How to create the perfect elearning localization strategy

Need translations? Try Smartcat for free!

Elearning localization is a powerful tool for organizations seeking to secure positive learning outcomes among employees and attract and retain top talent. If you’re thinking about how to incorporate elearning translation and localization into your L&D team’s workflow then keep reading. In this article, we’re going to run through why an effective elearning localization strategy is a must-have for every L&D team and the steps you need to follow to create one. We’ll also be providing some localization best practices to ensure you get your strategy spot on from the get-go.

Ready to learn more?

Then let’s dive in.

What is elearning localization?

Elearning localization refers to when the content used in learning materials is adapted for particular regions, cultures, and audiences. Although a major part of elearning localization involves the translation and adjustment of text to match the language, cultural references, and nuances used by particular learners, it doesn’t end there.

Elearning localization also refers to the transformation of images, formatting conventions, video, currencies, layout, and tone to better match the type of content that users from particular cultures or regions can relate to and learn from.

Examples of elearning localization:

  1. Customizing case studies and scenarios u sed in the learning materials is an important part of elearning localization. In marketing course materials, for example, using brand names that will be familiar to the learner is a simple way of ensuring the content is relatable and understandable to those studying the course.

  1. Due to the language, terminology, and dialect variants of different regions, learning resources need to be adapted to match the preferences of intended audiences. For example, a Spanish language course in Mexico will require different learning assets to those of a Spanish language course in Spain due to the differences in grammar, vocabulary, and colloquialisms found in the Spanish spoken in Mexico.

  1. In specific industries such as healthcare or finance, regulations and laws vary from region to region. When producing elearning content for sectors such as these, not only should local law be cited and followed, but additionally relevant case studies are necessary to accurately reflect and communicate the regulatory landscape of the sector in the region.

When creating L&D packages for employees of all backgrounds and languages which deliver on the learning outcomes needed by the business, an organization must create a localization strategy. This process doesn’t just significantly boost the learning outcomes of employees, it illustrates an organization’s dedication to its employees’ development, demonstrates a deep respect for the diverse cultural backgrounds of its workforce, and communicates the management’s ongoing commitment to creating a fully inclusive working environment–all valuable tools in the attraction of new talent and the retention of employees.

What’s the difference between elearning translation and localization?

While elearning translation and localization are closely related, they have two very distinct roles. Translation is the process of directly converting written or spoken text from one language into another, while localization is a more comprehensive approach that is concerned with the transformation of the entirety of a product’s content to meet the language, needs, style, terminology, and preferences of a specific market, region, or audience.

Here are some of the core differences between translation and localization to be aware of:

  • While translation is concerned solely with the conversion of written or spoken text from one language into another, localization is concerned with transforming every part of the content to meet a specific audience’s needs.

  • Localization involves adapting graphics, images, cultural references, page layouts, and terminology to match the intended audience’s expectations, needs, and preferences, while translation is solely concerned with converting the language.

  • Localization might include the use of local social proof; for example, product reviews or testimonials from users in the area of the target audience.

  • In addition to language translation, localization is concerned with cultural adaptation, the inclusion of relevant context, and technical localization.

  • Localization requires the recognition and adjustment of certain images, emojis, graphics, and even colors due to their different symbolic meanings in different regions.

A useful way to understand the difference between translation and localization is to think of localization as the umbrella term which translation falls under:

  1. When it comes to the creation of elearning resources, localization is a comprehensive approach for transforming every part of a learning resource into content that is understandable, relatable, and inclusive for all students or employees.

  2. Translation is simply one important part of localization –the direct conversion of one language into another. For this reason, localization is so much more than just translation and so much more valuable too.

The importance of language localization in elearning content

Let’s take a look why language localization in elearning content is not just a ‘nice to have’ but a necessity part of every learning management system of organizations serious about their employees’ learning outcomes and satisfaction.

Ensures content is familiar and relevant to learners

When course materials are transformed via a strategic elearning localization process, learners find them more familiar and relevant than when presented with generic training content that does not take into account region, background, culture, or preferences. Localized resources feel tailored to the learner’s individual experiences and expectations and align more closely with the world around them, which helps learners to feel included and seen.

Boosts learning outcomes

While it probably comes as no surprise that 90% of learners prefer to receive their training materials in their native language, research also shows that when students are required to study a subject in a foreign language, learning outcomes are dramatically lower than when they have the chance to learn from materials translated into their native language.

When culturally familiar and relevant terminology, images, and formatting conventions are incorporated into translated learning materials too, as is the case with localized content, students can even more effectively comprehend and process what they are being taught.

Improves knowledge acquisition and retention

Those who learn from localized resources benefit from an improvement in how well they acquire and retain knowledge and information. This is because when training content is culturally relevant to students it resonates more deeply with them and is therefore easier to onboard and understand, while case studies that accurately reflect the student’s surroundings and life experiences are easier for them to engage with and retain.

Finally, from a purely language perspective, when students are presented with text that is written in their native language, they can concentrate on the concepts being taught without having to struggle with translation or misunderstandings.

