e-Learning – how to avoid localization mistakes

e-Learning Components of Localizatione-learning localization

It is easy to mistake localization to be just the process of translating e-learning content to a specific language.

Indeed linguistic adaptation, which includes translation and repurposing of an e-learning course using the translated text, is a key activity in a localization project.

However, in our experience, there are three other types of adaptations necessary to completely localize an e-learning course, substantive and cultural adaptations.

The Three Components of Localization


Linguistic adaptation involves translation of a course and its elements. It also extends to re-engineering any underlying linguistic functionality, such as interactions requiring text entry by users.

Examples of e-learning course elements that may be affected by linguistic adaptation include:
• Textual descriptions on screen and in graphics
• User Interface
• Browser window titles
• Text input fields etc.


adaptation involves modifying the substance of the content for local audience.

Such modifications are necessary when the content or parts of it are location-specific.

Examples of e-learning course elements that may be affected by substantive adaptation include:
• Rules and regulations, specific to the geographical area
• Cases
• Examples
• Abbreviations
• Terminology etc.


Cultural adaptation involves contextualizing the content for a specific culture and requires an understanding of the target culture on issues that are usually not well documented.

Examples of e-learning course elements affected by cultural adaptation include:
• Names, titles and forms of addressing people
• Icons
• Symbols
• Graphic style/photographs

Localization carried out in isolation and as an afterthought has inherent problems of high cost and poor quality.

As long as localization is considered an add-on, localized versions will continue to be poor cousins to original English versions.

The alternative is to begin the e-learning design process with internationalization. Internationalization impacts several basic aspects of course design, and forces designers to modify and adapt their initial design to meet the needs of localization.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in February 2012 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness