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senior instructional designer

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Designing for an international audience


Hi All

I am used to writing training for predominantly a UK audience.  Occasionally it us used internationally but if so I have bilingual speakers that I deliver a T3 to so local adjustments can be made.

I now need to write an international programme that will be launched and I have no direct link to the markets.  I am struggling with the design as I am making it so generic it borders on dull and is restrictive, or I write something that just won’t work abroad.

I am limited with pictures as I can only use the clients bank of approved media. I am using simple English and everything is being translated plus the markets are allowed to flex 20% of the content.  To put it into context it is predominantly sales training.

How does everyone else overcome this?  Book recommendations or courses that you have been helpful?

8 Responses

  1. To start off with, I only
    To start off with, I only have experience of working with people living in the UK who’s first language isn’t English. So, the question is: would your client be open to you producing video? You don’t need lots of kit and you can sign up free to a tool called Powtoons which allows you to produce animated videos. The free version does mean you have to publish them in a public platform like You tube though. If you don’t have any experience of this, don’t worry I didn’t either, it’s a slightly more advanced version of power point with plenty of templates you can choose and looks good. Video is an international language plus the learners can watch them individually as many times as they like to embed the knowledge. Like Garlic Bread, it’s the future.

    1. Hi Clive
      Hi Clive
      Thanks for your reply, I am familiar but it isnt allowed in the public domain so its not an option.

      The translation isn’t the issue really as we have an agency that can do that inc subtitles or voice overs.

      My concern is over the actual writing of materials. Lets take communication. What is considered best practice in one country is vastly different. I also know that some cultures don’t like to talk about their weaknesses as we would in the UK.

      Thanks you though ūüôā

      1. No problem, totally
        No problem, totally understand. With non-british groups I have worked with in the UK; some of the issues I have come across are:
        – some cultures are still patriarchal and asking a female attendee to answer or feedback before a male speaks would not be acceptable, (I know looking from our eyes these seems wrong but that’s their culture).
        – some cultures find it disrespectful to talk about when things went wrong so if you ask them something like, what do you not do so well or what do the organisation not do so well, they would not answer this, (avoid getting them to critically assess their own or the organisation’s performance).
        – some cultures are more formal; they don’t like people calling them by their first names, they use formal greeting Miss/MS/Mrs/Mr/doctor etc
        – avoid using well known British or US popular culture references; for example I used the term ‘field of Dreams’ with a group who didn’t have access to US movies so the reference was lost on them.
        Write the material in a slightly more formal way than we are used to (think text book style) and as others have said slow your delivery right down and don’t expect the same level of discussion you might get in the UK.
        By the way, this may feel corny or ‘staged’ but learning some local phrases and saying something in the local language always goes down well.

        1. sorry also forgot to say that
          sorry also forgot to say that you my feel that the content is dull and boring but don’t forget that you are looking at it from a UK perspective and comparing it to the expectations of a British Audience. Audiences abroad may like or even prefer that approach.

  2. Around 80% of my work is
    Around 80% of my work is conducted outside the UK to groups speaking English as a second or third language. If I am working in a single culture, I ensure that I research that country first. If working in a multicultural group, I find I don’t need to change much of what I would do for a native English-speaking audience except:
    – eliminate any colloquial expressions
    – speak a little slower
    – reduce pure presentation and engage the groups in more activities
    – don’t put pressure on individuals to give plenary feedback but allow those who want to speak to represent their groups
    If people are attending a course delivered in English, you have to assume that they have at least a basic working knowledge of it. Keep it simple without dumbing down the learning.
    Good luck!

  3. Hi
    Along with the basics of removing any colloquialisms, specific UK based examples or jargon, and the importance of using clear, precise language, in my experience it can be really helpful to focus on what’s ‘underneath’ the topic you’re talking about.

    For example if it’s about how to build rapport with a client or customer, it becomes really difficult if you talk about the mechanics of building rapport (eye contact, smiling, open body language etc) because you’re only ever focusing on one specific culture, and for other cultures the above would have the opposite effect. However, if you focus on why rapport is important, what benefits it brings and when it should take place you can then get the international group to think abut what good rapport looks like for their own country/culture, and you’re much more likely to have the impact you’re hoping for when writing the materials.
    One small example, but hope it provides some food for thought – happy to discuss further if useful.

  4. I have delivered training
    I have delivered training around the world for the last 9 years and have some practices in addition to the excellent list from David Cotton that may help:
    Produce a participant copy of the slides and materials deleting any crucial surprise elements or answers and issue this to everyone attending at least two weeks before the training and ask them to contact you if they have any issues understanding the content.
    Learn at least three or four words in the language or languages you are working with – hello, thank you, good, this will certainly build a bond between you and relax the group somewhat, a little goes a really long way.
    Similarly learn about the country and its history, I do this naturally being a history buff. Knowing a bit about your groups country and traditions goes a long way to building trust and with trust people relax and feel happy to contribute more.
    It is a researched fact that most people who speak English as a second language have a higher standard of grammar and spelling etc. than people born and raised in England. They often struggle or get flustered when they have to speak, especially if they have no time to think. Use post it notes and ask the group to write down answers, questions, comments and then ask them to stick then chose some to read. Usually the owner will chip in and speak fluently because they know they have it right. This leads to more people getting involved and once relaxed most people will then join in. This technique also allows the reflectors to have their say avoiding the training being dominated by verbal activists.
    Make and spend time getting to know the group one to one if numbers allow as this relaxes them a lot and most people are fluent in a one to one situation where there is no perceived “risk” of them making a mistake in public.
    Finally whatever national and cultural differences there may be in a group everyone seems to respond to a good structure, I have used the FORMAT model (KOLB / Bernice McCarthy) or the last ten years and this structure have never failed to deliver in terms of engagement, participation and learner outcomes.
    Cheers and good luck, Nick.

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