Bridging Linguistic Chasms: A Deep Dive into the Global EdTech Language Diversity Rankings 2023

Bridging Linguistic Chasms: A Deep Dive into the Global EdTech Language Diversity Rankings 2023

A vital report analyzing language inclusivity in online learning, where Siri’s 21 languages outshine the typical 9 on education platforms, revealing a vast language gap. Join us in fostering a more diverse EdTech future.

Introduction

Siri can interact and share a laugh in 21 languages — a stark contrast to the 9 languages typically used on online education platforms. Are we ignoring many languages in the rush of the digital age?

In a world with over 7100 languages, online education platforms only use about 9 on average, according to the Global EdTech Language Diversity Rankings 2023. This shows a big gap in language use online and asks us to think about how inclusive these platforms really are.

Our deep dive into prominent EdTech firms sheds light on why chatting with Siri feels more exclusive than accessing substantial knowledge online.

Contents

  • Key Points

  • EdTech language gap and global learning

  • Our methodology of language analysis in EdTech

  • Infographic: Leaders of localization

  • Here is what we found

Key Points

  • There are over 7100 languages according to UNESCO, but online education mainly uses just nine.

  • TED is a leader in language diversity, offering content in 115 languages, which is pretty unique and praiseworthy.

  • Big players in online education are mainly from the US, India, China, and Brazil, with hardly any from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

  • English, Portuguese, Hindi, and Chinese are the main languages used in online education.

  • Most platforms use subtitles, but research shows that dubbing is a better option for students.

EdTech language gap and global learning

The Global EdTech market is booming and is expected to hit over $7 trillion by 2025. E-learning startups are now a big deal worldwide, helping shape how new generations learn.

‘Equitable access to education’ has become a common goal for online education companies. They believe that technology will keep playing a big part in making education accessible to everyone. However, there's a hiccup when it comes to the variety of languages offered by EdTech platforms.

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UNESCO’s research shows that learning in one's mother tongue is key for good education, and it also helps improve school performance. At the same time, a study by the Federal Reserve Bank shows that better education is strongly linked to earning more money and having more wealth. So, it's clear that for society to do well, EdTech platforms need to offer education in many more languages.

Moreover, having more languages in digital education is crucial for creating a global community of learners. A report by the British Council talks about the rise of English in education but also stresses the importance of having many languages in global education settings. This is not just about better learning but also about preparing people to interact in a global world.

More studies show that having many languages on education platforms can really boost thinking skills, cultural understanding, and social connections among students. This ripple effect of language choice goes beyond education and can help create a more connected and friendly global society.

This language gap is why Rask AI decided to check the language diversity of top EdTech services around the world. The first volume of the research overviews 35 companies specialized in e-learning and we’ll keep researching until the disproportion of 9 in EdTech vs. 7100 spoken languages is improved.

Our methodology of language analysis in EdTech

We embarked on an empirical examination of the language divide among EdTech startups, with the goal of discerning the number of languages they translate their video content into, the type of translation used (subtitles or dubbing), and whether there’s a correlation between the geographical location of users and the languages offered on a platform.

Our research utilized data from SimilarWeb and drew upon other comprehensive studies like this, or this to explore 35 e-learning platforms.
Subsequently, we delved into their video courses, manually verifying the number of languages each course was translated into.

In the final phase, we reached out to representatives from each platform to validate the data collected, ensuring the accuracy and integrity of our findings.

Infographic: Leaders of localization

Rask AI Team prepared an infographic on online education that shows that while some platforms like TED and Khan Academy offer many languages, others stick to just one, mainly targeting their local markets.

In a world full of languages, this suggests online education could do more to be accessible to everyone, no matter what language they speak.

While global platforms like TED and Khan Academy lead with offerings in over 60 languages, numerous platforms primarily serve their local markets with a limited language scope. This localization is particularly apparent in regions like China, India, and Brazil, where platforms like BYJU’s, Vedantu, and Gran Cursos Online predominantly cater to local audiences. 

