Next month, representatives from LinguaLinx will be exhibiting at the 2014 Learning Solutions Conference and Expo March 19-21st.. We will be speaking with e-Learning professionals about global e-Learning localization solutions. In the weeks leading up to the conference, we’re going to tailor a lot of our posts toward the e-Learning industry. If you’re attending the conference, make sure you visit us at Booth #600!
E-Learning localization involves translating your content into a different language, but it also involves adapting your content for a specific region or culture. Understanding different cultures and how these differences can affect your global course effectiveness is something to consider while you are designing your courses.
It is definitely beneficial to keep cultural differences in mind well before you look to have your course localized. Think of it as beginning with the end in mind – being aware of culture differences right away will save time and money for you on the back end as localization will become much easier!
Here are a few cultural considerations to keep in mind when designing your e-Learning courses:
1. Gender Roles
From culture to culture, the roles of men and women change. You cannot ignore this when designing courses. A lot of e-Learning courses have voice-over narration of audio scripts as a component to their course. A female narrator would work well in some cultures, such as in the United States, but might not in a Middle Eastern culture, where having a male instructor is the norm. Gender roles come into play with voiceovers and also in images of people used in your courses and how they are interacting with one another.
2. Teaching Styles
Teaching styles also vary across cultures. The major difference is formal versus informal teaching styles. Most Asian cultures prefer a more formal teaching style where the instructor controls the conversation and disagreement and speaking out is discouraged. In the United States and a lot of other Western cultures, there is a more informal style. Employees speak their minds and are usually freer with their opinions, divergent or not. Each style might not be accepted in another culture, and might be considered rude or disrespectful.
3. Learner Characteristics
Here is where we look at the different dynamics of individualism versus collectivism. The United States and Europe are usually characterized by individualism while Asian cultures are more collectivist. Collectivist cultures are described with such adjectives as “interdependence, group identity, self-restraint, and hierarchical control.” Values of the individual are superseded by those of the group. Understanding the rituals of these cultures and how these people think, act, and do business is essential when designing effective courses.
4. Graphics and Symbols
Symbols are not universal. Take hand gestures as an example. Here in the United States, thumbs up means, “got it!” “understood” or “good to go.” In the Middle East, you might as well be flipping the bird! Also, there are things such as dollar signs that won’t make sense in Japan, where they use yen. Road signs instructing a participant to stop or go on in the course also don’t work – the red hexagon sign is not universal. Images and symbols need to be adapted so that they make sense in other cultures and do not offend learners. It is important to make sure each component of your course resonates with the learners in a specific culture.
If you have any questions about culture related to e-Learning or want help in localizing your courses, contact us today!