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How to make eLearning translation efficient

How to translate eLearning content efficiently and quickly

Translating your carefully constructed eLearning course into multiple languages can seem like a daunting task. However, there are many tools — Learning Management Systems (LMS) — that you can use to build your eLearning courses and all the good ones have an export feature. An eLearning translation project doesn’t have to be complicated! In fact, the process breaks down into three easy steps:

1. Export the content into an exchange file

Exchange files are formatted to be compatible with multiple applications, so they are ideal for transporting your content to your translator, where the file can be imported into our translation platform.

The most commonly used formats, which we recommend are:

  • XML (Extensible Markup Language) — XML files contain plain text which can be imported, viewed and edited in a variety of text editors, as well as other apps.
  • XLIFF (Localization Interchange File Format) — An XLIFF is a type of XML file which is specially for translation and localisation projects. ie. It is specifically  formatted to import cleanly into a translation platform.
  • JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) — JSON stores JavaScript objects in a text format. It’s perfect for translating any JavaScript-based project, including eLearning translation.

NB. It’s a good idea to duplicate the eLearning course before exporting, to ensure that your original content is not overwritten by the translated content when you re-import.

2. Translation

You can, of course, complete the eLearning translation yourself in a text editor, or you can use a professional translation agency, such as Quicksilver Translate, to ensure high quality results, consistency and a reduced time-to-market.

3. Import the translated exchange file back into your LMS

When the eLearning translation is complete we will export the content back into an exchange file (the same format as you provided). You simply need to import the translated file back into your system and… that’s it. You will be able to view and publish the course immediately.

Supporting tools for eLearning translation and localisation

Translation Memory (TM) 

A TM is one of the most popular and invaluable tools that professional translators use. Our CAT tools will split a source text into manageable units known as ‘segments’. The software then builds databases of equivalent segments in different languages. The databases of these matching segments form a Translation Memory. When the TM ‘recognises’ a segment in the source (original) text, it will suggest a translation from the database — a ‘candidate’. The translator can choose to accept the suggestion, replace it with a new translation, or modify it to a better match. This means our translators don’t need to waste time re-researching something which has already been translated, and approved, for the same client.

Translation Memories improve workflow and allow greater flexibility in translation, they adapt themselves to the needs of different clients and different contexts. Furthermore, they are highly customisable, and the bigger they get, the better!


Glossaries are simple lists, or larger databases, containing the words (terminology) that you prefer. In other words, a list of words in a spreadsheet. Typically, preferred translations appear in the next column. A glossary will be incredibly useful to your translation team, as it helps the translator to maintain consistency through large projects, across projects, and in the long-term, as you update your courses.

Machine Translation (MT)

We offer various levels of service, including an economical translation service called PEMT — Post Editing Machine Translation. This is a blend of machine and human translation. This process involves an initial machine translation, followed by post-editing performed by a (human) professional translator or editor, to correct and refine the text to your required standard.

Best practices for eLearning translation and localisation

Plan ahead

When writing your initial content, think in terms of it being international from the start. Avoid the use of local colloquialisms or references that an international learner might not be familiar with. Keep the text relevant and appropriate.

Audio and Video

Audio and video assets are more expensive to translate and localise — minimising the use of audio will reduce costs. Consider the use of Closed Captions — not just for the deaf and hearing impaired — but also because 80% of American students said they are likelier to watch a video with subtitles. For audio narration, check whether your eLearning tool has a text-to-speech feature (TTS). With this feature you can insert the translated narration into the TTS box and get quality audio with a human-sounding voice.

Optimise your copy

You can reduce time-to-market by optimising the content before you export it. Check that your writing is concise and clear — use shorter sentences, with a direct word order. Avoid using multiple synonyms — it can be confusing as words don’t always have a direct counterpart in another language. Avoid slang, jargon, jokes and idioms — this type of language is difficult to translate without changing the meaning or nuance of the original copy. Jokes and humour often cannot be translated directly, and could even be problematic in another culture. Localisation is essential, if you want to use colloquial language.


Try to use culturally neutral images, that cannot be misinterpreted. Check your images for embedded text: text that appears on a JPG or PNG is not editable, and therefore will not be exported into your Exchange File. To translate, you will need to extract the text from the file, translate it and then place it back into the image file — you may need the assistance of a graphic designer to do this. A better method, is to replace any images featuring embedded text, with clean imagery and place the text as a caption instead (which will be exported into the XLIFF).

Prepare for the target language

Prepare for more text than you started with! Many languages use more words than English to say the same thing. For example, an English to Spanish translation can result on 30% more text, English to Hindi can result in 20% more text, English to German could result in up to 45% more text! This can lead to issues with your layout — in the design stage allow extra space for additional text.

Don’t forget the attachments!

Your course may be accompanied by worksheets, reference materials, study guides and other deliverables. Be sure to export, or provide these files also. At Quicksilver, we can work with any file format — such as Word, PowerPoint, PDF, InDesign, SRT subtitles, etc — and will return the translations to you in the same format.

Data Security

Professional translation agencies will offer and sign confidentiality agreements as standard. Using encrypted channels to share content, and for team communication, will add further protection.

How much does eLearning translation cost?

The short answer is, it depends! There are a number of factors which determine cost:

  • Volume: the word count of the content
  • The complexity of the content
  • The number of language-pairs you’ll be translating into: will you need to hire multiple reviewers, or will your Language Services Provider (LSP) take care of that?
  • Timeline: If your deadline is tight, it will cost a little more.
  • Project Management: At Quicksilver, project management is included in the price, but that is not always the case! If you are managing the project internally, it will require time and attention to ensure all languages are published and available on time.
  • Quality Assurance: Our “_for publication” service includes review, and a full QA check.
  • Expertise: Localisation requires a more skilled linguist, and so will cost more.

Calculating the ROI of an eLearning translation project

Measuring ROI involves evaluating costs vs. benefits. The expenses will include translation, localisation, plus any additional resources such as reviewers, graphic designers and project management.

Compare this against the impact on your business — faster onboarding, increased engagement, better employee retention, job satisfaction, and expanded market reach. Will offering your eLearning in multiple languages help you meet targets? Also consider long-term benefits, such as ongoing content use (if you use a Translation Memory) and market expansion.

Find out more: How to calculate Translation ROI

According to research, 90% of companies have prepared online educational materials for their employees, and a study at IBM found that incorporating digital learning helps employees learn more effectively and remember more from the class.

With planning, preparation, and the right translation partner, your eLearning translation projects can be completely smoothly and quickly! Multilingual eLearning boosts engagement and knowledge retention; it will expand recruitment opportunities and fosters a more inclusive environment for your team — did you know that 62% of international employees feel personally affected by skill gaps? Using an LSP, such as Quicksilver Translate, who can handle, and manage, every aspect of your project from start-to-finish will reduce time-to-market as well as the final cost.

Contact us for a consultation

Read more: Translation for eLearning courses: Why it matters

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