Voices break language barrier;Modern languages

8th January 1999 at 00:00
Utopia: what do you imagine it to be like? "Our city is situated in a jungle because it is more peaceful, there is pure air and more freedom. We have houses in the trees. Horses and elephants are our mode of transport; there are no cars or trucks because they pollute. Only women live there because if there were men there too, there would be violence." This is an extract from The Paradise for Women by the Young Photographers of Guatemala project.

The creators are part of Spanish Voices, an Internet project linking young people from Guatemala, Spain, Britain and the western Saharan refugee camps in Algeria, who have communicated via email, fax, photography, video and newsletters in English and Spanish. The Internet provider is GreenNet, a non-profit making organisation.

The Paradise for Women was the Guatemalan contribution to "Mirage: an imaginary city", a collaboration between Spanish Voices and The Photographers Gallery in London. Originally intended to appear on the Internet for just one day, it is now part of the Spanish Voices website. Using photographs, drawings and text, the young people created their imaginary city. Students from Bromley Hall Special School, in London's East End, produced collages and spoke of having big buses to take them everywhere, while Loli from Granada wrote of a city of chocolate and cream. The Saharawi students painted a vibrant, colourful City of Dreams - a contrast for the refugees who live in one of the most inhospitable parts of the world.

Spanish Voices has also developed a website which, though not part of the original proposal, has enabled more effective sharing of materials. The pages are on One World Online, the world's largest non-profit supersite for human rights and development issues, which also has a gallery of images from the Saharawi children and the Young Photographers of Guatemala.

This three-year project, funded by the European Union, aims to develop resources which incorporate development and rights issues into language teaching. The project has created revision materials as part of the Tower Hamlets Summer University website, including individual and class activities. Voces Espa$olas, a board game designed by young people, will be published this year and will be available either in Spanish or English. The website will use cartoon characters to introduce students to a range of issues. And the BBC has based its latest GCSE Spanish language series, Voces Espanolas, on the project.

The writer is co-ordinator at the Humanities Education Centre, English Street, Bow, London E3 4TA. 0171 364 6405. Email: hec@gn.apc.org


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