Learning professionals talk extensively about learning preferences. We know that some people like to learn visually, and some prefer hands-on training. Some learners like lectures where they can take notes, and some prefer one-on-one time with instructors. But have you considered whether all of your employees speak the same language? The way training is delivered doesn’t matter if the training isn’t offered in the native language of that office, location or even individual employee.

The global language services industry is big, reaching over $45 billion in 2018 and projected to grow to almost $56.2 billion by 2021. That’s a lot of money dedicated to making sure content is available in different languages. There isn’t data on what the L&D industry is spending of that $45 billion, but it’s probably a sizable amount. There is a lot of training content and a lot of people who speak a lot of different languages.

If you are a director of learning for an international company, you probably need to translate some of your materials. How do you do it? Do you have in-house staff who can translate? Do you hire multilingual instructional designers to write programs in multiple languages? These approaches can be complicated and time-consuming, and a better solution may be to find a company that specializes in translation services. Many translation services have their own proprietary software that memorizes speech patterns, localized language and unique semantics, which allows for custom training materials that make sense in hundreds of different languages.

Translation and localization also benefits companies that don’t have oversees offices but do have employees who have a different first language or who only speak another language. In the U.S., for example, you may have a contingent workforce who is more comfortable speaking Spanish, or a sales team focused on Asian prospects whose first language is Japanese. Offering training in the language most comfortable to employees helps with knowledge retention, behavior change and overall morale.

A lot of companies choose to outsource their translation and localization to experts in language services, because having in-house staff with the right skills for this type of work is unlikely. You would need skilled linguists, people who are fluent in multiple languages and language quality experts for whatever languages and regions your training program will be used. With outsourcing, you’ll have experts, not only in language but in skills like desktop publishing or localization engineering. You’ll have fluent speakers of different languages who ensure proper inflection, accents and tones, and maybe even people who are skilled in voice-over and other digital media tools. Translation workflows can be complex, and it can help your timeline and your budget to hire an expert.

Selecting a Vendor

Once you decide to outsource translation and localization, here’s what you should look for:

  • Content type expertise: Documents are different than e-learning, for example. You need a company that can handle all types of training content you’ll need translated.
  • Quality work: You can check quality by asking for samples or tests.
  • Efficiency: Make sure your work is done in a timely manner and still has the high quality you need.
  • Variety: Ask how many languages the company can translate.
  • Technology: Some software programs are better than others, and some are proprietary; ask the company about its process.
  • Budget: This criterion is simple; can the provider finish the job within your budget?

With the emergence of many different types of services, translation and localization are easier than they used to be. Public and proprietary software can do it quickly, easily, within your budget and, more importantly, with accuracy … down to a local dialect. For example, we partner with a company that translates our content word for word and also uses linguists to make sure that the content is localized to a specific region and even accounts for specific terminology, local lexica and slang.

Taking your training program to the next level may be as easy as figuring out first how your learners prefer to learn and then in what language they are most comfortable.