Standardized Variation – The Key to Multilingual Training

While “Standardized Variation” may sound like an oxymoron, it may also hold the key to effective multilingual training. The topic has emerged as an important consideration for trainers when  developing a standardized course master that ensures consistency across the entire training population, while also accommodating the appropriate cultural variations of local audiences. Too much standardization ignores the importance of local culture and language differences. Too much variation from one language version to the next sacrifices the key messaging and complicates course maintenance resulting in significant added cost.  So, the challenge becomes finding an approach that delivers the benefits of localization without making it cost prohibitive.

Variation of content for local cultures or markets goes beyond simple language translation.  For example, graphics or animations of vehicles used in eLearning courses must show a driver in the left side of the vehicle for some markets and a driver in the right side of the vehicle for other markets. Similarly, pages that overview a product’s appearence and/or detail their feature-sets may be different from market to market.  So, how do you accommodate these localization differences?

The prevailing approach is to create a course master first to ensure that all the required content and course sequencing is standardized.  Then, create a copy of the course for each language so that specific text, graphics and animations can be localized for hat language or market. This accomplishes localization, but at what cost?

With every language version now in a separate course, course maintenance becomes more complicated and expensive.  In this approach, any changes made to the master course must also be made independently to all the other language versions.  To complicate matters, each proposed update to a page has to be verified first to ensure that it does not override any previously made localization to that page.

One approach is to use language variants to deliver the perfect balance between localization and cost. This helps to eliminate the need for multiple courses for multiple language versions.  Instead, one master course contains all the elements common across languages, such as key messaging and content sequencing.  Then within that course master, a language variant can be created for a page to accommodate the localization of specific graphics and animations, and the language translation.  As part of the course master, any changes to the master course will automatically update the language variants and trigger workflow to translate any page of the course affected by the update.  In this way, course maintenance for multilingual courses is significantly reduced.  This approach to standardized variation enables content development teams to reduce multilingual development and deployment costs by more than 30%.