In Xinjiang, Uyghur remains an official language alongside Chinese. Inner Mongolia (with about 25 million people, as of 2010) and Tibet (with three million people, as of 2014) are, of course, two other prime examples of where the language is dominated by local variants.
“Teaching materials available online in digital formats in standard Chinese are abundant,” Baidu said, “with over 54 million education-related documents on Baidu Library — compared to almost none for the [minority] languages the plan will cover.”
“This has resulted in a significant gap in education equality between Han Chinese and ethnic minorities. Ethnic minority students have not traditionally had access to the massive amount of educational materials and references available to their counterparts in other parts of China,” it added.
More than 10,000 documents have been translated since May, and minority-language users will now be able to search the Baidu Library database without having to use Chinese.
On a side note, Baidu also says it has raised over $1.7 million in a campaign to support the initiative launched on September 10 — the company is donating about $0.15 each time the campaign page is shared on social media, it said.
As someone who’s spent years in mainland China and seen the struggles of minorities first hand there — not just in education — this new project from Baidu is one that I welcome and commend.
Here’s some brief background on Baidu Library from the company itself:
Since November 2009, Baidu Library has been an invaluable resource where people can upload and share documents with other Baidu users. Over 130 million documents are available on Baidu Library, and the site gets approximately 50 million unique daily visitors generating 500 million daily page views.