Multilingual Education: Bridging Cultures and Languages

October 11, 2023
#EdTech
Multilingual Education: Bridging Cultures and Languages

UNESCO revealed that 40% of the worldwide population can't access education in a mother tongue. Therefore, according to the report, one of the six calls to action during the summit where numbers were revealed was to provide multilingual education with inclusion and relevance to children and youth via digital learning media.

This was one of the key drivers for the growth of online learning platforms and EdTech companies. These platforms have quickly become a go-to solution to address the global learning crisis and are suggested to achieve the SDG-4 goals by 2030. 

Multilingual education benefits both - learners and online learning providers, where multilingual learners gain accessibility by learning in the mother tongue they know and understand, while companies are able to increase their revenues and build a global brand.

However, there is still a question: how to achieve localization and go global with online education as a provider without breaking the bank? While you can always hire translators (that should be native speakers) for each of your courses or educational videos, there are AI tools that can simplify, speed up the process, and make it affordable for almost any EdTech startup - bringing cultures and languages together.

What is Multilingual Education (MLE Program)?

The main idea behind Multilingual Education (MLE) is social justice and the ability to provide equity and human dignity worldwide. MLE uses the different principles that come together through education and language.

Multilingual Education develops a strong bridge between cultures and between home and school, challenging the coercive power relations of educational organizations. Typically MLE programs are based on several principles.

The first principle is Mother Tongue Instruction (MTI), which supports the maintenance and/or revitalization of all languages and guided transition. MTI instruction is immersion in the mother tongue during the first eight years of children’s lives that later leads to greater overall educational achievement. 

Even though students speaking a language other than the dominant one or schooling language may actually be the numerical majority, they are still considered to be minority languages, so they often fail in an average schooling format and need a mainstream education system.

A mainstream education system means the inclusion of learners with special needs into basic schooling programs and facilities. While this often involves large-print texts or audio versions of textbooks, it can also involve dual language education and tribal teachers for tribal children.

MLE programs show that it is possible for multilingual learners to keep a mother tongue (where self-esteem is grounded, the child's worldview is established, and the language is in active use at home) while still building fluency in multiple languages as well.

What are the Components of Multilingual Education (MLE)?

"Strong Foundation" - Experts say that kids whose early education was in the first language of their home have a tendency to provide better results in the later years of their multilingual education. 

"Strong Bridge" - An essential difference between the MLE program and rural “mother tongue education” programs is the addition of a guided transition from learning through the mother language (first language first principle) to learning through another tongue.

Stages of an MLE Program

According to a global understanding of MLE programs by UNESCO, instruction usually takes place in the following stages:

  • Stage I - learning starts in the child’s home (first language first);
  • Stage II - building oral fluency in the mother tongue alongside the introduction of oral L2;
  • Stage IIIi - building fluency in the second language alongside the introduction of the third one;
  • Stage IV - using both first and second language for lifelong learning.

Let’s Dive Deep into the Language Acquisition Component

Sociocultural Processes

The heart and the key second language acquisition component is a student going through the process of acquiring a second language at school. As a result, central to that student’s acquisition of dual language education will be all of the social and cultural processes that occur through everyday life within the kid’s past, present, and future - and in all contexts, home, classroom culture, and more.

Language development

Another second language acquisition component consists of the subconscious aspects of language development, metalinguistic, conscious, formal language teaching in school, as well as the acquisition of the written system of the language.

In order for bilingual education to work, a child’s mother tongue (oral and written) should be developed to a high cognitive level during the elementary school years.

Academic development

Academic development is the third component of bilingual education that includes all school work in classroom culture, language arts, mathematics, social studies, and more for each grade level. Early education suggests that academic work and results will dramatically expand with each succeeding grade.

Academic knowledge and widespread understanding transfer from the first language to the second one through multilingual education, gradually developing academic work through guided students’ first language, while bilingual education happens through the transitional literacy program during other periods of the school day.

Earlier, in the US, critical pedagogy emphasized teaching the second language as the first step, postponing the teaching of academics. Research shows that bilingual education cannot be effective when postponing or interrupting academic development from early years, and languages tend to fail among many kids. 

Cognitive development

The fourth component of bilingual education is the cognitive dimension. It was mainly neglected by second language educators in the US until the last ten years.

In language teaching, critical pedagogy simplified, structured, and sequenced language curricula for many years. And then, they added academic content into the multilingual education.

They often neglected the essential element of cognitive development in the first language. The growing research developed a basic theory of multilingual education, highlighting that all of these components are equally crucial in early education and later in order for multilingual learners to gain needed knowledge and develop deep academic proficiency in a second language.

How Does Multilingual Education Affect Cultural or Ethnic Identity?

For English language learners who want to learn and speak another language, they have to feel confident in it. So multilingual education doesn't stop at learning the basics of the language and building oral fluency in it - the more children know of the language and the culture surrounding it, the more they feel confident in it.

