Trilingual training: translating learning content for Helsana

One of Switzerland’s largest health insurers commissioned Supertext to translate its training programs into French and Italian. By doing so, it’s reaching employees and customers where they feel most at home: in their native language.

Translated learning content pays off twice over. Each additional language grows Helsana’s audience and reach. And it also primes the company for success, because it has been proven that people – whether employees or customers – learn most effectively in their mother tongue.

Helsana has been taking advantage of digital learning formats for years and aims to allow users to gain new knowledge anywhere and at any time through the increased use of multilingual e-learning. As a mark of its dedication, it has two departments specifically responsible for learning content: Learning & Development in Human Resources creates training programs for internal in-person courses, webinars, e-learning modules and quizzes. Meanwhile, the Learning Management department trains employees in customer communications and products, services, systems and processes.

The Benefits and Accounts Receivable Management departments also create training content. Altogether, there are about 30 people producing around 700 learning elements a year – from data protection checks through product training to video guidance for customer interactions.

And customers themselves also benefit from learning material – for example with quizzes in the Helsana+ app. Customers can test their knowledge of health topics and collect Plus points, which can then be redeemed for cash or vouchers. Supertext’s client here is Helsana Marketing.

Supertext makes Helsana’s internal and external learning material available in German, Italian and French – and the quizzes in the Helsana+ app are also available in English. With 2.2 million policyholders and around 3,300 employees, there’s plenty of content to translate – and three main challenges to tackle.

Let’s take a closer look:

1. Space constraints

Depending on the language, the length of a text can differ by up to 40%. English and Chinese are among the more compact languages, while the “longest” include Arabic and Russian. Romance languages are also towards the higher end of the scale. This means that the layout can quickly become a challenge when translating learning modules. “This is particularly true of our in-app texts,” says Stephanie Rüesch from the Marketing (Insights & Technology) team at Helsana. If space is tight, it’s helpful for translators and designers to work together as early as possible.

French texts, for example, are 1.6 times as long as English ones. This example from a quiz on the Helsana+ app shows what this looks like in practice:

2. Language-specific idioms

Each language has its own fixed expressions and idioms, which are likely to baffle an international audience if they’re not explained. Here are two examples from the English Helsana+ learning module on depression:

You probably know SAD as the abbreviation for “seasonal affective disorder”. French or German readers, on the other hand, would need it paraphrased. The same goes for the expression “hair of the dog”, whose etymology might even leave native English speakers scratching their heads. (It comes from the fact that people once tried to heal dog bites by putting hair from the same dog into the wound – not a procedure recommended by either Helsana or Supertext.)

3. Different forms of address

Speaking directly to users makes the learning experience feel more authentic – but only if you choose the right form of address for their language and culture. While English users like direct appeals, German often uses an indirect form of address for calls to action. And in French and Italian, people are accustomed to the polite form of address – “vous” rather than “tu”.

This is why a single quiz in the Helsana+ app can start in four different ways depending on the language:

Programmed for effective learning

The company-wide collaboration between Helsana and Supertext began in May 2020, before the focus shifted to learning content at the beginning of 2022. Supertext translates directly in the Articulate Storyline learning program where required, and proofreading takes place in Helsana’s standard vjoon K4 editorial system. Style guides for the different languages ensure a consistent brand identity. According to Claudio Grivel from the Learning & Development team at Helsana, this makes for a reliably successful collaboration, even under time pressure:

“We depend on reliable and flexible partners like Supertext to process our e-learning projects efficiently and meet delivery deadlines. And it’s also important to us that Supertext uses modern translation tools. This ensures that our authoring tools and learning formats are optimally integrated into the process.”

Cover image and screenshots via Helsana

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