Last updated: 20.06.24

Translation vs Localisation in E-Learning


As technology advances, so does our ability to access eLearning. A growing requirement for companies is to make content accessible for learners worldwide, including non-native speakers. This might be so that they can appeal to a wider audience in their home country, or so that they can launch their offering internationally.

Understanding how to approach the project can be one of the most challenging phases. In this article, we will look at some key considerations for translation vs localisation in e-learning and how we can ensure that the quality and meaning of our words aren’t lost during the translation process.

What is E-Learning Translation?

E-learning translation is the process of translating an e-learning resource from one language to another. This might involve rewriting a guide, redeveloping an interactive course or refilming tutorials with a translated script.

E-learning course translation is most commonly required when a provider decides they want to make their content accessible to an audience in another country. It may also be required if an e-learning provider is creating bespoke content for a client with an international audience, requiring content to be created in one language and then translated into one or several others.

The process of translating e-learning content is usually quite straightforward, as long as you have a content creator who is fluent in the necessary languages. However, there is often more to adapting multi-language elearning than just translating it, which is why localisation is more important.

What is E-Learning Localisation?

E-learning localisation is a more complex process than translation. It goes further than just translation and thinks about what else needs to be adapted in a piece of content to make it relevant and engaging for a new audience. 

The process of e-learning localisation development involves thinking about whether your content is going to still be as useful after translation as in its original format and with its original features. Not only do you need to think about the language you’re using in terms of formality and colloquialisms, but also whether the examples you’re using are still relevant and the imagery is appropriate and inclusive.

The main features that are changed when learning content is localised are:

  • Written content
  • Audio and video content, including subtitles or voiceovers
  • Graphical elements
  • Formatting, including dates, units of measurement and currency
  • Interactive elements like links and buttons

Localisation is the key to successfully launching e-learning content in new countries and cultures, as it demonstrates a commitment to really learning about the audience you’re catering for instead of just recycling the same content. It is a more time-consuming process that often requires new content creation, but is necessary if you want your offering to be just as successful in a new market.

The Difference Between Localisation and Translation

When it comes down to translation vs localisation, the differences are quite easy to get your head around. Translation can be seen as the first step in adapting a piece of eLearning content to a new language, whilst localisation is the process of ensuring that all of the content is going to be relevant and appropriate for the new audience.

In some cases, simply translating a piece of content will be enough. This applies to situations where the eLearning resource is quite simple and doesn’t include supporting visual content like images or videos. If you’re just working with text, then a thorough translation should be enough.

However, if you’re updating a course, tutorial, videos or eLearning packages that include things like assessments, translation and localisation will both be required. The main difference is that there is more content here that needs to be updated for its new audience, and translating it won’t be enough.

What to Consider with Multi-Language Elearning

An important consideration when you’re thinking about translating and/or localising elearning content is how you plan to approach the writing/collating of the content. Basic translation involves rendering the text into another language to match the meaning, whilst localisation focuses more on the process of adapting the content to suit any specific cultural requirements of that country.


It is almost impossible to create a course that will be perfect for every person in every culture, but there are things you can do to make it as accessible as possible to the target audience. The first is simply to do your research. The more we understand about the purpose of the module and who will be doing it, the more chance we have of creating something useful for all.

You shouldn’t try to cut corners when it comes to doing research for e-learning localisation, as this is where mistakes are most likely to happen which could lead to a range of negative consequences. Be sure to use reliable resources that are produced and monitored by people from the country or culture that you’re researching, which will ensure you find the most up-to-date information.


The earlier the planning starts for e-learning localisation, the better. If the requirement is just to translate the English content, you should be mindful of the amount of text on the screen as certain languages like German and Russian tend to contain long words which could result in there being limited space. Also, if translating the English content, be aware of how the meaning of words or sentences could change.

Translating the piece once it’s completed in English is usually the quickest way, but not always the most accurate. The tone of the content may be lost and the learning may be restricted due to the fear of writing with too many cultures in mind. With this, you may have to consider the localisation route.


Localisation isn’t just about content; images, formatting and colours also have to be considered. The use of graphics and videos is a fantastic way to explain a concept and it works in all languages too, so localising graphic design is something that you need to consider when adapting your content.

Think about the point you are trying to convey: can it be explained in visuals? This often cuts down on text and translation work but as mentioned previously, be aware of cultural issues that may affect visuals.

If you are doing a module that is going to be rolled out in the Middle East, for example, you will need to consider the use of characters (gender equality is still an issue in some countries meaning that you may have to avoid using or even referencing women). Also, be mindful of any cultural differences; for example, green is seen as the colour of Islam and if that colour or even the country’s flag is used out of context, it could potentially offend the learner.


Having someone who is from the country or region that you are writing the content for is a significant advantage when you’re localising learning content. They can not only supply you with tips and advice on how to approach the module, but also quality check the translated version for any errors that a non-native speaker would not have noticed.

Your translation and localisation process might involve working with a company from the target country already, so you may have someone in the team who can check your translated and localised content. If you don’t have this available, it’s definitely worth paying for consultancy time from someone from your target location so that you feel confident that the elearning resource you’ve produced will be well-received.


What is localisation in translation?

In the context of translation, localisation refers to ensuring that you’ve properly considered the meaning of the translation for its new target audience. Instead of just directly translating a text and leaving it at that, localisation involves then going through and checking that you’re using relevant vocabulary and references, along with ensuring that other features of the text are relevant and relatable as well.

What are the benefits of translation in education?

The main benefit of translation in education is that it makes learning content much more accessible to a wider audience. Instead of requiring learners to engage with content in a language that they are less familiar with, they can read the content in their native tongue which usually leads to greater engagement and understanding.

Why is localisation important?

Localisation is important because it vastly improves content that has been translated from another language. Instead of content that is potentially clunky and culturally irrelevant, localisation makes sure that content has been refreshed for its new target audience, which not only improves the reader’s experience but also improves the relationship between the provider and their target audience.


Creating eLearning for many different nationalities is an exciting challenge that should be embraced rather than feared. It’s a great way to grow your audience, develop a more inclusive offering and also improve your reputation as a brand.

However, there are significant challenges that come along with sharing your e-learning content with an international audience, which translation and localisation can both help you avoid. By taking the time to understand all of the features of your content that need adapting for a new audience, you can ensure that your courses and resources deliver the desired results and help to facilitate enjoyable and impactful learning experiences.

If you’re looking for eLearning translation services or help with localising your e-learning content, Virtual College can help. Find out more about our bespoke training solutions or get in touch to discover the kinds of localisation projects we can help with.