Is Your Training Program Getting Lost in Translation?

Seamus Hand writes a short blog post on his experience of localization in the learning industry.

Recently, I have begun to understand the critical importance of quality localization and translation in the learning industry. From working with a number of global hospitality and retail organizations on various learning programs, I have seen firsthand the effect that incorrect or flawed eLearning localization can have and it is often a costly mistake.

Firstly, why localization over translation? The need for greater cross-cultural awareness is heightened across global industries. Translation generally just covers language; localization takes into account cross-cultural differences, including language, etiquette, non-verbal communication, cultural norms, and values.

Some examples of translation/localization errors include:
1. An American oil rig supervisor in Indonesia shouted at an employee to take a boat to shore. A mob of outraged workers chased the supervisor with axes. Traditional Indonesian culture emphasizes the need to live in harmony. Open displays of anger such as shouting or door slamming are considered highly offensive behavior.

2. The global organization Coca-Cola needed two attempts to launch successfully in China. The first attempt was Ke-kou-ke-la because when pronounced, it sounded like Coca-Cola. It wasn’t until after thousands of signs had been printed that they discovered that the phrase means “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax,” depending on the dialect. Coca-Cola’s second attempt proved much better. After researching 40,000 Chinese characters, they came up with “ko-kou-ko-le” which can be translated pretty close to the much more appropriate “happiness in the mouth.”

3. KFC experienced real problems when the phrase “finger lickin’ good” in Chinese read as “eat your fingers off.”

Employee performance is often influenced by the regional learning facilitators that are accessible to them. The result is often inconsistent employee performance to all aspects of training and cultural awareness.

For multinational organizations, it is crucial to have in place a globally accessible learning program that reaches out across continents, languages, and cultures to provide the best level of learning, training, and support vital to protect an organization’s trusted reputation.

In conclusion, poor cross-cultural awareness has many consequences; some serious, others comical. It is imperative in the global economy that cross-cultural awareness is seen as a necessary investment to avoid simple translation and localization blunders. If you are a company thinking about going global, take time to research localization companies that offer professional translation services and ensure that the delivery of your message is properly translated for your global market consumers and employees.

At PulseLearning, our eLearning Localization service includes over 140 languages with the capability to translate your existing content or rebuild content in multiple languages. Let us help your organization provide a uniformed Learning Solution regardless of language.

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