Skip to content

How to Leverage Machine Translation in Digital Learning Development

The best translation process offers a mixture of technology-assisted and human translation. Leveraging what digital strategies provide to streamline the translation process enables human editors to localize the experience.

Translation of content is much more than just the translation of words. Effective communication is much more than words and is necessary for the transference of ideas and knowledge to be localized to the target language audience. Complete translation and learning localization are necessary for effective, empathetic communication to bridge learning from one culture to another.

Translation and Localization
Translating digital learning brings together several elements that increase a course's speed, flexibility, engagement, and performance for a global audience. There are four distinct layers to an effective translation process:


Translate Content
Machine translation and digital transformation of the elearning to another language start with assessing and translating the existing language. From the initial design of the learning, plan for the extraction of the text for translation using translation technologies such as xliff translation as a means to extract, translate and replace the content of a learning experience. An xliff format allows machine learning translations to take the first pass at the learning. Once the initial translation is complete, native language speakers may edit and refine the translations.

Render Experience
Whether screens, captioning, voices, or images with text, rendering ensures that the experiences within the course are appropriate and translated to the target language. Here, it is essential to abstract the translation content to a separate layer to change the languages; the learning experience can also shift.   

Diversify Content
Effective translation goes beyond working with the translation agency to create an authentic experience for each region and local audience. Diversifying the content with the translation to the target languages increases inclusiveness globally for the learning experience.

Vary Experience
Translation and localization bring the course closer to a global audience by varying the content to the learner's preferred language and shaping the experience relevant to the learner's perspective. What is meaningful and engaging in one region may not be as important in another.  

Creating experiences for a global audience.
Planning for a multi-lingual course starts with the course's inception —from selecting a multi-lingual approach from the outset of the course creation to planning for language and market variation. Planning from the start for translation allows for the content and experience to be varied without completely redoing the course for each language. The design of the course should simplify the production of multi-lingual content. Packages may be exported and imported to a machine translation system and imported back into the course. The translations create an additional view for each selected language. In addition to the course content, the course structure and user experience may be reviewed, and customization to the target language. As with any translation, a translation agency typically performs the initial translation. From here, it is important to review and send translations are sent to the regions for specific review and customization. The reviewer can provide localization and feedback on the translation.

Conditional display of content
In addition to language selection, display conditions may be added to a course to control different types of learners' experiences. This allows specific content, applicable to a region or language, to be displayed and content for their role.

Case Study: Localizing change management message

A global consumer appliance manufacturer deployed a user adoption course to convey change management regarding their digital transformation of consumer journeys. Rather than communicating all changes for all regions, selected benefits were chosen for each language to increase the buy-in for the overall program. Focusing the course to only directly relevant information and customizing it to each region's perspective, the overall content was lessened. The course conveyed meaningful benefits and impacts directly relevant to the learner in their region. The global audience had a shared experience directly relevant to their local perspective. The course allowed learners to self-identify region and role information to see a customized presentation of the relevant features, benefits, and requirements.



Learning Experiences:


Review the list of tweets to curated articles and resources from around the web.  Have additional ideas or suggestions — leave a comment and we'll be sure to add them. 



Posts from Social Media:
Useful Terms:

Xliff (XML Localization Interchange File Format)
The XML-based format standardizes translation data between the course and a translation tool.

Machine translation
Machine translation services built into browsers and smartphones — even their cameras — are only effective in available translations because the user provides the context and can fill in the blanks and fix translation errors and missteps. The willingness and motivation of the learner provides the needed context and can fill in the blanks and fix translation errors and missteps.

Video Translation
Courses creators can now include video and audio without the added expense of multi-lingual voice actors and post-production of multiple videos that bloat the course file size. Subtitling content on video is now common with tools that automate the translation process and timing of captioning. Leveraging captioning methods enable videos to be included with the overall budget and reproduction of content. SRT and VTT file formats can be added to most video platforms and tools to allow video content to appear with a relevant experience in all languages.