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Multi-language Education

English is the main language for only around 375 million people, but the rest of the world's population is unable to access educational content published in English.

Rapid advances in global access to online learning resources make it essential that materials be made readily available in multiple languages.

Source: Khan Academy

English has become the global currency for communication, but learning in one’s native language will always be more effective for communicating and comprehending values, human emotions and cultural insights.

  • English is the main language for only around 375 million people, but the rest of the world's population is unable to access educational content published in English.
  • 27% of the Internet users are English speakers, forming the largest group.
  • 55% of the content on the Internet is in English.
  • The vast majority of Open Educational Resources (OER ) are in English and based on Western culture and educational norms, with limited relevance and accessibility for other cultures. Cultural appropriateness and task authenticity are essential to make OER useful to learners.
  • Translation offers a partial solution to the shortage of OER in non-English languages.
  • Localizing OER by adapting the content to particular regions is essential for expanding access to learners around the world.
  • Crowd-sourcing the translation of OER is an affordable solution that is time and cost-effective. By placing an open call for translation, an institution attracts a large group of volunteers from the online community. Crowdsourcing is the practice of organizing the people to translate and edit the resources. Crowd-sourcing translation also encourages peer participation and draws on collective expertise.
  • Online open translation tools like Amara, Transifex and Google Translator Toolkit enable the crowdsourcing of translation, dubbing and subtitling.
  • MIT has partnered with different organizations like Universia (consortium of universities from Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries) and China Open Resources for Education (CORE) to translate its Opencourseware materials. Wikipedia, TED Talks and Khan Academy have created their own volunteer translation portals, to translate their resources to many languages.
  • Translation works both ways and benefits everyone. UNISUL, a Brazilian university, is translating UK's OpenLearn platform courses in business management, IT and digital multimedia from English into Portuguese. It is also translating some of its own courses into English and making them available through OpenLearn's LabSpace.
  • The TESSA project (Teacher Education in Sub Saharan Africa), initiated in 2005 was aimed to provide OER to support school teachers. The resources in English are translated to Arabic, French and Kiswahili and are adapted to nine country contexts.
  • The UK funded TESS-India project aims to provide a network of freely available distance learning teacher education resources in Assamese, Bengali, Kannada and Oriya.