Indians are learning English through TikTok

TikTok’s owner is ByteDance, a private Chinese company.
TikTok’s owner is ByteDance, a private Chinese company.
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Can you learn English from social media? TikTok, the viral video-sharing app, is testing the limits of its platform through EduTok, a new program it launched today (Oct. 17) in India. The company claims to have more than 200 million Indian users.

The #EduTok hashtag, which began as an in-app challenge over the summer, has already racked up 46 billion views, according to TikTok’s website. Users have created about 10 million educational videos so far, Sachin Sharma, director of sales and brand partnerships for TikTok India, told TechCrunch.

With EduTok, the company has essentially created virtual miniature classrooms. By watching short, free, and entertaining videos, users can learn English phrases from minor celebrities. TikTok India highlighted two language channels in particular, English with Geet and Awal Creations. Geet, a disabled woman, teaches her followers English idioms like “kicked the bucket,” “spitting image,” and “I’m on the fence.” She has nearly 5 million fans on the platform. The latter, run by influencer Awal Madaan, provides translations from Hindi to English. He has more than 6 million followers.

TikTok partnered with online tutoring platforms in India, including Vedantu, GradeUp, and Toppr to promote its initiative. The companies will also create content for the platform.

In addition to English lessons, EduTok features fitness and motivational videos as well as basic math and science clips. TikTok further plans to work on a mentorship program with Josh Talks, a speaker series, and The/Nudge Foundation, a nonprofit focused on Indian poverty and unemployment, Economic Times reported. When asked if TikTok plans to expand EduTok to other countries, a company spokesperson said it’s an India-only campaign for now.

For TikTok, the turn toward educational content marks a significant departure from its entertainment-driven, binge-worthy, and sometimes dangerous roots. EduTok illustrates how ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, is attempting to reform the app’s image as users worry about fake news and China’s influence online.

In August, Quartz reported on TikTok’s apparent censorship of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. This month, TikTok hired two former US congressmen to help review its content moderation policy.