Tuesday, September 6

¿Su LMS habla español?

Why build a Spanish LMS?

First, more and more of the schools with whom I've spoken this past year, individually and at conferences and meetings, have told me they need one and need one now. So I did some research and that brings us to the second point. The surprising facts:

Spanish is spoken by almost 400 million people worldwide. Even more compelling, when you realize that about half of the population in the Western Hemisphere speaks Spanish, it becomes the primary language for as many people as English in this region of the world.

Within the United States, Spanish is the second most widely spoken language after English, by a very wide margin, and the Spanish-speaking population within the U.S. is growing as a percentage of the total U.S. population every year.

· According to the U.S. Census, the number of Hispanics in the U.S. grew by 57.9% between 1990 and 2000 – from a total of 22.4 million people to a total of 35.3 million people. This figure means the United States has the fifth largest Hispanic population worldwide (trailing Mexico, Colombia, Spain and Argentina – just barely behind Spain and Argentina).

· Of this group of over 35 million people, well over 3 out of 4 say that Spanish is their primary language.

· Within the United States, a total of over 28 million people speak Spanish at some degree of fluency. A few states have a large percentage of these Spanish speakers – California has 5.5 million, Texas has 3.4 million, New York has 1.8 million, and Florida has 1.5 million.

· In the U.S., the 28 million people who speak Spanish at home is well over half of the approximately 47 million people who speak a language other than English at home. That means that Spanish is spoken by more people than all other languages combined within the U.S.

· The 35 million Hispanics in the U.S. as of 2000 was projected to be close to 40 million people as of 2003. Moreover, by 2050, the number of Hispanics in the U.S is projected to grow exponentially to over 100 million people. At that point Hispanics will be about one quarter of the total U.S. population. That’s over triple the 2000 figure in a 50-year span.

· In the New York City area, the newscast on the Spanish-language Noticias 41 and Noticiero Univision, often have higher ratings than ‘the big three’ network news shows on CBS, NBC and ABC.

· Approximately 5.8 percent of Internet users speak Spanish, making it the 4th most common language among the Internet community, trailing only English (about 50%), Japanese (about 8%), and German (about 6%).

· A recent study of 25 metro markets in the U.S. found that Spanish-language programming was the sixth most popular format.

· It's increasingly difficult to ignore the spread of Spanish in the United States. Bank ATMs offer instructions in Spanish. The Yellow Pages in many cities adds a Spanish-language insert. And Spanish is working its way into everyday use. Is there an American left who can't order fajitas with spicy jalapeños using the proper Spanish-accented flair? (Say the J like an H: fah-hee-tas ...)

· Over the past decade, the demand for Spanish Language courses worldwide has just about doubled, and the demand is almost as close in the U.S.

According to Paula Winke and Cathy Stafford of The Center for Applied Linguistics rapid demographic changes and an increasing recognition of the critical need for professionals who are proficient in languages other than English (Brecht & Rivers, 2000; Carreira & Armengol, 2001) have led to an interest in developing language programs and classes for "heritage language learners". These are students who are raised in a home where a non-English language is spoken and who speak or at least understand that language (Valdés, 2001).

The fastest growing heritage language population in the United States is Hispanic Americans (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2001), and the number of Spanish speakers studying Spanish is on the rise. As a result, language educators are developing programs, classes, and instructional strategies to address the needs of these students, which are different from those of native-English-speaking students studying Spanish as a foreign language.

Appropriate instructional materials are essential for these classes, which are often referred to as Spanish for Spanish speakers (SNS) classes. Although the development of SNS materials has a 30-year history, and many new SNS textbooks and materials continue to appear, developing a well-articulated sequence for SNS instruction continues to be a challenge (Peyton, Lewelling, & Winke, 2001).

So is anyone listening? Here is a tremendous opportunity for this large group to learn new career skills using their native Spanish language. Are we so Anglophile that we do not care? Let me know. I always value and look forward to your opinions on these important subjects.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, but in the USA, English is the operative language, and as such, catering to other languages causes confusion and undermines productivity.

I work in a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic environment, and the confusion from the attempts to cater to different groups cuts into productivity. If we begin to use Spanish in our business, the large (more than 50%) Asian population would wonder when we would translate the text into their language (fair is fair).

