The first question is: Should we have it translated or not?
The program translation's ROI will depend a lot on the expected total number of trainees in Brazil over its entire life cycle.
It is tempting to rely on the supposedly bilingual trainees' English language skills. The major possible variations are:
course presented in English, by an instructor from abroad
course presented in Portuguese, however all the material remains in English
course presented 100% in English with simultaneous or consecutive interpretation, material translated into Portuguese
course presented in Portuguese, part of the material translated
course presented in Portuguese, all material translated, however not integrated
course presented in Portuguese, with all the material localized in an integrated manner
Let's leave out of your scope relying on the trainees' ESL skills, something quite variable and unpredictable. The extent to which each participant understands written and spoken English varies from one to another. At the end of the day, the course benefits to each participant will be a random variable.
We can also rule out also "amateur" interpreting, for its low effectiveness. If the training program is carried out more than once with professional interpreters, their cost is likely to cause regret, since if that budget had been invested in integrated localization, this would have been a once-for-all expenditure, and the total amount would have been lesser. It is pointless to compare the cost of a course leader brought from overseas, if compared to a local, even if the latter were trained for it abroad.
There is still the progressive approach, which consists in having the material gradually translated while in use, so the course becomes increasingly Brazilian over time. This is the worst of all options, since to keep compatibility with the part still in English, it is necessary to constrain localization. When the program eventually reaches the all-in-Portuguese status, it will have been merely translated.
When it’s about training programs, merely having them translated won't always be effective: overall, there are many cultural aspects that may jeopardize training outcomes. The major concern, sometimes overlooked, is to minimize rejection by trainees.
Some companies start out doing so under the assumption that “we are an American (or British, or Canadian, etc.) company, so the course is compatible with our organizational culture". An innocent mistake. The local operation is (or should be) integrated to the local culture, therefore some care must be taken. The worst response that may be expected was well stated by a participant in a translated – however not localized – course: “All this is very good, but it wouldn’t work here. If you ever relocate me to world headquarters, I’ll most certainly use it. However for the time being I’ll go on doing it the way I know it works here.”
The solution is to redevelop a training program embodying all content and technology from its original, however adapting it to the local environment. As a training program may contain quite varied materials, especially in terms of multimedia resources, it's common to have its translation work scattered among a large number of unrelated vendors. This renders the reunification work very difficult, if not utterly impossible at a reasonable cost.
So, what’s your alternative?
My proposal is to undertake the localization of the whole training program, centralizing translation. As I have done it for a few hundred training programs involving varied media, I wouldn’t have any problem in translating while making all the necessary cultural adaptation under one single set of guidelines. As a training consultant, I can readily empathize with the trainer who will lead/facilitate such courses, to redevelop a program with the same content, however with a local flavor.
Regarding the production of the various materials, whatever is not economical to do myself, may be outsourced directly, or I can provide guidance to my client to outsource (or do) it on their own, whichever is most cost-effective.
There are other areas where I can contribute to cost reduction, which stem from my experience in developing training programs. As technology advances every time faster, it’s common having to localize programs using “obsolete” media. In such case, for instance, I would have no problem in converting a training program using VHS video tapes + presentations in PowerPoint or alikes (even overhead slides) into an interactive DVD. See more information about this in this article.
Another issue is the economy of scale. Many training programs are produced considering a large worldwide audience in English.
Experience has shown that, albeit many Brazilian trainees can communicate in English, for many of them training carried out in English tends to lose efficiency considerably. Furthermore, training given by Brazilians for Brazilians in English is not seen as a sensible decision. In view of my experience in localizing such programs, I am able to suggest changes that will make one same program feasible in a smaller scale.
If you need to localize a management, technical, or any other training program for Brazil, please feel welcome to contact me by clicking on the e-mail button on the left.