Corporate E-Learning in a Multi-Cultural World


Around fifteen years ago, I took an online course about the Foreign and Corrupt Practices Act (FCPO) as part of my compliance training with a global company. The online format was very basic, just multiple-choice questions with a few slides embedded into the copy.

With the significant development of multi-media over the past several years, e-learning has transformed into a much more engaging experience, with video and special graphics that can capture the learner’s attention, particularly if the content is well-organized and visually appealing. Voice-over artists who present material in a conversational manner add even more dimension to the overall online learning experience, for a complete package that is anything but basic.

But what do global companies with multicultural, multi-lingual employees need to consider to ensure their e-learning platforms are most effective? Studies show that people absorb information much easier in their first language than in their second or third language. Meaning, if you are a native Spanish-speaker and you’re taking a class where the material is taught in English, you won’t learn as quickly or easily if the same material was taught in your mother-tongue.

It’s important to consider dialect as well - or language localization, a term used in the language industry which applies to both linguistic and cultural adaptations. Most global companies have caught on to this important fact and are adapting their e-learning platforms and other employer communications into the native languages of their employees. For example, in regulated industries, the corporate code of conduct for companies is often translated into at least nine or ten different languages.

But particularly for e-learning platforms that are offered without an online instructor, such as asynchronous learning, where a learner can access the course at any time independently, or micro-learning, which refers to information offered in small bites, the accuracy of the interpreted content is absolutely vital to comprehension since the learner doesn’t have a live instructor who can be stopped to clarify a term.

And although e-learning content has become more complex, Language Service Providers (LSPs) can now manage e-learning templates into a complete localized product. This means that not only can e-learning content be translated by language, but also by nuances within each language, which, if not interpreted correctly can completely change the meaning of a concept.

At New Language Capital, not only are we providing e-learning language access for our spoken language customers, but we also provide content for Deaf and Hard of Hearing e-learners. Our in-house ASL interpreters, one who is Deaf and one who is a nationally renowned American Sign Language interpreter, are closely connected to the Deaf community and are dedicated advocates of language access for Deaf individuals. For Deaf individuals, we recommend pre-recorded American Sign Language interpretation embedded into the e-learning content. For Hard of Hearing individuals, we recommend open captions embedded into the e-learning platform, so that it does not have to be turned on or off. For DeafBlind individuals, additional features need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, but there are available options to meet their linguistic access needs.

As e-learning becomes more commonplace in other sectors such as colleges and universities, particularly in light of the pandemic, industries will need to adapt to the language needs of their audience, whether for spoken languages or American Sign Language. The good news is that language access providers have the technology and expertise to offer multiple language access for your e-learning platforms, acting as your bridge for communication and closing the gap where there are language differences.


Working from London, England, Mark Williams is the CEO of New Language Capital. Mark has a Masters’ Degree in Asia Pacific Studies from the University of Leeds and has led LSPs and content management companies to exponential growth since the early 2000’s, providing strategic advice and industry insight. He is connected by technology to his global team.





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