FLNE stand for ‘First Language Not English’. It is an umbrella term used by the Center of Promise, a US research centre, to describe non-native English speakers. Based on a study conducted by CSA Research, even though non-native English speakers were proficient in English, about 65% of them still preferred content to be in their native language, which is quite a helpful insight when dealing with the global market in general.
The pandemic made online learning a necessity
In light of recent global events, the e-learning industry is predicted to be an estimated 325 billion dollar industry by 2025. But is this trend still true after the pandemic? A survey conducted by over 40,000 students from across 118 US Institutions showed that 70% of the students in the US still prefer going to classes physically. And despite several articles pointing out that hiring from prestigious universities doesn’t make much of a difference, according to an article by Forbes, a large percentage of the employees hired by Facebook, Apple, Google, and Microsoft are from the top 100 universities. Is the e-Learning industry doing enough to sell the idea of online learning?
Traditional learning vs e-learning
We all know what traditional learning is and have experienced it since preschool up to high school. Unless you were homeschooled, it consists of a single instructor teaching students under one subject. The instructor acts as the student’s primary source of information, as they are licensed to teach them due to their education and training. Theoretically, mentors instruct their students through the Socratic Method to engage with their students, so both parties can learn from each other. Sometimes, it’s not the case and students are being spoon-fed information by their mentors.
E-learning, however, in one e-course can have two or more instructors who also have specialised training and accreditations. They have less rigid schedules, and students can learn lessons at their own pace, so they can take time to fully understand the lesson without having to rush just so they won’t be left behind. E-learning encourages self-learning and independent thought. Students have to be proactive in learning rather than relying on the information provided by their instructors. Because their primary source of information is from the internet, students are given the liberty to compare ideas and theories. They are free to come up with educational plans and goals that best suit their needs and situation.
Benefits of e-learning
- E-Learning has a less rigid schedule. Even though one e-course has the same number of weeks as traditional education, students can advance their lessons or slow down its pace. In traditional learning, you would be taking up Shakespeare classes every Tuesday and Thursday at 1pm. Whereas in e-learning programmes, you can have your Shakespeare class every day after your work shift or on the weekends.
- It’s more cost-effective because you don’t have to pay for add-ons for your tuition, like Lab fees, light and water bills, etc. Also, you’re saving money from not having to buy textbooks and not needing to commute to school.
- You can gain new technical skills that aren’t offered at traditional learning. Through these classes, you can get the necessary training and education without having to discuss unnecessary topics that would divert your attention.
- E-learning is very personalised. You can enrol in any class without following a course prospectus. This allows you to broaden your skill set and obtain certificates or diplomas without the fear of failing or dropping your course.
- It’s more eco-friendly and convenient. Just by not commuting to your school, you’re not producing gas emissions. Not only that, but you’re saving more natural resources like electricity and water by having online classes at home. Also, because everything is digitalised, you’re not chopping down trees to pass a 100-page term paper to your instructor.
Disadvantages of e-learning
- Isolation is one of the biggest disadvantages when it comes to e-learning. Interaction between teachers and students is very limited. Building up connections and a network is one of the advantages of traditional learning, which e-learning at this point is still lacking.
- Due to the isolation, another issue of e-learning is the lack of feedback from instructors. One way of improving yourself is through evaluation and constructive criticisms from your mentors. With e-learning programmes, instructors can’t engage with their students as much as they want to because their lessons are already pre-recorded.
- If you’re very introverted, you won’t be able to develop your communication and social skills. Under traditional learning, it wouldn’t be a problem as oral recitations and group activities play a big role in your graded performance. These skills are necessary, especially when you’re in a company.
- E-learning doesn’t follow a rigid schedule. If you lack self-motivation and discipline, you might find it harder to keep track of your classes and maintain your studies.
- E-learning is a relatively new educational system. There have been cases of e-learning programmes not providing proper accreditation like diplomas or certificates. So be sure that the e-learning programme you’ll be attending is accredited and licensed in the state or region where you are residing.
Why can FLNE-friendly e-learning programmes be the key to gaining more students?
An estimated 1.35 billion people speak English, and a vast majority are non-Native English speakers. To recap, First Language Not English (FLNE) is an umbrella term used to describe anyone who is a non-native English speaker, which includes English Learners (EL), Bilinguals, and Limited English Proficient (LEP). With the rest of the 6.45 billion population consisting of LEPs and those who do not speak English at all, translating and localizing content is just a logical step when it comes to joining the global market to cater to a broader audience.
- About 41% of the FLNE population in the US are LEP. It isn’t just about catering to a global audience. In the US, 41% of the FLNE population is considered LEP. With research showing that English makes up only 25.3% of all internet-related content and that 86% of localized advertisements were said to do better than their English counterparts in regard to click rates, these studies just show that FLNE-friendly content and platforms could cater to more demographic groups and increase one’s client volume.
- Increase of demand for e-learning brought by international students. So where do e-learning programmes come into this picture? Other than the UK and the US, when it comes to the countries making the biggest investment in e-learning: China, South Korea, India, and Côte d’Ivoire are key players in this market. While under the European Union, Germany is leading in the e-learning market with a growth rate of 8.5% annually, proving that more international students will be seeking out e-learning services, especially now that eight Ivy Leagues are offering e-Learning courses to their educational system.
- Studies show that students are more receptive when taught in their native language. Multiple studies have shown that students are more receptive when their mother tongue is used as a medium of instruction. Children being taught in their native language were happier and had better class performance in their studies. A journal article, which examined mother tongue as a medium of college instruction, found that freshmen students struggled the most when it came to subjects taught under the English language, though they improved over the years. However, it was noted that students with more proficiency in English excelled the most. This brings up the issue that students are struggling to learn, and some of them are FLNE. Based on all these gathered data, FLNE students would perform better in their studies if the medium of instruction was in their native language rather than English.
Why can’t we have translated and localised e-learning platforms?
Despite the research, why does it seem that a large majority of e-learning programmes have yet to incorporate translation and localization into their e-Learning platforms? Since most e-courses utilise web content and audio-visual recordings for their classes, e-Learning programs can tap the services of a translation company to diversify the medium of language for their content. They can also localise their websites to engage more with their target audience and have a better connection with their students.
To quote Nelson Mandela: ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’ E-learning was created due to a need to make education more innovative and accessible. Why can’t we have e-Learning programs that invite creative thinking through using different languages as a medium of instruction in the courses they already offer? By doing so, it propels online learning as an educational system integral to the global market.
Ofer Tirosh is the CEO of Tomedes, a translation company that specialises in globalisation and localisation. They support over 120 languages and 950+ language pairings and work with more than 10,000 industry experts around the world.