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Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Bangladesh’s first mobile educational language service
In an ambitious new project, the BBC World Service Trust (BBC WST) is harnessing the latest communications technology toprovide English language learning for over 50 million mobile users in Bangladesh.
The BBC WST, in partnership withBBC Learning English, has launched a new multi-platform media initiative that will change the way people learn English in Bangladesh and communities of Bangladeshi origin worldwide.
The first of its kind in the world, this project will provide high quality English learning tools using mobile, television and the internet to millions of people, many of whom live on less than £2 a day.
Central to the project is BBC Janala (“Window”) which uses the mobile phone as a powerful low-cost learning device by offering over 250 audio and SMS lessons to the growing 50.4 million mobile users in Bangladesh.
To make the lessons affordable, the BBC has teamed up with all six of Bangladesh’s mobile operators who have agreed to cut the cost of calls to the service by up to 75%. Each lesson is a three-minute phone call, costing about 3 taka (2.6p).
Lessons will also be online onwww.bbcjanala.com, where a virtual community will be able to access learning content for free, upload their online profiles and interact with other learners both in Bangladesh and around the world. Audio and video will also be available on social networking and video sharing websites such as Facebook and YouTube. So far BBC Janala already has over 6,000 registered users.
"The response has been phenomenal," said Richard Sambrook, Director of BBC Global News. "There have been over half a million calls in the first few weeks alone. This must be one of the most exciting multi-platform projects anywhere in the world."
BBC Buzz - the youth appeal
Alongside this, last month saw the start of BBC Buzz, a weekly primetime youth entertainment TV show on ATN Bangla, which will place English learning at the centre of young people’s lives in both Bangladesh and the UK.
Here bilingual young presenters present features around aspirational individuals from Bangladesh and the Bangladeshi diaspora in both Bangla and English. Four weeks in, it is already the second most popular programme in its prime-time Friday evening slot.
Demand for English is high amongst 15 to 45 year olds, with 84% telling the BBC they want to speak the language and 60% prepared to learn on their mobiles. English is also important for securing jobs in Bangladesh, where about 71% of employers are looking for workers with 'communicative English'.
Caroline Nursey, Director of the BBC World Service Trust explains:
"We have learnt that demand for English is extremely strong in Bangladesh. It is central to people’s aspirations to get a better job, educate their children and connect with the world.
Media usage, in particular mobile, now provides an unprecedented opportunity to meet this demand and provide what promises to be the most exciting and accessible effort to use English to improve the lives of people in the developing world today."
2010 will see the launch of Bishaash, the first drama series to be set in Bangladesh and the UK. Expected to attract audiences of millions of viewers, the programme will be accompanied by a parallel half-hour learning show to reinforce the functional English in the drama.
BBC Buzz will appear weekly in Bangladesh on ATN Bangla on Friday evenings at 9.20pm with a repeat on Mondays at 3.10pm. It will appear in the UK on Tuesdays at 9.00pm on ATN Bangla (available through the Sky Digital platform).