eLearning Localization: Engaging Multilingual Learners in 7 Industries

No matter the industry, localizing eLearning content for multilingual learners ensures cultural relevance and linguistic accuracy, thereby improving engagement and comprehension.
Multilingual learners in various industries

Role of Localizing eLearning Content to Reach Multilingual Audiences

The world is increasingly connected in commerce and trade, thanks to the internet. The global pandemic of 2019 highlighted the need for a connected global workforce. The tools developed during this time also facilitated remote meetings, work, and training. Trainers no longer needed to fly to remote offices, and employees didn’t need to spend a week in a conference room for training. COVID-19 banned travel, and like a social experiment, we learned that remote work is possible. Almost.

To adapt to technological and economic changes, distributed organizations need a robust learning strategy to develop talent and enhance performance in the new remote eLearning environment. Like Zoom meetings, eLearning existed before COVID. It lived in global organizations with remote satellite offices, often in different countries and cultures. Managing eLearning in one language is challenging, let alone in five or a dozen languages.

When it comes to multilingual learners, many organizations initiate eLearning projects without a clear global vision and strategy, often relying on outdated content that is delivered in a ‘broadcast’ manner. This approach fails to transfer knowledge to multilingual learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. Other teams sometimes lack the tools, resources, and skilled professionals to design, deliver, and manage eLearning programs—and then struggle to do this at scale.

A poorly or partially produced video will backfire without considering local attitudes. Without localization, eLearning content may be misinterpreted, misunderstood, or lost entirely in the target culture. So, which industries can benefit from localizing their eLearning content? Here are seven inter-related examples. Not every solution will fit all teams, but exploring different approaches is worthwhile.


1. Global Corporations With a Multilingual Workforce

A Gallup report found that organizations that make strategic investments in employee development experience 11% greater profitability and are 2x as likely to retain their employees. However, creating a high-development culture requires more than just adding a few learning programs to the roster.

As a company grows internationally and workforces diversify, Learning and Development (L&D) professionals encounter communication differences when sharing core messaging and critical training modules. It becomes vital for eLearning courses to be made local to accommodate diverse employee demographics.

Localization ensures that training can be delivered in multiple languages at scale and guarantees that all teams, domestic or abroad, can improve through localized content in their native language. This ensures that training materials are culturally relevant, linguistically accurate, and aligned with local regulations and practices. A global talent development team must consider multilingual learners in different locations, not just one, and tailor the message to connect while still achieving the objectives and desired outcomes.


2. Educational Institutions with Multilingual Learners

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), public colleges enrolled approximately 7.5 million online students in 2022. Another 2.6 million remote learners attended private schools, including 1.8 million at nonprofit institutions and nearly 800,000 at for-profit schools. Not all of these students are local.

If we really want to provide equal opportunities for all students, and we want underrepresented minority students to do well, we really need to pay attention to their experiences and their perspectives and give them the tools to do better.

Universities, colleges, and schools offering online courses in learning management systems need to localize their content to accommodate international students or learners from various linguistic backgrounds. This enhances accessibility and improves learning outcomes for multilingual learners. It is also an obligation. While it may not be Title 9 or a specific mandate, there’s a need for feasibility and enabling students to learn effectively.

Making courses available to students anywhere—and translating them when there’s interest—is important. “Locale” refers to how particular words need to be in relation to the goal. For example, in one part of town, people might call it a “sandwich,” while in another part, they might call it a “hoagie” (a US English, mid-Atlantic linguistic divide). Does it matter? Sometimes it’s not relevant, but other times it can cause minor or major distractions. Most major errors are caught by a local review, there are ways to bring that upstream. Fixing and re-deploying a course after it’s already launched is a partially wasted effort.


3. Public-Sector Agencies Addressing Multilingual Constituents

Government departments or agencies involved in training initiatives, public awareness campaigns, or citizen education programs may require localization services to reach constituents in various regions or linguistic communities. Over 359 languages are spoken in the US, making it #9 globally out of 242 countries. This is far fewer than Papua New Guinea’s 840 languages but highlights our globalized nature. While we focus on the US in this example, each region has its unique challenges and opportunities.

