Is learning a language a privilege?
English was not always the language of science, of medicine, of business, but at this particular point in our history as humans, English is the de facto language, or lingua franca, of choice, and we see billions of dollars going into educating people in the English language.
What blockchain can do to even out the privileges
When I think about privilege I believe it refers to the ways in which certain individuals enjoy particular advantages in life due to nothing they have themselves achieved but rather from who they are because of their position in life, or where and how they have been raised.
Privilege is, therefore, a reality for you because of a position you occupy and not something you can really choose (otherwise everyone would choose privilege, and the distinction, are you privileged or not, would become extinct).
So why is privilege such a big deal?
Well, it’s the primary stumbling block to a fair society and continues to be a very contentious issue in society today. People see others as being privileged through which race we are, our religious convictions, our sexual orientation, the social class we belong to (depending on the degree to which you were born into affluence or not), whether we are male or female and today, also, I believe people see others as being privileged by language.
So what is language privilege? And why are all languages not considered equal?
I believe a relevant question would be… would you be considered more privileged for having being born a native English speaker above being born a native Swahili speaker, or a Hindi speaker? And why does this privilege exist? Which brings us to the next questions…
Are all languages considered equal in society?
Learning a language, and by that learning, in general, has always been in the hands of the wealthy, and history shows us how this was a “privilege” set aside for the upper class and clergy. Your knowledge of languages gave you an elevated status in society, and that is no different to today.
Can learning English be a tool to elevate your position in society?
Throughout history, we’ve seen the dominance of certain languages at particular points in history. English was not always the language of science, of medicine, of business, but at this particular point in our history as humans, English is the de facto language, or lingua franca, of choice, and we see billions of dollars going into educating people in the English language.
History has also shown us that “the golden rule is that the man with the gold makes the rules”, and education is no different. But should this be so?
A corrupt form of capitalism disadvantages young people starting out as they often spend years digging themselves out from under the mountain of debt they have amassed with student loans. Older people face the other end of the sharp stick as ballooning health costs and longevity create fear that they will outlive their savings.
And the rise of AI and automation make many wonder how secure their productive futures are, with fear of being replaced by robots compounded by rising housing and transport costs.
Is there a solution to this?
Student loans show how the current system favors the privileged segment of humanity and leaves out the majority of people that are unable to participate in higher education due to lack of resources (finances) or not being “creditworthy” for loans. And this constitutes a large portion of the world. I believe this can be addressed in our current age of smart devices, globalization, and blockchain.
So this got me thinking “what if we could level the playing field a little, and democratize and monetize people’s knowledge of English, and truly use education as a way to improve someone’s life, and in turn improve overall communication as a species, what could this mean for humanity over the next 10 years?”
How could we use the blockchain to democratize this opportunity?
In the wise words of Nelson Mandela -“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”
Let’s first look at three segments of society and how the blockchain could better their lives.
- A young person, isolated by social economic stature and geographic position could interact with other students and teachers globally and earn tokens while they learn.
- Working people, looking to improve their English could spend part of their study time interacting with learners and teachers globally, and help create an active, safe and encouraging environment for learning English, and also earn tokens for this contribution.
- Employed or retired English experts (linguists, teachers, professors, enthusiasts) could earn tokens by interacting with learners in the Q&A, as well as selling their services on a peer to peer marketplace.
- The altruists can donate their tokens back to promising students in the form of scholarships, course payments, or gifts to encourage further knowledge of English.
Imagine starting to study English, and during the process of learning, being paid to learn as opposed to it just costing you to learn. What if we could incentivize a student to learn English, creating a reward system to fast track their progress towards being a fluent communicator.
Would they be interested? I believe they would.
To achieve this, we need to move away from a traditional way of thinking about learning and think about how we can integrate the blockchain into learning a language, in this case, English. This is not an easy ideal to achieve, and our first steps need to be small and simple, and completely intuitive so that:
- Non-native speakers and learners are able to adopt this process easier, and
- We are able to recruit the teachers needed to achieve a successful outcome.