Here is what we found

1. The language gap in EdTech is quite noticeable.

Despite a world rich with 7000 languages as noted by UNESCO, educational platforms typically offer their content in just an average of 9 languages. However, there are exceptions. TED, for instance, has broadened its reach by translating videos into 115 languages, reflecting its global vision. Following behind is Khan Academy, offering content in 63 languages, including regional ones like Gujarati and Tamil. Udemy and DataCamp have expanded their language offerings to around 17, whereas most Chinese platforms have kept it simple with just one language.

2. Most e-learning courses are available in 4 languages only.

Dominant languages: English (60% of all content is in English), Portuguese (is Dominant in Brazil), Hindi (The majority of Indian platforms utilize English as a core language) and Chinese are dominating languages for education.

3. The digital language divide seems to be narrower in Europe.

European EdTech startups display a wider linguistic variety, translating their courses into an average of six languages including English, French, and German, unlike US platforms. In most cases, US platforms don't adapt their content for European languages, catering largely to the Spanish-speaking segment of their audience. Brazilian platforms, on the other hand, primarily stick to Portuguese, avoiding localization into English. The scenario is bleak for Arab regions with hardly any content available. Meanwhile, Asian (particularly Chinese) platforms are trailing behind their Western counterparts, showing no significant efforts in translating or localizing their content despite hosting over 1,058 EdTech startups that serve 400 million students

This points to a large untapped potential for linguistic expansion to enhance global education accessibility.

4. Subtitles remain a favored and cost-effective method for making educational content accessible globally.

Take Coursera, for instance, which harnesses a community of volunteer translators to subtitle its wide array of courses, enabling it to communicate in 12 languages. While budget-friendly, subtitles might not offer the smoothest learning experience for everyone.

As DataCamp points out, "Subtitles are a go-to solution for translating video content for a worldwide audience in the short run. However, with the advancement in machine-generated AI speech, there's optimism that in the long run, audio translations for video content could be a reality."

This reflects a growing aspiration within the EdTech sector to enhance learning accessibility through evolving technological solutions.

5. Dubbing is often easier for students to understand compared to subtitles.

A study titled 'The Pros and Cons of Dubbing and Subtitling' by Cees M. Koolstra, Allerd L. Peeters, and Herman Spinhof, sheds light on this. It mentions that dubbed programs have the edge as they don't overlay text on the visuals, keeping the video experience clean and harmonized with the audio. This also makes the content feel more familiar to viewers as they hear it in their own language. On the flip side, while subtitled programs allow the authenticity of original voices, they can clutter the screen with text lines, which might be distracting.

6. New ways of translation:

EdTech platforms are venturing into new translation avenues like AI-generated speech. For instance, platforms like FlexFix harness the power of AI translation to swiftly and efficiently deliver multilingual edutainment, ensuring content accessibility for diverse linguistic audiences. The shift is driven by the desire to broaden global reach, improve user experience, and reduce translation costs. The rising interest in new tech, particularly AI, is evident as it promises real-time translation and personalized learning experiences, catering to a broader audience irrespective of language barriers.

7. Specialized EdTech platforms are English only.

Professional e-learning courses, such as platforms for programmers DataCamp or doctors Doctorflix, do not use many diverse languages (focusing on English) — and subtitles for other countries. That is due to the English — is the international language of coding and programming.

According to popular belief, we live in a golden era of online education. As we “enjoy the boom” in online education, the issue of language accessibility is hard to ignore. The Global EdTech Language Diversity Rankings 2023 not only highlights the current language gaps but also urges us to create a more language-friendly online education space.

The road to a more language-inclusive EdTech world is long and challenging. Yet, recognizing the language divide is a crucial first step. By working together and using new technologies, we can aim to bring the rich variety of global languages into the digital classrooms of education.

This research is just a first glance at the complexity of language divide in education and we’ll keep an eye on the issue. If you’d like to contribute to the next volumes of the white paper please contact our pr team at pr@brask.ai

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