Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Is There Power Without English? 

| 5 Comments

Reading Time: 1 minutes

A lot of things have me thinking about this question now. Particularly a presentation I am doing tomorrow as part of an OpenMed event in Cairo. So much discourse around self-directed, lifelong, autonomous learning is dependent on learners using the internet, and the majority of content online (especially of course academic content) is in English. 

  • Is developing more Open Educational Resources (OERs) in different languages or translating OERs a solution? But who decides which content gets translated/adapted? 
  • What are the cultural and political values behind English-language content? Is a different solution for non-Anglo people (like me) to create English-languge content from a non-Anglo perspective? Remember how different 1973 war looks in Arabic Wikipedia vs English Wikipedia  

The question for me, most fundamentally is: if you had a limited amount of money to empower people (teachers, learners) to become lifelong learners using digital possibilities, would you invest more money in teaching them English, or more money creating Arabic content? (speaking about my own region now)

How about going one better: invest in teaching them English ; ask them to use that learning to create Arabic content. Two birds with one stone.

Hmmm
Added later: Robin DeRosa shared this, so I thought I would add it

5 Comments

  1. I think translating is definitely one of the solutions. A huge benefit of Open Ed Practices is harnessing the collective intelligence. I can write about what I know only in English (at the moment… and for the foreseeable future) but if something I wrote happens to resonate with someone who knows that it would also resonate in another language, that person can take what I shared openly and try to facilitate the translation of it. And vice versa. If we can harness those collective skills, we’ll all have access to more OERs and OEPs from different perspectives.

  2. I would never advocate for people to create English language content because of some lingua franca reason. I would say the answer is “it depends” — what is the use, and context of the OER? Isn’t that a design, a pedagogy decision?

    It also suggests that the learning and the process is all encapsulated in the OER, leaving out the teacher, the student, working together, the activities around the OER. Maybe the OER is in French and the class activities in Hindi.

    And there is also a question of how critical it is for exactness in language, meaning precise translation? Or can the use of automated translations with discussion and interpretation suffice? I am thinking of the (still unblogged) experience I have been part of the last 2 years with the University of Guadalajara. The institution wanted instruction in English, as I understood they have a desire to become more of an international university. Some of the facilitators had partial understanding of Spanish, to me, who has the Spanish skills.. como un niño de tres años. So we managed to conduct workshops in technology and pedagogy in some kind of in between language space, some with human translators, a lot of google translators, patience. Ideally we would be all bi, tri, quad lingual. In practice we are on some mixed spectrum, so we just do the best we can.

    I am not sure an absolute language choice is best. Your students may live lives entirely in Arabic spoken culture, or they may be in English (or German or whatever) but it seems like it will likely be some mix. I worry about the lost of culture starting with a diminishing of language.

    I would like vote for what ever it takes to make the most interesting and culturally useful OER,.

    Of course that’s easy for me to say, more of the world is communicated in my language.

  3. Perhaps I’m bias however the English language is so predominantly spoken and used through that it is a powerful tool in communicating and has far reaching possibilities for us globally, especially in a digital world.

  4. Pingback: Happy, Open and Free 2017 from OpenMed – OpenMed

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