Demonstrates commitment to employee development

Companies that invest in localized elearning content for their employees are invested in their employees’ development. This is because localized learning materials demonstrate that a company is willing to go the extra mile to make each employee’s learning materials accessible and relevant, giving them the best chance possible of a positive learning outcome.

This speaks volumes for the company, boosting its reputation as a good employer and attracting top talent, but this positive approach to learning and development also boosts the job satisfaction, loyalty, and retention rates of the employees currently working for the organization, too.

Enhances learner engagement

Students are overall more satisfied and engaged when the educational resources or content they are given is adapted to their learning style and terminology, matches their cultural references, and includes local examples or case studies. This is because the content is more linguistically accessible to them, it speaks directly to their personal experiences, and demonstrates respect for their culture and practices.

When students feel like their cultural identities are not only represented in the content they are given but also valued, they are significantly more likely to engage with and therefore benefit from the learning process.

Promotes inclusivity and diversity

Another key advantage to localizing the learning materials of employees is that it promotes an inclusive working and learning environment and attracts a more diverse range of talent to an organization. Not only does catering to the needs of those from all backgrounds make employees feel more welcome, but it’s a huge bonus for companies too. Numerous studies have found that diverse organizations:

  • Experience improved financial performance;

  • Generate faster, more inventive solutions;

  • Witness a boost in reputation;

  • Receive more applications from Gen Z and Millennial job seekers;

  • Benefit from improved decision-making;

  • See an increase in overall employee engagement;

Localizing employee training and elearning materials is a crucial step in attracting and retaining the diverse workforce that will secure these major benefits.

Which elements of your elearning content should you localize?

When preparing your elearning content for localization, these are the elements you’ll need to ensure are adjusted to match the language, culture, region, preferences, and terminology of your learners.

  • Written text

As we’ve mentioned, translation is a key part of the localization process. Course materials, assessments, instructions, and any interface copy should be translated into the appropriate language of the learner and assessed for cultural and regional relevancy.

  • Visual assets

Images, illustrations, photographs, and graphics should be localized to reflect the cultural norms and preferences of the intended audience. This may involve replacing or editing existing images with those that are relatable to particular demographics. Ensuring all visual assets are inclusive as well as relevant will also be important here.

  • Audio and video content

With a particular focus on accent and dialect, voiceovers and subtitles should accurately reflect the speech of the learner consuming the content.

  • Case studies

Case studies and examples are frequently used in learning materials to help learners digest difficult concepts. When using case studies and examples, be sure to adjust cultural references and brand names to match those associated with the region of the learner. Scenarios should also be adjusted to reflect those that the learner will easily recognize.

  • Measurements and formatting

Date formats, currency, and units of measurement should all be converted to match the local conventions of the learner. As well as being more inclusive, this practice helps to mitigate any misunderstandings.

  • Laws and regulations

In cases where it’s relevant to the subject matter being taught, change the content of the learning materials to accurately reflect any laws or regulations of the learner’s home region.

  • User interface design

The interface design of the elearning materials should be customized to accommodate different language, reading, and navigation conventions. (Eg, reading right to left, instead of left to right.) In addition to the layout of the text, remember to adjust all other design elements too, such as buttons, menus, search bars, and forms.

How to create an elearning localization strategy

Ready to start crafting an elearning localization strategy that supports your employees in reaching their learning goals? Check out the following steps for how to create an elearning localization strategy that brings about positive learning outcomes for those of every preference, language, and cultural background.

Step 1: Research your target audience

The first step in crafting a successful elearning strategy is to thoroughly research the intended audience of your learning materials. You can do this by conducting surveys and interviews with representatives of the group you are targeting, utilizing web analytics or employee feedback, engaging with local experts and educators from the relevant region, and pilot testing your content with a sample group and gathering their feedback and suggestions. Areas you will want to cover when gathering data from learners will be:

  • Demographics: age, location, language, educational background, and occupation;

  • Preferred learning styles and content formatting, such as text, audio, or video;

  • Language proficiency, dialects, and preferred terminology for particular subjects;

  • Cultural norms and values including taboos to avoid and sensitive subjects;

  • Expectations of the learning materials;

  • Assessment norms and preferences;

  • Desired learning outcomes;

  • Technical preferences and limitations.

Step 2: Translate your learning course content

Translating content is a key part of the localization process and organizations have a few options to choose from when it comes to authentically converting one language into another. A team of in-house translators enables a company to have greater control over the consistency and quality of translations while hiring freelance translators offers more flexibility in sourcing specialist language skills and those with subject matter knowledge. Some organizations prefer to pass their translation requirements over to a translation agency that can utilize their network of language experts, editors, and reviewers when an organization requires extensive translation work to be completed within a fixed period.

AI translation in combination with human reviewers is an increasingly popular option for localization teams. This hybrid approach enables the speed of machine translation without sacrificing any of the accuracy or detail of human expertise. At Smartcat, our AI translation service enables organizations to translate their courses and learning materials in minutes while the Smartcat Editor, a computer-assisted translation tool, provides in-house translators, hired linguists, or subject matter experts with the support and technology they need to seamlessly review and edit the AI translation to ensure correct use of terminology and consistent and appropriate tone of voice.

