The last two years have been tough on students of all ages, cultures, and countries. Without the hint of a warning, schools and colleges across the world shut down in early 2020. More than 1.2 billion children in 186 countries were affected by school closures.
In this post, we’ll take a look at the challenges that came up in the education sector, the importance of online education during the pandemic, and how quality translations helped students and teachers tide over their troubles.
Unprepared teachers, institutions
When the lockdown forced schools and colleges to shut down all over the world, the institutions were caught unprepared. Though learning online has been around for some time now, it was not the main teaching and learning approach. Now, suddenly everyone had to go online.
This meant that all the study material had to be offered online. And most of this was not translated. This was problematic for the millions of multilingual students in countries where the medium of instruction was mainly English.
More sensitivity in communication required
Such sensitivity arises from a sense of respect for multilingual families and a sense of inclusion. Strong, clear communication was more important than ever when in-person classes were not a possibility.
And, as students were now learning from their homes, understanding the home environment, and how the parents were coping with all of this also became critical to the process of education. It made sense to bring parents in the loop and be respectful of a student’s family traditions and cultural practices at home.
Educational institutions may not always be alert to these nuances of culture, but as translators are always straddling two worlds, they can handle them better and create text that is respectful, inclusive, yet clear and precise.
No student left behind with accurate translations
As the pandemic dragged on month after month and into the next year, it started becoming clear that a fundamental shift in education had to happen, if students were to continue learning. Ad hoc measures would not do, more holistic, sustained efforts were necessary.
In a multilingual environment, this meant that translation could no longer be an afterthought. Neither was it simply a nice-to-have. Instead, it was a must-have if students were to remain engaged with the learning program.
Online education, despite the many advantages it brings, can also be a tough medium. There is no human interaction, at least not the kind most students were used to before the Coronavirus became a part of our lives. Many kids and even adults find it difficult to stay tuned into the sterile environment of an online class.
Of course, e-learning can be made quite interactive and fun. But that only happens with well-planned, well-thought out e-learning programs. With the pandemic taking everyone surprised, most schools and colleges that had never designed e-learning programs were forced to go online.
Translation was the easiest option to implement at such a stage to make the learning material more engaging and relevant. Accurate rendering of the original material into the students’ native languages made sure they were learning everything right and in the same manner as the students who had access to the original material.
Translation played an important role in education during the pandemic because it brought accessibility. It made sure no student was left behind simply because they could not understand the language their online classes were happening in.
New opportunities, thanks to translation
At the time of writing this post, the pandemic seems to be waning and life is returning to some sort of normal, thanks to widespread vaccinations. Students are slowly returning to schools and colleges. But the experience of learning online has left us with many lessons.
It has shown to teachers and the educational institutions the huge potential of online learning. They can reach out to far more students online than they can through in-person classes. Students who live in far-off areas who would otherwise never have any opportunity to pursue their dreams can now be on an equal footing with their peers in cities and other well-connected areas. Self-paced learning can be very advantageous to older students and adults who might be doing a job to support themselves. So, while they cannot be in class and follow a set schedule, they can always learn when convenient to them.
Online learning presents many opportunities to institutions, as they can increase their revenue potential by offering classes to online students. This can help offset any losses they may have incurred during the pandemic. However, a key element in making online education work is translation.
Translated learning material puts the students at ease as they can easily understand it and relate to it.
But there’s more work ahead
The pandemic was unforeseen and took everyone surprised. The education sector was largely unprepared to go online. But now all that is behind us. Going ahead, pandemic or not, online education is a part of our lives. And we have to get better at it.
Educators must prepare for translation, so that the end product is of a high quality. Here are some guidelines for translation of e-learning content:
- If you are creating new learning material, make sure you write with your target audiences in mind. Do not use overly local themes or analogies that might be difficult to convey in another language and culture.
- Write in a way that’s precise and clear. It lends itself to translation better than text that is unclear and uses unnecessary words.
- Survey your target audience, including the kids and their parents, on their experience so far with translated materials and their expectations.
- Most importantly, work with a language services provider who has deep experience in translating for the education sector.
E-learning translation during the pandemic kept classes going and students engaged. It’s now time to make translation a part of the education process.
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