Arabic Translation in Articulate Storyline

We recently completed an e-learning course in Articulate Storyline that was created in English and then translated into Arabic using Storyline’s translation feature. The project was on a very tight timeline, and a lot happened in a hurry. As a result, we learned some important lessons about best practices when translating a course, particularly one that uses something other than our Latin alphabet. Here are some tips if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

1. Get everything done before translation.

Because of the project’s timeline, we ended up creating the Arabic version of the course before review cycles were complete on the English version. As a result we had to make later changes in two different versions of the same course essentially doubling our workload.

That might sound relatively innocuous to some, but try editing Arabic text when you don’t read or speak Arabic – not easy! Our translator was an affiliate of our client, so we did not have unlimited access to her to make later edits.

2. Watch the timeline.

When we swapped out the English audio for the Arabic audio, we noticed that the Arabic audio was significantly longer than the English.  This disrupted the timing of animations, appearance of photographs, text boxes, and more.

To help address this problem we had the Arabic translator insert cue points on the Storyline timeline to mark the location for animations and transitions. We then adjusted the placement of the relevant objects on the timeline to match the cue points in the Arabic translation. If it was Spanish or another language with the Latin alphabet, we could have the translator mark the storyboards where the cue points needed to appear. Then someone who didn’t even speak that language could just listen and follow along with the script to mark those points. But with Arabic (or Chinese, Korean, etc.), you can’t just look at the script and listen for those words. Without knowing the alphabet, it’s as if you are working in the dark.

3. Watch the size of your text boxes.

After inserting the Arabic text via Storyline’s translation function, be sure to check out your text boxes. We found significant differences in the amount of space the Arabic text took up as opposed to the English. Since Storyline by default “Resizes shape to fit text” the layout of a slide could have changed significantly. In addition, if you had objects layered on top of a text box (like an “X” close button for custom feedback) they might become “disconnected” from the text box. When you build the English version you might want to set text boxes to “Do not Autofit” so your basic layout does not change.

4. Configure the translation-specific settings.

When finishing the Arabic version of the course, there were some little things we had to remember. First, in Storyline there’s a setting (Player…Other) to indicate that your text is read right to left, which is the case with Arabic. You can also set all Storyline text labels to Arabic (Player…Text Labels). Finally, set your Player font (Player…Colors & Effects) to a Unicode font like Arial Unicode MS if it is not displaying correctly.

5. Have your translator available throughout the editing process.

Once we had everything together, we still had no way of knowing if it was right. If the client asked for an edit, we didn’t always know where to make the change. (It’s easy to splice out a sentence in the audio in English. But if you have to splice out a sentence in the Arabic, how do you even know when one sentence ends and the next one starts?) So be sure to have a translator available to hold your hand through any of the edits. Using a web conference such as Adobe Connect can help you collaborate on any changes.

What tips and tricks have you used to successfully translate your courses into a language other than English?

Rod Jackson

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