Step 3: Localize your multimedia

Localizing your multimedia refers to adapting your images, videos, audio files, and interactive elements to accurately reflect the language, cultural references, and preferences of your learners. This includes translating text and subtitles on videos, recording new voiceovers, and dubbing existing audio all in the language your learners speak and understand. Smartcat’s AI video translation and AI voice-over tool enable teams to efficiently and collaboratively produce automatic, high-quality AI translations of videos. L&D teams simply upload their existing videos to the platform to transform voiceovers and subtitles into the right language for their audiences using AI. The editor function supports team collaboration as well as providing important linguistic assets such as translation memories and glossaries.

In addition to translation, localizing your multimedia involves replacing cultural references and scenarios with those relevant to the audience, converting symbols and icons to better align with the recognized aesthetics of the targeted region, and visually representing the diversity of the target audience in photographs and illustrations. When these design elements are effectively localized, L&D teams can be confident that their elearning materials are culturally aligned and their communication with learners is effective and meaningful.

Step 4: Test on students and gather feedback

Testing is an important part of refining any workplace strategy. This is particularly true with the localization of elearning materials for your employees. Testing will ensure that your content communicates your intended messaging and that students can successfully onboard the knowledge they need to develop as professionals.

Language comprehension surveys, cultural sensitivity testing, and functional and usability testing are all established assessment methods for ensuring your content is clear, culturally relevant, and contributing towards a positive user experience. Conducting these tests with learners who belong to the relevant audience group of your content will ensure that the data and feedback you collect is fully representative of your target users.

Once you’ve collected feedback on your elearning materials you’ll need to implement the changes and suggestions which have arisen. Keep testing, gathering feedback, and iterating on your content until you are confident that your materials are providing the organization’s intended learning experience for your employees.

Step 5: Launch and regularly update

With testing complete, you’re ready to launch! To ensure your learning materials stay relevant, culturally appropriate, accessible, and up to date, you’ll need to regularly gather feedback from your employees and use their suggestions to update and improve your content at regular intervals.

Here are our top tips for keeping your content fresh and engaging:

  • Create a revision schedule for regular assessment of your elearning materials and implementation of feedback from testing;

  • Monitor learning metrics and outcomes such as completion rates and engagement levels to quickly spot any issues;

  • Be sure to stay abreast of industry changes and regulations as well as cultural trends;

  • Regularly review translations and terminology and update where necessary.

Best practices for your elearning localization strategy

Align with the company’s current strategy

It’s important that your elearning localization strategy aligns with the overarching company strategy to ensure that all employee training contributes to the overall vision and mission of the company. Assessing the impact that localized elearning materials have on learning and business outcomes will be an important part of this.

Make data-driven localization decisions

Rather than leaving your localization decisions up to chance, using data to back up each element of your strategy will ensure you make the right strategic steps and help you get stakeholders on board too. Data-driven decision-making involves defining clear KPIs, analyzing website analytics, collecting data from employees, and regular testing. The more information you have on what’s working and what isn’t, the more effective your next steps will be.

Establish clear objectives from the start

There are numerous benefits to establishing clear goals for your elearning localization strategy:

  • It gives the team direction and purpose when creating the strategy;

  • It helps you align with the company’s goals and current strategy;

  • It assists in tracking progress and holding stakeholders to account;

  • It helps you plan out your resource allocation;

  • It supports a working and learning environment that promotes optimization and continuous improvement.

Establish your budget

Having a clear budget in mind supports your team’s financial planning when it comes to creating and localizing elearning courses and content. It ensures you are in a good position from the start to allocate your resources and prevents overspending on localization elements such as translation or interface redesign. A clear budget also helps to manage stakeholder expectations as it mitigates financial risk and supports efforts to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of localizing learning materials which stakeholders will be particularly interested in.

How can Generative AI be used to create elearning content?

Generative AI is an important tool in the creation, translation, and localization of elearning content. With the right prompts, generative AI can create text-based learning materials such as subject-specific course materials and assessments, while AI-powered chatbots can support students in their learning as virtual assistants; answering questions, guiding students toward the right resources, and boosting learner engagement. As we have seen, in relation to language translation and localization, generative AI can be used to convert the text of one language into another, create voiceovers and subtitles, and facilitate localization efforts to reach wider global audiences. Generative AI can also be used to create increasingly personalized, high-quality content for students based on interactions and feedback. This not only enhances the overall learning experience for students and meets individual needs, it optimizes engagement and leads to more positive learning outcomes.


In this article we’ve run through the differences between language translation and localization, why localization is so important for effective learning, and exactly what you need to do to create an elearning strategy. Remember, by researching your target learners thoroughly and creating clear objectives for your content, you are in a strong position to make the most of the latest AI technology to support your localization efforts and deliver elearning materials that truly meet both the needs of your learners and your business.

Translate elearning materials