Read this article about the English Dost app via a friend’s Facebook feed and was reminded of a few incidents that I’ve witnessed during the last year.
On the day a friend left Mumbai for Singapore, among those who visited her house to say goodbye was her maid. The maid had brought her adolescent children along too, and I was amazed at the difference between the maid and her children. Had the mother not introduced me to her daughter, I’d never have guessed how closely they were related; the maid seemed like someone one step away from the ancestral village, while the daughter seemed a native of a big city.
While the mother wears a sari, cannot speak much English and is rather diffident, her daughter prefers jeans and a shirt, speaks good English and is much more confident. While the mother is uneducated, she’s ensured that her daughter got a school education and learnt English, and encourages her to attend college; even though the young girl has to hold down a part-time job in order to meet her education expenses at college ,she’s determined to obtain a college degree that will get her a better job than her mother’s and a brighter future.
A few months later, I was at Bodh Gaya for the sales and marketing module of a Cream training program. The participants comprised micro-entrepreneurs from villages in Gaya and Muzzaffarpur district of Bihar. They could speak some English, but not much ; hence classroom sessions were conducted in both English and Hindi, with constant translation of any English sentence by an interpreter. All our training material (slides , hand-outs, question papers) had also been translated into Hindi for the benefit of the participants. Yet we witnessed an amazing zeal to learn new English words that pertained to their businesses, as if they saw these words as currency for garnering status in the eyes of their peers (remember that these were all rural micro-entrep[reneurs). There were participants who’d stop us mid-sentence and ask us to spell out ‘negotiation’, ‘consumer’ etc. and earnestly write down the English word in their notebooks.
No wonder there’s such a huge market for English learning apps and so many of them available now. There’re generic apps like Busuu through which anyone can learn English ( or another of a set of languages) by having conversations with native speakers of that language. There’re English Dost and enguru, both of which use a game with real-life situations to help users learn English, these seem to target those joining the corporate sector in junior management roles. English Seekho by IMImobile and IL&FS Education & Technology Services limited target a very different audience – junior level clerks, traders, unskilled laborers, frontline staff, taxi drivers, restaurant waiters etc. There’s also the British Council site that has several English learning apps, podcasts etc., and even an app to help Taxi drivers learn English to communicate better with their customers ! Clearly there’s a ton of demand from a large number of segments.
- Zenobia Driver