Every Student Is Different – Tailoring The Multilingual Research Experience For Students

By Grace Scott, Customer Success Manager & Product Manager, Education, Yewno, Inc.

Every student is different.  As educators, administrators, researchers, and librarians, we have all heard this sentiment before.  This statement also reveals a universal truth–how do we tailor learning and understanding so that each student is fully prepared to succeed?  

With the help of educational technology tools, it has become easier to cater to students’ needs in and out of the classroom. One of the ways we can better serve students and scholars alike?  Language. With the surge of ELL (English Language Learners) students entering the US public school system, ESL, bilingual and dual-language immersion education has become a permanent fixture in discussions of the future of education.  There has also been a rise in incredible opportunities available to scholars of all stages of their education to explore beyond their first language through accessible international scholarship. Communicating with students whose first language is not English and facilitating their grasp on both English and their native language is top priority for many educators.    

I had a wonderful opportunity to work as a summer school teacher and curriculum developer for an international K-12 school in Beijing, China, whose educational philosophy is grounded in Chinese, American, and international learning traditions while blending a uniquely bilingual model of instruction. Primary students are exposed to bilingual teaching in Chinese and English and as they enter middle and high school, there is a greater focus on English language instruction. As a summer school immersion instructor, I found that introducing tools like online bilingual dictionaries and creating exercises that encouraged students to use their native language to describe an English concept or phrase helped untangle the knot of identifying vocabulary and syntactical threads.  

Capturing and strengthening students’ mastery of both languages proves to be a difficult challenge, but given a solid framework and a keen awareness of students’ learning needs, both teacher and student are primed for success.

Research is another key piece of the learning process.  Students in my summer immersion course had to complete a collaborative research project where groups designed their own “desert island” with a unique form of government, complete with their own flag and set of common rules based on what they had learned in the course.  While students were instructed to speak and write in English for the final presentation, much of the brainstorming process was a hybrid of Chinese and English so that students could freely express their opinions over the advantages and disadvantages of representative democracy and technocracy.  

With that in mind, what if you could conduct research not just in English, but also in your native language at the same time? What if you could draw from a plethora of documents that existed in a different area of scholarship outside of your native language? This is the core of what we have achieved at Yewno, with the release of Yewno Discover’s new multilingual interface.  Now students and researchers can explore concepts and different paths of research in up to three languages, English, German and Chinese, thus expanding their scope of knowledge outside of their comfort zone, all while understanding and contextualizing information along the way.

Yewno is sewing together academic articles in these languages to create a multilingual fabric which users can use to paint a broader picture of their research area and to uncover connections between research areas across languages.  

Blending language learning and academic research is just one more way we can benefit our students and facilitate deeper comprehension.  Providing these resources to students and researchers will further cement the connections between language and understanding and will encourage students to explore beyond their reach.

Jun Ge