It's a Small World After All

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LRN
Business:
Ethics training for businesses all over the world
Vendor: Lionbridge for translation
Business Problem: Needed to translate sensitive business ethics training courses into multiple languages while taking into consideration the cultural, legal, and linguistic needs of each customer. For some companies, it’s more than the underlying technology. Instead, it’s about understanding the countries in which the company operates.

One such company is LRN, which develops ethics training and works with hundreds of companies in 120 countries around the world to help them foster an ethical culture through its courses. Customers include CBS, Dow Chemical, eBay, 3M, and Siemens—to name but a few. LRN spokesperson Kathleen Brennan says her company has helped to educate 12 million people across the globe, delivering courseware in more than 40 languages. In a sensitive area such as ethics, each company and country has unique language and cultural requirements, and LRN has to pay close attention to translation issues, as well as more subtle cultural differences.

Chris Campbell, creative director at LRN, says his company has to take other factors beyond pure translation and word choice into account. The courses also have to be localized so that content feels authentic to participants. “Localization is as important as the accuracy of the translation process,” he says. This means that “learners need to be able to connect in a way that is believable to them. Otherwise, you don’t make that strong emotional connection that allows us to facilitate an emotional change.” He says this level of understanding is not necessarily a heavily technology-dependent activity. Instead, it’s about building a process that allows you to take some time to understand nuances and differences of the markets in which you operate.

It all starts with translation, though. Jessica Saathoff, project manager for localization at LRN, explains that the company began working with Lionbridge 5 years ago after a disastrous experience with another vendor resulted in unhappy clients. She says that even though she came on board after the vendor selection process was complete, bringing in Lionbridge helped stabilize the situation.

“I don’t know the background of the original vendor, but I do know that Lionbridge has a lot of quality control processes in place. They use multiple people in the translation process,” Saathoff explains. “There is the translator. There is the linguistics expert, and each translation goes through multiple people and multiple steps. It’s not just a single person applying [his or her] opinion about how a word should be translated. There are experts who have a background in linguistics and a lot of experience who are active in that process.”

This is especially important for Saathoff, who currently has 30 projects in play involving translations from 1 to 40 languages with a total of 300 courses in some stage of translation. She explains when her company develops a course, it uses tools developed in-house to convert the content from Word documents into XML. She then uses Lionbridge’s Freeway web portal to transfer content to Lionbridge for translation. Lionbridge checks the LRN translation memory to find content/names/terminology that has been translated in the past, then sends the remainder of the document out for translation.

When the document comes back, she explains that each custom course goes to the client for review. “It goes to a specialist [at the customer company] who knows the target language. That person reviews it and makes sure the terminology used, and the tone of the course, and style of translation matches with the culture of their company,” Saathoff says. With so many courses and the sensitivity of the material, it is inevitable that there are going to be differences of opinion around word choice, but Saathoff says that because Lionbridge has access to so many translators in any given country, it has been able to find the right person to help LRN keep its customers satisfied.

“It’s very important that you understand we all see the world through a different lens,” Campbell says. “What we consider normal standard behavior in one part of the world is not in another. You have to put the work in to understand that behavior is different,” he says. LRN needs to take all of these factors into consideration when delivering content to a global audience, and by taking the time to carefully build translations while building a cultural understanding, it can deliver content in the global market place that speaks specifically to each location.

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