On October 14, Saodat Tursunbaeva, chairperson and founder of the board of directors of the International Public Fund Sharq Ayoli — “Woman of the East”, signed a cooperation agreement with the online platform Polygled, which offers free language practice with native speakers for effective learning of foreign languages. Polygled's Director of International Development and Communications Oleg Volkov answered several questions about the key features of the platform and joint projects with the Sharq Ayoli Foundation.
How does the platform work?
Polygled is the first online educational platform for learning foreign languages, offering various entry points, both for beginners and those who want to support their language level. The platform is accessible to children and adults, to individual users and institutions. Simply put, the platform is open to anyone with Internet access. Polygled has several modules, each of which meets the requirements of a specific audiences.
The first module is a social network where everyone can communicate with native speakers of their age using messages, audio or video calls. So users get the opportunity to practice foreign languages for free as often as they need. The second module is a platform for tutors, where teachers provide information about classes and courses, develop and provide lessons.
The third and important module, Class module, is intended for accredited schools, universities and other educational institutions. It allows teachers to post and comment on teaching materials. The functionality of the Class module contains systems for tracking the communication of class students with the other users on the platform. The teacher can also support students' language practice by integration of topics, vocabulary, and discussions.
What is the difference between the Class module and similar projects that create the conditions for users to communicate with native speakers?
Certainly, various tools for organizing of distance learning processes have been already used for long, both by institutions or EdTech platforms, and by individual teachers. Nevertheless, when developing the Class module, we combined various methods of communication with exchanging of materials, such aschat, video and audio, in one functional, thereby giving students access to language practice with native speakers, and giving teachers the opportunity to consistently accompany the educational process with providing of teaching materials and control of the quantity and duration of calls and persons to talk.Communicating with the same age users from other countries (for security reasons, minor users cannot communicate with adult users on the platform – they simply do not see each other),besides improving their language, schoolchildren and students make friends and learn about the history and culture of other regions. Itopens their mindsand increases their motivation – this is where an intercultural exchange takes place. Also, the teacher’s awareness on how many students have practiced the language allows themto organize competitions between students. Which is an additional motivating factor for students.
How many users are there today on the Polygled platform?
Since April 2019 it is over 70,000 people from 45 countries
How do users find chat-partners on the platform?
With the help of artificial intelligence. It selects native speakers of the target language, considering similar interests and age, showing to users only chat-partners of the same age group, as I have already mentioned. Thus, we are creating an open and safe educational environment that is convenient for educational institutions to use. You can also choose a chat-partner using the system of filters, considering your own preferences, which also provides an effective and highly motivating communication.
What key problems do you see in the field of studying foreign languages in Central Asia and in Uzbekistan particularly?
The problems are similar to problems faced by people all around the world. In my opinion, the most important problem is that no one wants to learn foreign languages, everyone wants to talk right away "by the click of a finger" or waiting for a magical transformation, after which they can communicate in a foreign language. Even so, a magic wand exists — it is a large amount of regular practice with native speakers. It is possible, for example, when a person leaves for the country of the language being studied and there is no opportunity in everyday life to switch to the native or familiar language of communication. And after a few months, this person begins to communicate freely. Perhaps he makes mistakes, cannot write official letters or understand specific documents, but for everyday life he acquires an adequate level of language proficiency. But, obviously, the need to speak a foreign language exceeds the ability to move to another country. And here our platform becomes that magic wand, because we offer users free practice with native speakers.
Concerning both school and higher or postgraduate education, every teacher knows that practice is the key to learning a foreign language. However, it is often difficult, both organizationally and financially, to provide students with regular communication with native speakers. Integration of our Class module into educational programs solves this problem.
What are the first steps to be taken as part of cooperation with the Woman of the East Foundation?
There are 50 schools and 35 colleges in Central Asia to join the Class module in the near future, and it is also expected to connect higher educational institutions to the platform. The platform is already being tested by the Uzbek State Institute of Foreign Languages. After a round table in the Chamber of Commerce, I had a talk with Mukhamadzhon Aliyev, the head of the IT Department, and together we initiated the registration of their first class on the platform the next day.
Also, together with the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Education and other ministries and departments of Uzbekistan, we plan to organize various joint projects to increase the level of English language skills of public servants. The popularization of the Uzbek language and culture through the platform tools is going to be an another direction of the partnership. An Uzbek language version of Polygled platform site in is going to be developed. Thus, on the one hand, the platform will become more accessible for all users from Uzbekistan, wherever they are, and on the other hand, it can become a meeting place for everyone who wants to receive first-hand information about the Uzbek culture and language.
The SharqAyoli Foundation initiates and participates in a large number of programs where the platform could be useful, and we hope that the number of "points of contact" will only grow. This year the Fund celebrates its 20th anniversary and, taking this opportunity, on behalf of Polygled I would like to congratulate Saodat Tursunbaeva, the Head of the fund, and her team. I hope that we will spend the next 20 years in a fruitful partnership.
Who will finance the connection of educational institutions to the Polygledplatform?
Using of the Class module is free. And it will remain free, as it is quite important for us to involve educational institutions all around the world into the Polygled language environment. We monetize some other areas of the platform’s work. As for the Classes Module — this is our social mission for the democratization of education.
How is Polygled going to be developed in the future?
In December we plan to launch a new, fourth, module of the platform - Online Course. It offers both integrated solutions for launching of distance education for educational institutions and language schools, as well as individual LMS tools that will allow teachers from all over the world to implement interactive whiteboards, virtual classes and other effective modern educational technologies in their practice.
Also, we plan to launch a market place where we will collect the training materials necessary for teaching foreign languages in 2020. It will include everything: certified international textbooks, courses, video lessons, audio lectures, podcasts, assignments, exercises and tests. We are open to any educational organisations and institutions, both public and private. We are going to expand and search out new partners around the world. You can contact us either through the Sharq Ayoli Foundation or directly by writing to us, for example, on the polygled.com site, through social networks, or by writing directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.