For those who did not grow up using technology, it can be frustrating to try to navigate devices and use online tools. For those whose primary language is not English, the challenges of technology are further exacerbated. Many technical terms do not have easy translations, and there are fewer multilingual resources available to learn digital skills.
CTN is tackling language barriers at San Francisco’s Mosaica Family Apartments — providing digital literacy training in both English and Spanish to qualified adult participants. We recently spoke with two graduates of our Spanish cohort to hear more about their experiences before and after joining our program.
As a native of El Salvador, Max had little experience with technology or access to learn. When he got a smartphone, Max felt frustrated that he couldn’t easily navigate the internet or find the information he was looking for. When he went to the DMV to take his driving license test, the online format and screen made it impossible to focus on the questions. “It was very frustrating,” reflects Max. “It used to make me feel really sad to see other people use electronics and not have the same knowledge.”
Another member of the cohort, Nelly, had similar experiences with technology before the program. She had taken computer classes in high school, but 20 years later, tech has changed completely. As a native Spanish speaker, it was challenging for her to translate technical terms and concepts into English. “I felt lost whenever I had an emergency that had to do with the computer,” says Nelly. “I always had to ask my son for help.”
When Max and Nelly heard about our virtual digital literacy training course through Mosaica, the two were happy to join. CTN’s bilingual digital literacy instructor Jannette Estrada led them through the five-week program, offering full support and encouragement along the way.
After completing the virtual sessions, Max and Nelly began to use the internet with confidence. Max enjoys the larger size of the tablet, which lends him better access to internet applications and tools than his smartphone had. He also gained an awareness of potential safety concerns and the best practices for keeping information secure. “I feel more open to learning about computers,” says Max, “because before, I didn’t really have the patience to learn.”
Nelly enjoys the independence her tablet provides her. She can easily access and organize different digital tools that are essential for her everyday life. Nelly frequently uses email, makes Zoom calls, sets up doctor appointments, and participates in church activities online. “Now I can help my son,” Nelly reflects. “I am showing him more about e-books and checking out books online from the library. I don’t have to use his device for my needs.”
Max and Nelly’s stories are the reason CTN makes it a priority to reach learners of all languages and backgrounds. Technology can be frustrating for even the most tech-savvy of us. We are striving to eliminate as many barriers as possible to encourage everyone, no matter their language, to utilize the benefits of technology!