Knowing the culture of the language makes it easier for multilingual learners to use the language in their everyday lives and less likely to reject it. Although introducing the kids in early education to the culture might affect ethnic identity, focusing on the mother tongue education further in the first few years helps prevent changes in cultural or ethnic identity and taking languages as the first ones in the future.

The basic theory that lies under the concept of “introducing the culture” involves arts, literature, theater, music, food, and other elements of the chosen culture. In addition to helping kids go through the following stages of multiple education more easily, this concept also acts as a strong foundation for the further use of the second language and an ability to easily switch between languages whenever needed.

Challenges of Multilingual Digital Education

Managing the Complexity of Content

Educational content is often complex. So, direct translation from one language to another may not suffice to address all the cultural differences and nuances of a specific dialect. Multilingual learners require as authentic as possible experience to grasp all the concepts of the content. 

In addition, you should ensure that your content satisfies different user levels. For instance, level-2 content in the USA with advanced learning facilities might not meet the needs of an average 2-level student from a region with poor educational opportunities.

Keeping the Content up to date with Regulations

Considering regular regulatory updates, you should also keep your educational content relevant and compliant within different regions - which could be a tricky task. In fact, this also relates to staying updated regarding distinct cultural nuances and a seasonal calendar to add them to the learning materials properly and timely.

Need of Expertise to Manage Diverse Content Formats

Alamisde text content, most multilingual e-learning platforms offer video and audio content as well. Translating the text is easier than video to audio. So, these companies will also need extra expertise to make different content formats available in other languages. Luckily, there are many AI-powered tools, like Rask AI, that can cover the process without requiring extra fees for every new language.

Ensuring Multilingualism Across Processes and Stages

Multilingualism will not be limited to educational content if you want to make it effective for your business. As a result, you need to expand it to all the website material, assessments, feedback, customer support, and reports, especially all the elements shared or available for the learner’s parents.

In addition, you should make sure that you follow the seasonal calendar within all communication, examination schedules, and syllabi so multilingual learner’s parents can feel personalization throughout the entire experience.

Best Practices for Multilingual Learners

Lev Vigostky's Scaffolding Theory

In order to bring new languages into active use, you can consider using Lev Vigostky's scaffolding theory for multilingual education. This approach emphasizes students constantly building on prior knowledge and forming associations among new concepts, information, and language acquisition. In addition, scaffolding offers opportunities for students to become successful before they move to unfamiliar language territory. MLE proponents find this theory effective in both early and later ages of multilingual education.

Piaget's Theory

Jean Piaget's theory of language suggests that kids use her learning theory using both assimilation and accommodation during multilingual education. The approach emphasizes changing one's environment to place new information into an already-existing schema. 

The essential difference between this theory and the first one is that Piaget’s approach suggests kids tend to construct knowledge about language through a complex process of assimilation, which highlights the inherent capability of the child's brain to adapt to simulation and growing widespread understanding. 

In contrast, MLE proponents stress that Vygotsky, just like Gramscian theory, uses the social nature of language learning, adapting the environment within which a kid is raised.

What does Multilingual Content Available in an E-learning Platform Entail?

Multilingual education within e-learning platforms can be created following several options. For example, you can translate words into another language. You can invest more time and organize the entire localization process for higher success. You can hire translators or use multilingual education tools.

By definition, multilingual education content refers to a set of actions to adapt all the learning materials to meet both the cultural and academic needs of different learners that access your e-learning platform from different countries of the world. 

Sole translation tends to provide poor results since it doesn't take into consideration crucial elements of the language, like certain laws, writing rules, time zones, etc. For example, for Arabic or Mandarin countries, the e-learning platform should also involve developers to organize special characters.

Rask AI for Multilingual Education 

Rask AI is currently the leading dubbing and localization tool for educational content. It can power up multilingual education by offering translation to over 130 languages, voiceovers for over 29 languages, the ability to automatically generate captions and subtitles, and more. Rask makes multilingual education content 2 clicks away by offering:

Multi-Language Audio

You can start leveraging the power of Rask AI to translate and localize your content to multiple locales. It can significantly increase views video translation quality and make educational content more accessible through captions and subtitles.

Content Creation & Distribution

As a multilingual education content creator, you can benefit from Rask AI’s ability to distribute content on multiple platforms and integrations for seamless content creation and sharing across all available social media platforms.

Explainer Videos

Since explainers always include specific terms or guidance, they should be clear and direct, covering language or topic-specific idioms. Rask AI adapts these videos to a vast range of languages and cultural needs, increasing the understanding and loyalty of the viewers.

Education Videos

Multilingual education videos tend to be long, and it could be hard for creators to edit them one by one, keeping the same style over and over again. Rask removed the limit of the video length, meaning now creators can upload as long videos as they need, ensuring all the translated content and voiceovers will still translate the same brand tone. In addition, all the work is done by AI.

Last Thoughts 

Multilingual education is already here. It helps kids learn more than one language from an early age, boosts a child's worldview, makes minority languages more widespread, and empowers overall classroom culture. The mainstream education system allows English language learners to gain more knowledge in both language and its culture, while typically MLE programs are focused on more than learning language and also include cognitive development. 

FAQ

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