My father taught me a Mark Twain saying when I was 13 years old…
In promulgating your esoteric cogitations, or articulating your superficial sentimentalities and amicable, philosophical or psychological observations, beware of platitudinous ponderosity. Let your conversational communications possess a clarified conciseness, a compact incomprehensibleness, coalescent consistency, and a concatenated cogency. Eschew all conglomerations of flatulent garrulity, jejune babblement, and asinine affectations. Let your extemporaneous descantings and unpremeditated expatiations have intelligibility and veracious vivacity, without rodomontade or thrasonical bombast. Sedulously avoid all polysyllabic profundity, pompous prolixity, psittaceous vacuity, ventriloquial verbosity, and vaniloquent vapidity. Shun double-entendres, prurient pscosity, and pestiferous profanity, obscurant or apparent.
You’ll often see this translated as: In other words, talk plainly, briefly, naturally, sensibly, truthfully, purely. Keep from slang; don’t put on airs; say what you mean; mean what you say. And, don’t use big words!
And I believe that applies here.
How, in simple terms can we use the blockchain (and by definition “tokens”) to incentivize learning English, while at the same time establish credibility for the blockchain solution we are creating in our current skeptical “crypto” environment?
The simple answer is it starts with a real business that has an established and demonstrated a track record of success.
“The bottom line is, you need to be a successful business with real assets before you can really make it big in the blockchain world, as trying the blockchain when you don’t have the necessary skills and experience to run a business is utter folly.”
English Forward is an established platform, having served over 250 million users in the past 17 years. It is the internet’s largest learn English Q&A and community website.
Assuming that there are more people with English knowledge to share, than there are English speakers with money to donate to the growth of the English language, we should focus on how to encourage users to share their knowledge (and grow the Q&A knowledge base which is free for anyone to use), and in the process earn currency that they can either spend on:
(a) Improving their English (inside English Forward’s peer to peer marketplace ), or
(b) Converting to FIAT or crypto (on external exchanges).
The use of blockchain is thus limited to an incentive program to pay the people in the system to join and remain as users while incentivizing people to actively engage as well. With traditional fiat payments, this simply was not possible to do because of costs associated with transactions as well as settlement times. Let’s look at the differences between a current, fiat-based system and a proposed blockchain-based system.
A sample of actions people take today when on English Forward:
- User posts a question. The question could be a “please translate” or “please explain” type question. And it can be for academic/studies purposes, career/professional purposes or personal/travel/social life purposes. And the question could be from a very introductory English level (1 out of 10) or a native English speaker looking for grammar or word usage suggestions. The request could be grammatical and complex, simple words and semantics, translation and similar.
A sample of actions users would take with the new system on English Forward:
- User posts a question and that question gains a view count (similar to Quora). After X views, the system rewards Y tokens for contribution/participation. This will be based on a fractional revenue sharing model (think of Spotify, based on the number of song listens, they determine how they pay record labels for that content). The calculation for this will evolve over time. Payments occur in crypto.
- User posts a valid response. A similar contribution/participation calculation occurs but at a higher rate. Valuable and detailed, correct answers are more valuable than questions.
- User explores members tagged as English Forward Professionals (working label) under sub-category tags such as translation, interpretation, native English, tutor or academic professor etc. Explores their profiles (a comprehensive, modern developed profile page). Decides to hire one (similar to Upwork or Clarity.fm or LiveCoach etc). The transaction can occur based on fiat or crypto.
- User posts a “gig” (Fiverr, Upwork) for a resume builder, a professional letter translation, an essay editing task etc — others bid on the job. The transactions can occur in crypto or fiat.
In conclusion, to achieve success, we need to build a simple, intuitive blockchain solution that adds real benefit to people learning English. This will build credibility, and as user numbers and adoption grows, will allow further benefit to be added to users.