Learning to break down language barriers

Posted on 1st February 2008

REALSENSE delivers interactive multi-lingual kiosks for non-english speakers in Derby.

Multi-lingual Kiosk - Urdu Version Multi-lingual Kiosk - Punjabi Version

The innovative project uses multimedia kiosks already operating at Derby City Council’s Adult Learning Centres across the city of Derby. The kiosk software, developed by Derby interactive software specialists REALSENSE, welcomes visitors and newcomers to the city of Derby in various languages (with Punjabi and Urdu being piloted initially).

The kiosk introduces English courses as well as many of the other courses on offer at the service across numerous learning areas. The kiosk provides guidance on how learners may be able to obtain various levels of learning support and what steps they need to follow in order to identify and enrol on a course at a level appropriate to their learning needs.

The project came about as a result of the need to address communication ‘barriers’ that Derby Adult Learning Service (DALS) reception staff regularly face when welcoming non-english speaking visitors from Ethnic Minority Groups.

It was identified that these barriers could be addressed and overcome by combining an understanding of commonly recognised individual needs and queries, with language expertise in order to improve upon the response given to individuals. The languages initially identified and most relevant for this project were Punjabi and Urdu.

When an individual arrives at a DALS learning centre seeking information and advice, DALS staff endeavour to provide a basic level of response that is helpful and useful to the individual.

However, the quality of this response is dependent upon DALS personnel’s:

  • competence of the language spoken by the individual
  • knowledge of the information and advice most commonly sought after by similar individuals
  • understanding of the individual’s needs and the possible options available to them
  • ability to convey the right information to the individual

“With the above dependencies in mind, we recognised the need to bridge the communication gap identified and provide a more consistent, coherent and clear message to individuals from ethnic minority groups” said Russell Bielby, Managing Director of REALSENSE Solutions Ltd.

Multi-lingual Kiosk Learner Support - English Version Multi-lingual Kiosk Menu - English Version

Aims and Objectives

The aim of the project was to improve initial contact and communication with individuals from Ethnic Minority Groups when they arrive at a Derby Adult Learning Centre. This is now being achieved in the form of an interactive multi-lingual multimedia kiosk – an audio visual experience in which the individual is presented with information in their chosen language using an appropriate level of text and media.

The objectives of the computer based project were to provide the individual(s) with:

  • a warm and welcome introduction to the service in their own language
  • an easy-to-use language selection process i.e. English, Punjabi or Urdu
  • a straight forward menu providing access to information (in their selected language) about:
    • Courses
    • Enrolment and Registration information
    • Wide range of courses available
    • Information about DALS centres
    • Help about finances, child support etc.
    • Information about Course fees and reductions
    • How to obtain further learner support


The approach makes use of existing technical infrastructure at DALS learning centres for the multimedia kiosks. This includes hardware and software already installed, setup and configured for information distribution. The solution can be delivered online and as such can be made available via the main public website www.adult-learning-derby.org.uk in due course.

Future Opportunities

Assuming the pilot phase is successful, this solution could be evolved with additional language variants. Similarly, the solution could be further evolved to address the needs of individuals with visual and hearing impairments e.g. Makaton, Sign Language etc.

Other Councils and Education Authorities in particular that face similar language barrier challenges can now benefit from the underlying platform and experience gained by REALSENSE.

Please contact Derby Adult Learning Service’s information line on 01332 717900 for more details about this project. Alternatively, you can use our web based enquiry form, email us at enquiry@real-sense.com or phone us on +44 (0)1332 208500 for more information.

Russell Bielby



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