India is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of cultural and linguistic diversity. However, this plethora of regional languages and dialects creates a challenge for those without English skills who aspire to advance up the economic ladder. Although market-based economic reforms in 1991 have ushered in a rapidly growing economy, the fact that only 4% of the country is English literate continues to hinder the upward mobility of today’s youth.
Could mobile technology offer an opportunity to support youth across the country in learning one common language – English? The report “Shaping the Future – Realising the potential of informal learning through mobile”, a joint research study by GMSA and the Mastercard Foundation, argues that indeed, mobile is an incredibly important tool for achieving this goal. Young people who were surveyed cited education as a high priority in their lives, second only to the importance of family. Moreover, “Shaping the Future” found that youth in India are particularly open to direct mLearning services. Those who demonstrated the most enthusiasm were young people who had been forced to abandon formal studies in favour of working in order to support their home. With the proper applications on their mobile phone, they realized that they could continue to grow in their education outside the walls of a traditional school.
Uniphore’s speech-based mobile applications support the innate desire of youth to enhance their education and skills. The interactive learning portal uses Multilingual Speech Recognition to enable direct learning for students of all ages. Customized English accent and pronunciation training applications engage the user in an interactive conversation, helping them to understand, practice and master intonation, word and syllable stress, liaisons, and the pronunciation of North American or British English. Students can train themselves to acquire the necessary skills to achieve fluent, fluid, and acculturated speech.
Uniphore’s mLearning solution is growing exponentially fast for three reasons. First, the proprietary technology caters to 14 Indian languages and hundreds of dialects. Second, the application runs on everything from a basic feature phone to a high-end smartphone. These two factors leave no one behind in the accessibility of the applications. The third factor enabling the growth of the solution is high need and demand. Indeed, GSMA and the Mastercard Foundation affirm the demand for English training among India’s youth. When exposed to the various capabilities of mLearning, 27% of the survey respondents indicated that they were most interested in language learning.
One critical element of mLearning solutions like Uniphore’s is that they are immediately scalable and affordable. Indeed, the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL) asserts that because it is less cost-prohibitive than the computers and broadband connections, mobile technology offers a viable avenue to “reduce the gap between the haves and the have-nots” by removing the most significant barrier to learning – the cost.
Linda Forshaw is a Business Information Systems graduate from Lancaster University in the UK. A frequent contributor to Degree Jungle, she is a full time writer and blogger specializing in education, social media and entrepreneurship. Contact her on Twitter @seelindaplay
About Uniphore: Uniphore Technologies Inc is the leader in Multi lingual speech-based software solutions. Uniphore’s solutions allow any machine to understand and respond to natural human speech, thus enabling humans to use the most natural of communication modes, speech, to engage and instruct machines. Uniphore operates from its corporate headquarters at IIT Madras Research Park, Chennai, India and has sales offices in Middle East (Dubai, UAE) as well as in Manila, Philippines.