How to Localize E-Learning Content: China Focus

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From 2020 to 2025, e-learning is looking to boom over $300 billion as an industry. One of the major leaders of that boom is China. Over the past few years, American universities as well as e-learning companies have been looking to expand their presence in China through the e-learning space.

E-learning, also known as distance learning or online learning, has allowed Chinese students from rural areas access to content previously only available to students in major cities. China’s Ministry of Education is also now offering off-campus learning centers to students who have issues accessing internet at home.

With these major changes, demand for e-learning content to be localized for Chinese Mandarin has grown. In this blog, we will share the main key elements needed to localize e-learning content with a focus on the Chinese market.

[Average read time: 4 minutes]

motorcycles and people passing by at night timeE-Learning: Localizing for the Right Audience

MOOCs, Massively Open Online Courses, such as Coursera and Udemy have been growing in popularity. These e-learning sites offer courses from prominent universities from around the world to an international audience (thus the term MOOC). Many such sites localize their content into different languages to reach different audiences such as Chinese students.

When localizing for a Chinese audience, it’s important to know what Chinese language you want to localize in. When people refer to “Chinese”, they generally mean Chinese Mandarin, also known as putonghua, which is the most common spoken Chinese language (approximately 1 billion speakers) and is written in simplified Chinese characters. Most of the rise in demand for e-learning localization has been for this language due to the number of speakers and China’s growing economic power.

When translating into Chinese Mandarin, it’s important to verify with the client how currency, measurements, and date formats will be localized or if they’ll be kept in the original format. In China the main currency is the Renminbi, measurements are in the metric system (though there are still terms used from China’s traditional measurement system, the “market system”), and dates are in the Year/Month/Day format. There may also be certain technical phrases or brand/product names that may not have a Chinese equivalent. It will need to be discussed with the client whether a localized Chinese term will be used or not.

For recording voice-over, it’s important to cast native Chinese Mandarin speakers, ideally with e-learning or corporate audio recording experience and subject matter knowledge. Also, casting a pleasant sounding voice will help keep students interested and engaged. E-learning content can be many long hours of content, thus, having a speaker that can engage the audience with their voice can make the learning experience much more enjoyable.

group of people between buildings

Video Localization and Subtitling Content

For e-learning, visuals are a key component in engaging the audience, however, there may be on-screen titles (OST) that will need to be translated into Chinese. If the client decides to localize the OSTs, each video will have be to thoroughly checked for all instances in which onscreen titles appear so that they can be localized.

There may be some e-learning content where re-shoots may be needed in order to better reach a Chinese audience (e.g. if the client wants more Asian talent onscreen so as to be more appealing to a Chinese audience). There are also specific content guidelines to keep in mind for China due to censorship laws there. Content should not promote: gambling, superstition, sex, undermining of communism, and many other categories. Therefore, be sure to review your e-learning content against the Chinese guidelines; you may have to adapt it so as to pass government review.

Subtitles are another cost effective option for localization. Instead of recording over English speakers with Chinese voice talent, Chinese subtitles can be added to the existing video and is cheaper than dubbing. Because of this cost effectiveness, many e-learning courses offer subtitles in multiple languages but do not have a dubbed version available.

brown suspension bridge

Screen Capture and Interactivity

Many companies now provide product tutorials or online lessons for software. These type of lessons often use screen capture which means recording the activity on screen using a screen recording program (like Quicktime). With a screen capture e-learning video, learners can follow along step by step on their own computer and become familiar with the user interface.

When screen capturing content for a mainland Chinese audience, the software/web tool should already be localized into Chinese Mandarin prior to screen capture. The menu and user interface terms should already be translated to simplified Chinese when recording. The video will then be combined with simplified Chinese subtitles and/or Chinese Mandarin voice-over.

What’s great about e-learning content is that it is usually interactive, with quizzes and assessments spread throughout the lesson so as to test and engage the learner. To create such content, Learning Management System (LMS) software is used. This type of software is for the creation and delivery of e-learning courses and is commonly used for corporate learning videos. Programs like Adobe Captivate and TechSmith Camtasia are examples of LMS software.

Other such programs such as Adobe After Effects, Flash, Adobe Presenter, Articulate Studio, and more can also be used in conjunction with an LMS software to develop a course.

square white paper hanging lantern

The Outlook for Online Learning

Looking ahead, we see that more and more e-learning courses will be optimized for a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device. The ability to learn new software, a language, or some other e-learning topic on the bus or while waiting in line is incredibly appealing.

Students turn to MOOCs as internet accessibility and speed continue to grow. The convenience of not having to move or commute long distances, particularly for rural Chinese families, makes e-learning even more desirable.

Many of the e-learning localization tips shared above apply not just to China, but to countries across the world. What makes China unique is it’s population of approximately 1.4 billion, a majority of whom do not speak English. To reach this population, e-learning companies should team up with a professional localization studio, such as JBI Studios, to localize their content for China so as to enter this promising market.

Want to localize your e-learning content for a Chinese audience? Make sure you don’t miss anything by downloading our free e-learning localization checklist below:

Click to download JBI Studio’s e-Learning, Audio & Video Localization Quote Checklist.