Bi-lingual countries have not faired well in history, and if the US is to continue to grow and be the dominant economic power, we must have a single operating language---political correctness will undermine productivity.

We are all free to speak whatever language we wish, but we have to work together for the common good, and that's best done in a single language.

Stephen Downes said...

"Sorry, but in the USA, English is the operative language, and as such, catering to other languages causes confusion and undermines productivity."

Well, that's pretty silly - it amounts to an assumption that the world ends at the U.S. border. And, for that matter, the assumption that the U.S. border is impervious to influences worldwide. Both assumptions are questionable, and holding them dangerously myopic.

And in order to reach emerging markets, it will indeed be necessary to build technology in Asian languages. To assume otherwise is again shortsighted.

Anonymous said...

the world doesn't certainly end at any given border.
As a business development director at one of Spain's biggest LMS vendors I am totally familiar with a growing demand for bilingual-multingual projects, especially when users are on both sides of the Atlantic or scattered around Europe.
The key is not having to decide on any given language, but to give the user the freedom to find the tool in their most familiar one possible. That's what I call use-friendly.

Ben Watson said...

Actually I would take this conversation one step further (but bear with me as my thought process is a bit jumbled).

It is not about creating a LMS in the main languages, it is about creating a LMS (or whatever) in the language used by the learner AND the corporation (or the entity providing the training).

The closest I have seen to this is what my co-founder, Mike LeBlanc, did when he started his first company icGlobal. It was as easy as opening up an Excel spreadsheet-style page and adding a new language column with the new words. The default word 'instructor' could be changed to 'instructeur'. Yes, this could be used to localize into different languages but companies ended up using it to change wording to their 'corporate' language, i.e. courses were called scenarios and chat rooms were called text chats. So you could end up with a default 'corporate' language (i.e. the corporate language of Accenture or Deloitte) that was translated then into other languages.

Now at Ensemble Collaboration we are working on creating collaboration objects that are language-independent with the appropriate language file called through XML at run-time so that the presentation layer is separate from the underlying business logic. Objects with different language files can be mixed together so that you could end up with a company-wide discussion group in English and a local department chat in French with the overall navigation being in Italian, all using 'company words' (i.e. cascading language files where the default langage file can be overriden by specific collaboration objects). But I don't think I have seen the same happen on the content side (multiple languages in use at the same time).

I truly believe that in today's connected world it is not one language over another but using a blending as appropriate. Anyone who speaks two or more languages can appreciate this (and whether you realize it or not every employee speaks at least two languages, your native tongue and the language of your company).

Does this make sense?

Harold Jarche said...

The open source community is way ahead of the vendors on multi-language sytems. Usually, when a proprietary system is released, it comes in English only and then various localised versions follow many months later.

For example, both Moodle and ATutor LCMS come with many language options. Some of these are ready as soon as the latest version is released because of the strong community involvement.

Here is a link to an article on how Groove (proprietary) decided it didn't need to release a French language version, eventhough it was requested by users. With open source, you can localise to whatever language/dialect you please.

Many under-served groups have embraced open source systems because no vendor took their needs seriously. Now these OS systems are becoming major contenders in non-English markets.

Here is an example of an OS learning portal serving over 100,000 Spanish learners. Yes, there already are LCMS options in Spanish, French, Chinese, etc.

Anonymous said...

Let me explain a little further, lest anyone get the wrong idea: it is fine to speak many languages (I can carry on in a couple of other languges than English), but the confusion that results when working in the USA and trying to adapt to all the languages is counterproductive.

I've just come out of a supervisors' meeting, and they spoke of how difficult it is becoming to work with non-English speakers. We probably have 10 different languages being spoken in our company in the USA. The problem arises when work instructions, safety training, HR benefits, etc. aren't understood by non-English speakers. You might say, "translate it for them." Which language(s)? No one would want to be left out. Also, since languages don't always translate literally, we'd need professional translators and lawyers to make sure the documents are legal---all at an additional cost.

I think it is great for us all to know several languages, but when it comes to operating a company, the company has to operate on one language, otherwise, there is confusion and loss of productivity. If we lose productivity on a regular basis (as is happening because of the language issue), we won't have to worry about it too long, as we could lose customers and our business.