For example, a public health campaign regarding vaccination must account for cultural beliefs about healthcare, local idioms, varying literacy levels, and language preferences for those with limited English proficiency (LEP) to achieve success. This is especially true for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) populations, who often harbor greater distrust and hesitancy toward vaccines. There are other policy implications that go beyond our topic—but the best solution is to embrace the diversity of the cultural divide and allow that differences will appear. If you pay attention, there is something to learn about the diverse populations that make up the patchwork of communities and can drive better engagement and response.

Localization ensures that important information is not only understood but also embraced by the community. This can lead to greater mission success with the desired outcomes of a program, whether it’s increased public knowledge, changed behaviors, or improved access to services.


4. Healthcare Providers Serving Multilingual Populations

Healthcare organizations frequently develop eLearning modules for staff training, patient education, or medical certification programs. Localizing these materials is crucial to ensure that terminology, procedures, and healthcare guidelines are accurately conveyed across different languages and cultural contexts.

For instance, consider patient education. The term “hospice,” commonly translated into Spanish as “hospicio,” often carries the negative connotation of institutionalizing a loved one. This concept is unfamiliar in Latin America, where most families care for their loved ones at home.

Latinos often think they're giving up on their [loved one's] medical care, and that's not the case. It's bringing a holistic, compassionate form of health care focused on dignity and the patient's wishes.

Suzanne Sanchez, Community Liaison at Hospice of the Valley, says that while they have bilingual staff serving Spanish-speaking patients, they “don’t focus on the word, but on the feeling.” Similarly, localization goes beyond word-for-word translation to account for such cultural nuances. In all patient interactions with cultural or language barriers, there are opportunities to improve access and quality of care by providing more culturally-aware context. Better outcomes result from adapting to the patient, rather than expecting the patient to adapt to something unfamiliar.


5. Technology Companies Engaging Multilingual Learners

Approximately 16% of the world’s population speaking English, but surprisingly 52% of websites are written in English. Software companies, IT firms, and tech startups that develop eLearning software tutorials to reach global users or product training materials to engage multilingual learners often require localization services.

According to a recent study by DeepL, 75% of respondents agree that localized content significantly increases customer engagement. It also improves user experience and promotes wider adoption. People are more inclined to engage with content that resonates with their linguistic and cultural background, leading to increased user satisfaction and product success. Product teams regularly consider user personas, use cases, and the best outcomes from using a product. The language aspect shouldn’t be an afterthought if you want to capture the remaining 80% of the global market.


6. Manufacturing and Industry with Multilingual Workers

Companies in manufacturing, engineering, or industrial sectors often create eLearning courses for employee training on safety, standard operating procedures, or compliance. Did you know that, Hispanic and Latino workers are expected to comprise 78% of new workers by 2030, yet they face a 32% higher risk of fatal work injuries?

Localization ensures that safety and training resources are effectively communicated to workers across diverse linguistic backgrounds. Without multilingual and localized content, it is impossible to hold every employee to the same safety, productivity, and quality standards. Additionally, other worker populations, such as overseas subsidiaries or partners, regularly need to understand concepts that enable higher performance. While some organizations manage with bootstrapped solutions, a comprehensive strategy can significantly improve efficiency and operational excellence for multilingual learners.


7. Nonprofit Organizations Engaging Multilingual Communities

NGOs, charities, and humanitarian organizations involved in capacity-building initiatives, community development projects, or advocacy may require localized eLearning content to engage with stakeholders in different regions or language groups. Localization helps reflect local customs, values, and norms, making the content relatable and respectful to the target audience. Incorporating locally relevant images, symbols, and voices in multimedia content also boosts engagement and retention among the audience.

For example, UNICEF localizes educational materials for children in different countries, ensuring they are culturally and linguistically appropriate. The Amref Health Africa in the US uses localized eLearning content to train health workers across Africa. Their materials are tailored to the specific health needs and cultural contexts of the regions they serve. A smart strategy for localization can also stretch the effectiveness of budgets so that more impact can be achieved with less wasted effort.


Localize Your eLearning Content with PGLS

Starting an eLearning localization project involves careful consideration of various factors, from advanced project management to international regulations. PGLS is the preferred language partner for organizations of all sizes. Our renowned localization services, coupled with our team’s expertise, a global network of specialists, and tailored end-to-end solutions, ensure comprehensive support at every stage of the localization process. We can help craft a strategy, introduce new tools and processes, and optimize your global-to-local communication pipeline. eLearning can be complicated but getting solutions to reach multilingual learners doesn’t have to be.