A key component of globalizing your training program is content localization. This transformation is what will allow you to expand abroad and be relevant with learners in non-English speaking markets.
I will not recommend localization vendors as there are many firms in the market place. ATD forums and members can be a good source of recommendations.
Try your vendor with a small piece to check their quality. If you work with a native speaker facilitator of the target language, he or she can perform a quality check of the translated copy. Once you have chosen a localization partner, you can proceed with the plan to translate your whole content.
Be aware that localization takes more than one step. Machine translation is the norm. You will need a native-speaker editor to refine the translation company’s output. This step is key and will assure that your materials read as if they had been written in the target language. The in-language trainer can do the final edit of the translated materials or help you find a qualified editor.
A good practice before beginning with the translation is to identify key or proprietary terminology that is used consistently throughout your content. “Probing”, for instance, is used regularly in sales or negotiation training so it is important that its equivalent in the target language is used consistently throughout the translated content. A practical way to assure lexical consistency is to create a searchable glossary database (i.e., an Excel spreadsheet) to capture key terminology in English and its equivalents in the target languages used.
Localize everything, from participant’s guides to videos, handouts, and PowerPoint decks. If you use video clips, do add captions in the target language. Even if your audience understands English, they will appreciate subtitles that allow them to follow the spoken audio. By the way, this is a good practice that applies to clips with English-language audio tracks presented to native English speakers.
Localizing your content involves more than translating words into a different language. It means transforming your content so that it feels “local” for your target audience. There is no need to recreate your materials. But you might need you adjust 5 to 10% of it. Some things to look for:
- Measuring system: any figures quoted in the Imperial system will need to be converted to the Metric system for Continental European and Latin American audiences.
- Number notation: Continental Europe and most of Latin America use a period to indicate thousands. Mexico and Central American countries use a comma instead.
- Names: it is a good idea to change the names of people in your role plays, stories and examples so that they reflect local customs (Jane might become Ana in Brazil, Laura in Mexico or Giulia in Italy). Likewise, if you use stock photos of people in your materials make sure the ethnicities of the groups you will be working with are represented in them.
- Cultural or historical references: be careful with mentions to historical events and maps included in your materials. Often, naming conventions used by map manufacturers in one part of the world are not accepted in others. For instance, it is common to see in world maps printed in the English-speaking world the use of the word Falklands to designate the archipelago in the South Atlantic that was involved in a war between the United Kingdom and Argentina in 1982. Argentine maps (and many others printed in the Spanish-speaking world) label the islands Malvinas. The river that separates the border between Texas and Mexico is another example. Same river, two names: Rio Bravo in the United States, Río Grande in México.
Choosing a facilitator
The selection of a facilitator is a key decision that will impact the successful rollout of your globalization strategy. For your customers, he or she will be the face of your company. That is true for your home market as well. As you expand overseas, a facilitator should be a consultant that helps you navigate the waters of foreign markets. It is important to look at his or her skills beyond delivery. Those skills involve project management, consulting, and writing. For instance, most training programs require some customization. This involves learning about your customer business so that your training is tailored to specific market and culture realities. You might want to rely on your consultant to conduct in-language interviews with the local client contacts and carry out other type of communications with them.
Should you partner with a U.S.-based or in-country facilitator? There are pros and cons to consider and they are dependent on factors such as markets served, pricing of training program, and sector where you operate.
- Travel costs: Your client will bear the travel costs of the facilitator. However, travel costs will be part of your pricing and therefore impact your competitiveness. Some clients might object to having to fly a facilitator from the United States for a training session. This scenario is infrequent and it happens with low-priced training solutions which render travel costs a disproportionate share of the total investment a client makes in a training event.
- Up-skilling: The travel costs of bringing a facilitator who is not based in the U.S. for upskilling in your content and other activities is higher. These are costs that are not easily passed on to your clients.
- Payments: There are might be financial costs and legal requirements resulting from paying a consultant or facilitator who is based abroad. You will need to consult with your financial and legal team to evaluate those.
- Multilingual skills: It is worth evaluating English-speaking facilitators who are multilingual. This will allow you to leverage them not only in foreign markets, but for U.S. based clients. They can be a useful resource in case of emergencies or meet staffing needs for one-time projects.
Contracting and Logistics Considerations
The contract that you have with your U.S. multinational client, and that set the terms for domestic deliveries, gives you an excellent baseline to negotiate with their overseas subsidiaries (that is, assuming you are happy with the terms of that contract).
Usually, overseas subsidiaries will write a contract addendum that will address issues not covered in the master services agreement your firm has with their parent company. Do leverage the master services agreement as it is a powerful precedent that can help preempt unfair renegotiation demands from the overseas subsidiary. It should contain provisions about copyrights and payment terms that will protect you as you begin doing business with the new entity. Regarding payment terms, it is not unusual to request an advance payment prior to delivering your services. This will help your cash flow position in case of payments are delayed after completing your assignment.
As you coordinate the shipment of workshop materials to use in your in-country live sessions, it is important to assess if you might have to pay import duties. Custom agents tend to assume that a box containing multiple copies of a training workbook, book, or any other educational material is merchandise that will be sold in the local market. Thus, do research the proper labeling of your shipping forms to avoid unplanned charges and delays.
Major U.S. couriers such as FedEx and UPS offer reliable service and can advise you on how to best prepare your shipment. DHL has a large foot print in Europe and in some Latin American countries.
Some U.S. multinationals have internal mail service that reaches their international subsidiaries. Find out if this service is available with any of your clients. Both of you will save money and assure a hassle-free delivery of your materials at your workshop location.
Leverage your overseas assignment
Leverage your overseas delivery for networking opportunities. Your main fixed cost (international airfare) is already amortized and your only investment might be additional hotel nights. Research in advance opportunities to deliver a keynote or shorter sessions with trade groups, professional associations, etc. Explore outreach activities that will help you find new clients and potential local partners that can help you set up a local presence in the second phase of your international expansion.
The overseas affiliates of the American Chamber of Commerce are a useful resource and can help you with your initial outreach. Local subsidiaries of American companies participate in them through internal committees that are vertically organized (i.e., technology, manufacturing, consulting, etc.). The groups organize networking activities such as conferences, monthly member meetings, etc.
An international expansion might seem like an overwhelming proposition, particularly for smaller firms, or not a priority for those that enjoy a healthy business in the domestic market. But an international expansion offers a growth path that can not only add a new revenue stream, but make you more competitive in U.S. markets and ultimately support the long-term sustainability of your company.
Marcelo Morichi is multilingual facilitator with over ten years of experience. He has facilitated Challenger™ sales, coaching, and negotiation workshops in over fifteen countries. He facilitates in English, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, and is based in Washington, D.C.