I'd like to hear more trainers address the business side of this issue rather than talking about the politically-correct, multicultural aspect of this situation. For global companies, I can understand the logistical problems with workers in other countries---I wouldn't expect them to have to learn English to work for us in THEIR country. My question is why we are being told we have to learn a plethora of languages to work in the USA, where English is the operative language, and where so much of the world is racing to improve its English skills. We do our employees a disservice by not helping them learn English.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and a follow-up comment: is there anywhere else in the world that I could go to work, speaking only English, and demand that they provide documentation and training in my native language? Doubt it. Then, are they all being myopic?

David Grebow said...

Wow ... I'm almost at a loss for words, which is amusing since I probably posted one of the longest blogs in LC blogger history.

First, thank you all for you insights and feedback. This is obviously a more complex issue than I realized. The first level of complexity is the spokenm language versus the written language. One is public and the other more private. Since an LMS is more about the private life of a student, I might have framed the question better.

That said, given that there are already onground programs being offered by schools in Spanish, it makes sense for those programs to follow the path of least resistance when they go online. That means an online Spanish LMS for online Spanish courses.

I think without realising it, Anonymous has a great idea embedded in his posts. I believe in this Worldwide Knowledge Economy we're all in, that we really need to start thinking of languages as a tool, rather than as an extension of some geographical, geopolitical or tribal identity.

As such, a pull down menu with many languages is really the right way to go. I've seen it numerous times already.

For students (I personally dislike the term 'learners') whatever enables their learning process is good, and whatever disables that process is not good. Studies have proven that we learn best in our native or 'heritage' language.

Several language choices seems right. Translation software programs get better everyday. It's not the same laborious analog task it was not so long ago.

Politically I lean into the future and believe we are Citizens of the Planet. Pick a language. Unless we're talking to each other, who cares anymore and why? The beauty of living in the Digital Age is that we can create things such as a language pull down menu, and give people a choice of the language they want to use.

Guttenberg roll over in your grave!

So (thanks to Babelfish) Digo sí a un LMS español!

Harold Jarche said...

Learning is all about context, right? Well, my context is that I work in two languages all the time. Having tools that support both is great, eventhough it seems that Canada has not fared well as a country, according to anonymous, because we are bilingual.

Most Europeans work in many languages - it's a fact of life. In the US, the dominant language is English, but there are now 30 million Spanish speakers (about the population of Canada). What happens when the tables are the turned and there are more Spanish speakers than English speakers in a certain state?

I see languages as being similar to learning styles - there are many, and no one is the best. Sometimes there is a great word in one language that does not translate to another (try to explain "zeitgeist" with one word in English). Therefore, I feel (not sure about the data) that multi-language options are a good thing for learning. When you are comfortable in several languages you sometimes hop between languages to really understand a concept. For instance, I learned certain things in French for which I never learned the English terms.

Multiple representation, in linguistics and other areas, is a good thing for learning. It may be a pain for the lawyers, but that's too bad.

Anonymous said...

The comments posted by anonymous fail to recognize the historic role that Spanish plays in our country. There is a common saying in the southwest: "We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us." A point that many people choose to ignore is that many parts of the US were Spanish speaking regions until the US took them over and has now spent close to 200 years trying to impose English as the "operational language". The comparison with an English speaker showing up in other parts of the world and demanding the use of English is not valid... in many parts of the US the Spanish speakers were there first! Have you never reflected upon the number of states and cities in the US with Spanish names? In my opinion a push towards the use of Spanish is not an imposition, but a recognition that we have always been a bilingual nation.

Anonymous said...

The best kept secret ...

This blog had me asking if there were any Spanish LMS programs out there so I did a search and found several and the best one was at http://www.comcourse.com.

Call them and ask for a demo.

The LMS itself is the best I've seen and they have more built in features and functions than anyone else in any language. Also they are priced at least 50% less than any of the major LMS vendors and will migrate all your programs for free!

Anonymous said...

There's no question that here in the United States, English is the dominant language, and that by and large, workers who wish to advance to upper levels of responsibility must learn the language. To that end, I would encourage every employer of non-English speakers to offer their employees language instruction as part of their training options.

But the notion that employers should feel free to disregard non-English speakers in their training is, quite simply, naive. Large segments of the United States economy rest on sizable populations of workers whose English language skills are virtually non-existent. (Food service and agribusiness just to name two.)

