Best Practices

The importance of language dilation in Elearning

If you need or want to translate content, you are probably aware of some techniques used in order to translate most of it. In this sense, language dilation is an important aspect for those who need to translate.
Rodrigo Demetrio
2 min
Table of Contents

If you need or want to translate content, you are probably aware of some techniques used in order to translate most of it. In this sense, language dilation is an important aspect for those who need to translate.

Certain languages may have longer words or require more words to say the same thing. This means that the same sentence in one language may take up to twice as long to say in its translated version.

What is language dilation?

Although important, this term probably does not ring a bell for most people. “Dilation” is a word that describes something that is affected by the process of widening or expansion. When we talk about dilation in the context of eLearning translation, we want to address the course that a word takes to be translated from one language to another.

To be more precise, some expressions may require more words in one language than in the other. This means that it may take longer to say the same thing in two different languages - actually, it can take up to twice the time. Examples of language dilationThere were already several studies done to showcase language dilation when using English as a source language. Here are a few pieces of information that may be useful on that matter.ThaiThai has more than 80% of language dilation when compared to an original text in language.

This is most likely because the two languages vary greatly on their origin. While English comes from a Germanic Language Tree, Modern Thai comes from a lineage of Southeast Asian languages.


Another Asian-derived language occupies second place in terms of language dilation when compared to English. Compared to English, Chinese has a language dilation of 60%.


Italian is the Roman language that most differs from English in terms of how many words are used to describe something in the original language. Studies show that there is a 40% difference in the size of phrases in Italian and English.


Albeit a Germanic language, Dutch has a 22% rate of language dilation from English. This is the same percentage as Spanish - that comes from another family tree. This is most likely due to the fact that dutch has a few French influences, which may explain the language dilation regarding these languages.


German is the language that presents fewer dilation language percentages when compared to others. Roughly 9% of Germans show deviations from English. As we established before, this is due to the shared origin of the languages, as both come from Germanic.

What does it mean?

Okay, now that you already know what is language dilation and what languages differ the most (and less) from English, it is time to understand what it means in the practical world. When we talk about translating content in an Elearning setting, there are a few aspects that need to be paid attention to.


Quality is always a key factor when we talk about translation, especially in an online space. That is because you are teaching a new language to someone. As such, there is no room for mistakes. In this sense, language dilation is very important as there is no point in sparring words in this process. So prioritize language dilation even though your text may end up longer than you predicted. There are many ways to go around this, but compromising the quality of your text is not one of them!


Language Dilation means it takes more to say something in one language than in the other. Thus, more words are used to communicate effectively. When we talk about online learning, this is important because it directly impacts the design and layout of your content. Therefore, you have to think about new solutions for this. It could be either bigger text boxes, a different layout for your page. The goal here is to not visually pollute your content. Remember, people are not very fond of that!

Attention Span

A study done in a second language classroom shows that the brain behaves relatively differently depending on which language is being taught. Consequently, we have different attention spans for different languages. As a common ground, however, a typical student has an attention span of 10 to 15 minutes. The problem is that language dilation can cause a 50% increase in time in these classes. This means that content that is taught in 10 minutes in English can take 15 minutes in another language.

How to improve language dilation in ELearning

There are a few ways to ensure language dilation is done right in an Elearning environment.

Think about the end result

A good solution to overcome language dilation is to think about your content in the targeted language. With that in mind, you will be able to create content having a specific time in mind - based on the second language and not the original one.  It is also important to know that it will take longer for your students to absorb a determined course depending on the language.

Pay attention to the subtitles

Subtitles in Elearning videos can not be taken for granted. That is why it is extremely important to pay special attention to the sinc of these videos, as it will dictate the pace of the dialogues the class is getting into contact with.

Rodrigo Demetrio
Steering the marketing ship at Bureau Works with 17+ years of MarTech under my belt, I transform mere ideas into tangible realities. Passionate about languages and their power to build bridges, let's build a new one?
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