Let’s say you’re either an experienced instructional designer or just starting out in creating digital training for a globally dispersed workforce. One day, a training request lands in your inbox, inquiring if your department can develop localized training in a different language. Outsourcing the design and development to a vendor seems to be the obvious choice, but what if your training department doesn’t have the budget?
It sounds daunting to develop content in house with little knowledge of the language. Fear not! Here are five tips to get started.
1. Act Like a Tourist
Be curious. Nowadays, we have all sorts of translation apps and websites at our fingertips. Use one to understand the gist of the material. The translations are not 100-percent accurate, but they will give you an idea of what the material is about. If you have questions about the content, ensure that your email correspondence is plain, simple and jargon-free so that the recipient can understand you.
2. Respect the Country’s Business Hours
It’s easy to be conscious only of one’s own time zone and work hours. Before you set up a meeting with your client and subject matter expert(s), find out how many hours ahead or behind they are from your time zone. Check the working hours in which they do business in and, in some cases, which days of the week they have off. Take into account their holiday periods and public holidays, also. These considerations will avoid unnecessary embarrassment and frustration. Reach an agreement with your client regarding the timelines for deliverables. Your idea of an acceptable time frame may be considered unacceptable by the client.
3. Get to Know the Culture
By “getting to know the culture,” I don’t mean researching the country’s most popular food, dance and music on YouTube. Determine who your audience is. How and when do they prefer to learn? What is the age group of the people taking the training? Are some digitally challenged? Do some prefer to read? Are there any whose preferred learning method is video? These are a few basic questions that all instructional designers should answer before embarking on the design and development phase of any project.
4. Know the Dos and Don’ts in Your Visuals
Now that you have a grasp on what the training is about, your creativity prowess comes to the fore. However, do not get carried away and overly confident. A simple image can come across as offensive and rude to another culture. If in doubt, collaborate with your subject matter expert to gain approval of the images that you’re using to tell the story in your training.
While you’re at it, double-check the fonts, the use of color and capitalization. Being cognizant of these dos and don’ts ties in with respect and an appreciation of the cultural learning differences. They may seem insignificant while you’re in development mode, but getting these basics down pat has a great impact on long-term relationships between your training department and your global audience.
5. Learn a Few Words
So, you have your first piece content out for review by the local subject matter expert and a “test-learner” to verify that it is accurate and if, indeed, the tester learned something. You may be tasked to do another project for the same or a different country. Ask your clients how to say and pronounce a few greeting phrases. By stepping into their shoes and using a couple of words in their tongue, you can foster a closer working relationship and a deeper connection. Learning some instructional words and sentences also may speed up the design process for the next project.
These five suggestions have worked with my team members. Remember to have fun along the way while navigating your first instructional design adventure in a foreign language!