Research has shown that learning is most effective when conducted in the learner’s native language, but translation alone isn’t enough to ensure a quality experience for your global audience. Not only does the course need to be adapted to the target culture, but it also needs to be thoroughly tested from a linguistic and functional perspective to ensure users get an equivalent experience to that of the source-language course.
In this article, we will discuss ten of the most common issues and challenges that come up during localization testing. It’s important to keep in mind that every course is different, and there is no fixed set of rules or checks to follow during localization testing that can ensure an error-free product. The suggestions in this article are intended to cover typical scenarios and are by no means exhaustive.
For a bug-free localized e-learning course, it is extremely important to select the right localization testing team and implement best practices. Your testing team will be the very first people to experience the localized product as a whole, including translated content, graphics, audio, video, layout, and interactive components, including the UI.
Localization testing involves two major components: linguistic accuracy and end-to-end functionality. We recommend having two independent teams, each individually focused on one of these components. We are not going to delve into the detailed language checks that linguistic testers should perform, but rather provide a general overview of some of the common functional and layout issues that come up during localization testing:
1. Missing Content
Generally, the technical team members that re-integrate localized content into the course environment are not language experts, but engineers. They may not speak the target language at all, but even if they do, their primary focus is the technical aspect—not language accuracy. With the volume of content often involved in this process and the delicacy of the work involved, it’s very easy to fail to integrate part of the translated text or unintentionally move or remove text or linguistic objects. We recommend a separate team to test courses linguistically to ensure translations are not only correct, but also complete.
2. Content in English
The second very basic check is to verify nothing is left in English, e.g. on-screen content, graphics, audio, etc.
3. Format and Layout Issues
The localized course should always be checked against the source-language course to ensure the formatting and layout match as much as possible. Some of the important things to check while comparing: Is everything laid out correctly as per source? Is there any overlapping text or truncated content? Any missing line breaks? Is the positioning of images and text the same as it is in the source? Are the fonts, line spacing, and margins consistent, and do they match the source?
4. Proper Character Display
Corrupted characters will generally display as empty boxes or a series of question marks. However, in some languages, such as Arabic, Thai, and Hebrew, it’s tough to detect corrupted letters if you don’t have linguistic knowledge.
5. RTL Languages
RTL (Right-to-left) languages like Arabic or Hebrew have their own set of challenges. All of the content, images, and even links are flipped in the course, making the localized course appear like a mirror image of the source. These languages have to be tested carefully to ensure content is flipped correctly.
Are the links (both internal and external) in the target course pointing to the correct locations? Links can either direct to internally embedded documents or external web pages. Are all links localized (if part of scope) and tested separately against the master or source links?
7. Input/Output/Popup Validation
Validation messages or popups (e.g. “Are you sure you want to exit?”) need to be thoroughly tested in all possible conditions to ensure that the correct content is triggered at the correct time and that the text is correctly localized.
8. Functional Testing
While testing the layout of the course, you will need to explore every area, action, and dialogue box. Always compare the localized course with the source to confirm functional equivalency. There is no need to run separate unit testing or test cases on the localized courses as you generally would with software testing—the localization testing teams are already exploring and covering all functionality while testing the format/layout.
9. Media Testing
Are all graphics localized? Are all audio/video clips correctly integrated? Is audio correctly synchronized with on-screen text/animation? If there is a transcript window for the audio, does it have the text correctly localized? Are there any videos included, and if so, are they dubbed/subtitled correctly as per the project requirement? If there is any on-screen text displayed in the video, has it been localized? Linguistic testing should cover all these checks.
10. LMS Testing
Almost all e-learning courses are created for an LMS, and there can be different specifications such as SCORM 2004, AICC, etc. Irrespective of these specifications, it’s important to cover a few basic functionality checks during testing:
Does the browser display the correct localized title of the course when launched through the LMS?
Is the LMS recording the progress of the target course correctly as compared to the master course? Is the completion status (in progress, incomplete, complete) being recorded and displayed correctly?
Is the bookmarking feature working correctly and does the pop-up of the bookmark dialogue display the correct translations?
Is the course correctly scoring the user responses (i.e., pass/fail, percentage, etc.)?
The above checklist is a good starting point for your first e-learning localization project. For a customized and complete localization testing solution, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.