[The Owl Wire 3] Did you know that translating an e-learning project can involve over 80 people, often working in a short timeframe? There can be a delay in the start date, as the design work gets caught up in unexpected technical issues. The delivery date, however, is set in stone, because the regional managers are waiting to deploy it. The challenge in translating an e-learning project is huge: orchestrate within a few weeks the collaboration of dozens of people and the processing of files in a variety of formats.

Let’s look at a simple module consisting of:

  • The core content with instructions within the eLearning platform (Authoring tool, LCMS…)
  • A short video with a voice-over including some on-screen text.
  • A few JPEG images, some of which include text that needs translating.
  • Downloadable content in PDF format.


PERT for elearning translation process

For this example, we assume the module must be translated into 20 languages.

The experts for a successful e-learning translation

  • A dedicated project manager who plans the project, assigns tasks to the stakeholders, controls the progress and expenses, as well as manages the queries and exceptions. The project manager’s workload fluctuates and may require occasional support and back-up.
  • Professional translators and editors to review the translator’s work. Depending on the project size, more than one translator per language may be needed. Special provisions will be implemented to ensure the translation is consistent between translators.
  • In-country reviewers within the client’s organization. In-country reviewers are a strong asset to ensure proper buy-in from the regional organizations or any internal customer. Their role is to provide their local expertise if a question comes up during the translation, as well as review at the end. This assignment comes on top of their regular duties; they usually slow down the project and require repeated reminders.
  • A voice talent per language to record the audio track. This solution is preferred to subtitling since some on-screen text is already present. It often happens that the translation is revised to integrate the time constraints of dubbing.
  • A terminologist, who will identify the company’s lingo as well as the industry-specific terms for each language. The expressions are shared with the translators and the in-country teams to ensure consistency.

As this type of e-learning contains multimedia content, four additional profiles are required.

  • A localization engineer, who manages the files and their formats, along with the translation memories.
  • An audio or video engineer, who covers the video and audio aspects (noise levels, synchronization, etc.).
  • A multimedia engineer in charge of exporting and importing the content in the LCMS, LMS or authoring tool. The transfers are backed by native speakers in each language, for final tuning and validation. Since the audio and video synchronization takes place at the end of the project, one multimedia engineer is usually not enough.
  • A DTP specialist, who works on the layout of the PDF source files in each language, using the relevant software (MSWord, InDesign, Illustrator, etc.).

The profiles to recruit for your translation team

  • One project manager and a back-up,
  • One terminologist,
  • At least one translator and one editor * 20 languages,
  • 20 in-country reviewers,
  • One voice talent *20 languages,
  • At least one localization engineer,
  • One or several multimedia engineer(s), depending on the workload,
  • One or several DTP specialist(s), depending on the workload.

The headcount on this simple project adds up to at least 85 people. Unlike documentation or software, e-learning content musters a wide array of profiles, working at different times in a short timeframe. We believe that managing such a sizeable team with significant interaction between members is one of the main reasons why global e-learning projects often fail to achieve their cost, quality and schedule goals. Choosing a linguistic partner with e-learning expertise is key in ensuring that the multilingual deployment of your project is a success.