two-part process. Companies need to find someone to both internationalize and localize their documents.


To internationalize e-learning and training documentation, companies need to have idioms and other culturally sensitive elements removed, thus making it more broadly understandable. For example, if a training book had a section labeled, “Thinking Outside the Box,” people from other cultures who aren’t familiar with that phrase wouldn’t know to which box it was referring. They would need some background, or a different title altogether. Eliminating such idioms may be painful at first, as it takes away some of the more powerful analogies, but it prepares the presentation for a global audience and allows for other teaching examples to be added that will be more effective for different audiences.

Companies often don’t think about internationalizing their training materials when they’re first being created, and don’t get to it until they’ve already been published in the primary language. This means that when they begin looking at other markets, they have to backtrack and complete this step before they can effectively move forward with translation. Fortunately, some translation vendors have experience with this and can help the company move forward quickly.


Once e-learning or other training presentations are internationalized and culturally neutral, they need to be localized so they resonate with target markets. The internationalized material needs to be modified so phrasing is appropriate and effective based on the language, dialect, slang, and culture of the place receiving the materials. A certain phrase could be translated correctly but turn out to be offensive slang among the natives.

Also, localization often involves more than just translating by nation because multiple languages and dialects frequently are spoken within individual countries. Spain, for instance, has multiple states that are independent to the point of placing state allegiance over country allegiance, and they all speak different tongues. For a company to effectively expand there, it would need to find someone with the expertise to account for each of that country’s 10 or so languages, dialects, and cultures.

Ways Around Inexperience

While companies may struggle to take all the necessary factors into consideration, translation vendors can provide expertise and experience to help them cross cultures. Since the risks of poor translation can be very costly, companies need to make sure the process is thorough regardless of whether or not they use a translation vendor.

Putting All the Ducks (Training Materials) in a Row

As far as materials, most training and e-learning courses involve more than just an outline and a workbook. Several mediums go into a full training course, including: posters, books, slides, CDs, videos, participant manuals, workbooks, online applications, and presenter’s guides. For the training to be successful, all of these components have to be consistent. Doing so, however, is easier said than done. Translators tasked with localizing these materials have to check each piece at least three times, continually going back and forth to ensure consistency.

Unfortunately, most businesses do not have the expertise necessary to do this and maintain the efficacy of the original training. Consequently, they need to plan a budget into the process to ensure they have the right resources involved, whether that be an increased commitment internally or the utilization of a translation vendor.

Hitting the Target

As companies go through the process of internationalizing and localizing training materials, they become more aware of what needs to happen. That knowledge enables them to think ahead and streamline their procedures, making future projects easier for everyone involved. If, however, they don’t do what’s required to ensure quality training and e-learning resources, they will have a difficult time on subsequent projects and struggle to generate interest in their target audiences with the resulting materials.

Opportunities abound for businesses to expand all over the world, and there are more international interactions than ever. Excitement and the economy should not, however, outpace or hold back the quality of the expansion. Training materials are a key in maintaining a company’s integrity, and people will catch on if they’re translated correctly. Doing that requires internationalization and localization as preliminary necessities.

Emmanuel Margetic is the director of marketing and sales for MultiLing Corporation and has been working in the translation industry for more than 12 years. Margetic has in-depth experience helping clients achieve international status and brand recognition through effective, localized communication and documentation. His role at MultiLing allows him to interface directly with companies, giving him a firsthand look at the challenges and successes of international business. Margetic graduated with an MBA from Brigham Young University.