3 Online Training Features Every Non-English Speaker Wants

This seems obvious, but I'll say it anyway: not everyone who works at your organization speaks English natively. They might not even speak English at all.

It's a point that's worth noting, because we as English speakers tend to forget that. We're spoiled that so many people speak English, and it's easy to overlook the unique needs of people who weren't born sharing our language.

It's a lesson that we who work in online professional development can learn from. This industry tends to favor fluency over those who have weaker skills. Some organizations look at language support as too expensive, not relevant to their organizational needs or a nonessential feature.

In fact, we should all be doing more to accommodate learners whose English skills aren't strong or those who don't speak English at all. In many fields (medical interpreters, translators, cultural liasons, etc.), bilingual workers are absolutely essential. Others are highly skilled and can bring a rich past experience to their work, if only they can be given the right information in the right way.

Organizations should use technology and curricula that can better address the needs of all worker populations.

The following are a few ways that Talance addresses multilingual education. Copy and apply to your workforce.

1. Recognize cultural differences

Simple translation—say, English to Spanish—is rarely enough to provide a complete learning experience. It's important to address cultural differences. This goes two ways. Recognizing cultural differences can help employees understand what might or might not be acceptable in your area. Offering this early on will help everyone work better together as a multidisciplinary team.

If you're working with curricula, also make sure you perform a cultural translation in addition to a linguistic one. Not all expressions exist in other languages and cultures.

Take the example of "single-parent child," from professor Montasser Mohamed Abdelwahab at Al Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University.

He explains that "a Muslim reader cannot understand the notion of a child with one parent only." The closest idea in Islamic culture is "orphan," a child who has lost a parent, but not an accurate translation to a native English speaker. His suggestion is to provide a detailed explanation such as:

"It is possible for a woman in the western world to have a baby with any man she likes, and she is not legally obliged to declare the father’s name or nationality etc., or she may not be certain about them. In this case the family which consists of only the mother and the child is called 'one-parent family' and the child is called 'one parent child.'"

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2. Multi-lingual menus

In many online trainings, the bulk of the curriculum might be translated, but sometimes the system language remains in English.

The Talance learning management system provides on-the-fly multilingual support, so that all labels for all standard objects and pages are in the end-user language. For example, here's the login page with Spanish enabled:

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3. Bilingual staff support

Having language support for curricula and system infrastructure is a solid foundation. But it's equally important to have staff with the right language skills ready to help. For Talance, this usually means a bilingual instructor, course assistant and customer support representative. Having internal language capabilities can help organizations offer help to trainees and also identify issues with other translations.

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