Sure, in an ideal world, there would be enough English speakers around who wanted those jobs to fill them. But there aren't. So we have a choice: a) cripple the economy by making it impossible for non-English speakers to fill those jobs, or b) punish everyone by not providing alternative-language training. (I say punish everyone, because not only does the worker get punished by not receiving hazard training; I potentially get punished by another worker not receiving food safety training.)

Are either of those really acceptable choices? We're not training these workers to bow to their unreasonable demands for training in their own language. We're training them because the health of our businesses and customers depend on it.

Fouad Ahmad said...

I think we have two groups here who understood the question "Why build a Spanish LMS?" differently.

I believe some people understood the question as if it was "Why build a Spanish LMS for customers in the USA?"

While others understood it as "Why build a Spanish LMS?" (period).

I think it is up to the LMS developers to decide if they want to compete internationally or not. So, if they want to compete internationally they have to look into other languages.

Although many US developed LMSs have some Arabic capabilities, I have heard many complaints here in the Middle East about how poor these LMSs perform when it comes to the Arabic language. Such complaints extend to open source LMSs like Moodle. ATutor does not have an Arabic interface yet. Many people believe here that an Arabic LMS which is built from the ground up is needed and that is quite an effort and a challenge.

Thanks and greetings from Egypt.

P.S. BTW I still have hard time using the Arabic Version of MS Word :)

Harold Jarche said...

In response to the comment made by Fouad Ahmad, I would like to say that with Moodle and ATutor anyone can go ahead and start localisation/translation in order to get a good Arabic version. The same goes for any open source system. These systems are as good as the communities that support them.

BTW, OpenOffice.org, which is compatible with MS Word, has an Arabic version, though version 2.0 is still in beta, but should have a public release soon.

Fouad Ahmad said...

Harold Jarche wrote:

"I would like to say that with Moodle and ATutor anyone can go ahead and start localisation/translation in order to get a good Arabic version."

I guess the key word here is "good".

The problem is not providing a language file with a word-to-word translation of expressions. This is easy and that is what most LMSs are trying to offer.

Let me give this example.

When people here (in the Middle East) try to translate eLearning, they ended up translating it as "Electronic Learning" and in Arabic we put the adjective first. So eLearning ended up as "Learning Electronic" (al ta'lem al iliktrony) and it is clear that it is a totally different meaning.

If you try to give the true meaning of eLearning you may have to translate an expression like "learning with the aid of information and communications technology tools." This is of course too long.

So the problem is not a word-to-word translation but coming up with new terms that are acceptable by the population and help people understand the meaning.

This is not easy.


Anonymous said...

This is a fascinating discussion.
Regarding a U.S. company concerned with, say, worker safety, the problem isn't the LMS; it's the reality of workers whose English is substandard (e.g., Spanish-speaking blue-collar workers). And any performance-support tool that helps them work better/faster/more (including "more safely") is a good thing.
I do wonder how many of the supervisors in Anonymous' example spoke any language other than English. (I have my hunch.)
As a side note, here in Montgomery County MD (one of the wealthiest in the U.S. in terms of average household income), we have a large percentage of residents for whom English is not a birth language. Yet fewer than 25% of such adults can take advantage of English-language classes, and I'm not sure that tripling the offering would get beyond 50% -- because if you're in a blue-collar or service-sector job and depend on buses to get around a region subservient to the car, disposable time ("action capital") is as rare as disposable income (financial capital).
Fouad's examples from Arabic are instructive. Although there isn't much demand for Gaelic-language LMSes, by way of analogy I'd point out that in Gaidhlig, there's no word for "yes," no word for "no," and no verb for "to have."
That's not to say give up; that's to say that a surface-logic approach (know = savoir) is silly, except from people who only know one language, and then it's just sad.

As James Thurber said, "What do they know of English who only English know?

Anonymous said...

My word, I do believe we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto! Seems like some real world conversation is finally seeping into this blog.

Must be the after affect of seeing all those 'learners' who were too poor to find shelter from the storm, wading through the rising waters, after learning about hurricanes first hand from Katrina.

Just to add another node to this expanding post, the language many of us speak in 'N'orleans' is not translated into any LMS either. Not that many of us can afford a computer, an ISP bill every month, or take an online program even if it was for free.

Anonymous said...

Melissa Brandt-The best kept secret is that Comcourse is REALLY only an installation of Moodle, which they then charge you money to use because they pretend they developed it themselves. Check out:


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