Local language is the key to effective learning. Several concerns converge on the issue of using local languages in education. There is an increasing awareness of the value of linguistic diversity, as well as the goal of “Education for All.’ Teachers spend their careers attempting to communicate knowledge in the English language to students who cannot assimilate it. As per the UNESCO research report ‘Mother Tongue Matters,” there is unmistakable evidence that shows that a learner’s mother tongue-based bilingual understanding significantly enhances the learner outcomes.
The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 places emphasis on learning the mother tongue along with other languages. This will bring a four-language policy wherein a student can learn Hindi, English, a regional language, and mother tongue. Consumers on digital platforms today spend upwards of 50% of their time on Hindi videos, followed closely (approx. 35-40%) by regional content videos with a 10% English balance.
There are several reasons why EdTech platforms should seriously consider personalizing the platform to support vernacular languages:
- Improved conceptual understanding
Most Indians can speak and understand English but when it comes to learning, the conceptual clarity that is delivered in regional languages is extraordinary. EdTech platforms that are catering to this populace must, therefore, create complementary learning content in regional languages like Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telegu, etc. to bring quality technology training to students and professionals who prefer native languages as a learning medium. The multilingual approach to technical (and non-technical also) training will gradually address the language barrier in learning and help learners plan for their career growth in a dynamic, global industry.
- Making the lessons come alive, with the best teachers
A major chunk of online learners on education platforms hail from non-metro cities in India where they may not have easy access to quality trainers or even modern learning tools and technologies. Currently, only a privileged few (hailing from urban areas) have access to quality, engaging education. Such platforms cut across geographical boundaries to bring the best tutors in the world to mentor learners
- Cater to the increasing user base regional language video viewership & tap the Tier-II / Tier-III markets in India
Almost 80% of global Internet consumption is video content. And in India, video viewership, dominated by the regional language user base, is expected to catapult even further.
With less than 25% of the population residing in Tier-I cities, the real opportunity lies in Tier-II / Tier-III markets. With the advent of 4G and the advent of low-cost smartphones from technology bearers in India, these people have disposable income and are the biggest receptors of brand correspondence being embraced in their local language.
- Democratizing education and bringing pride
There is also a sense of pride and equality to see one’s language on the internet and having global access to materials in their mother tongue. There is a change of relation to knowledge and to technology, which transforms learners, as well as an incentive for the entrepreneurial spirit and to transmit this learning to others. This helps in democratizing education and making it more accessible.
In a digital world, important parameters that shape the success of a vernacular program includes pedagogy, content, and technology. However, there are concerns that little or no standardization has taken place to ease access for new-to-internet and vernacular users, and digital platforms continue to rely on made-for-English-speaking user formats and scripts. The English-speaking population in India, as per the last census in 2011, was 125 million, which was about 10% of the total population. As an estimate, this number in 2022 will most likely be 20%. As per a report by Google India, 9 out of 10 new internet users in the country are consuming online content in Indian languages. As new users get added (with a larger skew towards rural areas i.e., the next billion), the need for local language content will further increase.
Clearly, the opportunity is huge, but so are the challenges. While tapping this user base, one needs to minimize the adoption barrier with a lot more focus on UI which is more intuitive, less clicks, less cluttered, and appealing. And in a diverse country like India with 22 languages and 1,600+ dialects, building technology is not easy. Visual and voice-based content needs to be developed for this market. And LMS platforms need to integrate using AI chatbots and voice-to-action SDKs, to ease the engagement process for such regional consumers. The ‘3Vs’: voice, video, and vernacular, have become essential to the way Indians interact with the internet.
Initiatives like ‘Digital India’ have provided technology platforms with a great incentive to celebrate Indian language scripts, keyboards, and input formats as they welcome the next billion. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is working on a technology for real-time translation of vernacular Indian languages to enable the exchange of communications between two persons not speaking the same language. This ambitious project is using technologies to end the language barrier. Maybe in the next decade, we will have a person who knows only Bengali to is able to cannot communicate with a person who knows only Tamil.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are the author’s own and APAC News Network is not responsible for any of them.