How To Fix A Language Problem
Educational Technology has Struggled to be Truly Global
Technological innovations like massive open online courses (MOOCs) and collaborative learning platforms have the potential to transform education worldwide. They offer cheap, high-quality education that’s accessible, at least in theory, to anyone with a bit of spare time and an internet connection.
The problem, though, is that educational technologies are usually available only in English. As a result, these innovative tools end up being least accessible to the very populations that need them the most.
Sure enough, international organizations suggest that the reception of educational technologies varies dramatically from country to country. While more developed countries can take advantages of sophisticated educational tools, less developed countries have little access to MOOCs, collaborative learning platforms, and other innovative educational technologies.
Take Coursera, a popular MOOC platform, as an example. As of 2013, Coursera’s registered students are concentrated among English-speakers in wealthy countries.
Overcoming the Language Barrier
Variability of internet access is part of the reason that educational technologies tend to serve more people in certain countries. But the language barrier is another major obstacle to bringing educational technologies to a global audience. Fortunately, there are some ways to tackle the language obstacle.
Translation and localization offer one of the best solutions to connect students and teachers all over the world. By offering translated and localized content, educators can deal with the varying English proficiency of students worldwide. And, for students, subject learning can be much more effective when its in their native language.
The State of English Proficiency Worldwide
English may be the world’s lingua franca, but English proficiency still varies widely among countries. EF Education First, an international education company, publishes a research report called the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) that tracks English Proficiency Levels in different regions. The graph below shows some of Education First’s key findings.
As expected, Europe has the highest English proficiency ratings of any region. Asia, despite significant improvement in recent years, still has a long way to go. Latin America, the Middle East, and North Africa remain weak in English proficiency. Surprisingly, China actually beats France in terms of English proficiency.
(Source: EF Education First)
As the EF EPI makes clear, if an educational app’s developers want to reach a global audience—and, in particular, an audience that’s not concentrated in Europe and North America—they’ll need to translate and localize their app.
Edmodo: Using Localization to Connect Teachers and Students Around the World
Edmodo is an example of how students and teachers worldwide benefit from skillful localization. Edmodo is a social learning platform that enables teachers and students to connect securely. Some Edmodo users call it the “Facebook of schools.” The name is apt: Edmodo supports a network of over 28 millions teachers and students around the world.
Many of Edmodo’s users live in non-English speaking countries, so localization has become a high priority as the company tries to support its international growth. In order to connect students and teachers from the globe, Edmodo decided to crowdsource localization by inviting its large base of international users to help translate content into their native languages.
Crowdsourcing is an incredible tool. In one of their most important markets, Edmodo saw 90% of its target content translated in a matter of days. Now, with the help of teachers and schools worldwide, Edmodo has been translated into nine languages, including Spanish, French, and Chinese.
Do you have any other example of educational technology that goes global? Let’s share with us about their localization survey below! 🙂
Feature photo credit: Dell