Global Voices, Chicago and Tangier

TALIM Global Voices group
Tangier Global Voices group, plus ALC Tangier staff: IT wizard Rachid El Mziryahi, teacher Rabia el Antaki, and Director Mark Holbrook

Their voices came wafting up over the Legation courtyard, a springtime Friday evening.  Intrigued, I paid a visit to our group of high school English students enrolled in the Global Voices Initiative program, thanks to our partnership with the American Language Center (ALC) Tangier.  You can watch the videos on the ALC website.

It was practice for their upcoming presentation of a set of three plays, which they developed, wrote in English, and then performed for their audience of American students in Chicago, via a Google + connection.

Meanwhile, the Chicago students were doing the same thing – in Arabic.  Here’s how George Bajalia (he’s smiling from the corner of the screen in the photo below), former Fulbright scholar in performance studies in Tangier, described the scene in Chicago:

Global Voices Initiative’s Chicago end operates in public schools, with elementary, middle, and high schools all focusing on arts exchanges with partner schools across the world. With Morocco, students in Chicago write plays in Arabic, French, and English. Lindblom Math and Science Academy is a public school flagship Arabic program, drawing in students from across Chicago’s south side. Lindblom students have two choices for their language learning: Arabic and Mandarin Chinese. GVI connects these students with partners in Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and China to practice their languages through playwriting exchanges.

A few of Lindblom’s Arabic language students were chosen by the Qatar Foundation to travel to Doha to participate in an international Arabic language debate, and some will be heading back this summer for a language program. Another student in this year’s senior class traveled to Morocco last year for a high school study abroad, spending 6 weeks traveling across the country. Though the focus of the program is Modern Standard Arabic, students get exposure to Arabic dialects in the video conferences and many start their university studies with a full four years of Arabic behind them.
Another one of GVI’s programs in Chicago is at Kelly High School, where students of English as a foreign language practice their English with playwriting and exchange plays with students with a similar level of English at public schools in Casablanca. The Chicago classrooms are full of native Spanish and Mandarin speakers, and the play topics range from stories of forbidden love in Chicago high schools, to border-crossing travels based on the students’ own family histories. Photos and videos of the student’s performances are on GVI America’s Google + account, located here.

GVI – the Global Voices Initiative – is another great idea coming out of the State Department’s embrace of social networks and the need to stretch its cultural diplomacy dollars.

TALIM Global Voices Wall

Although I didn’t get a chance to see the American students in action – with the time difference, they had to go off to another class, while our Tangier students were doing this on Friday evenings – I was impressed with the level of English of our Moroccan students.
TALIM Global Voices launchNot only did they work to get their English as natural as possible, but they chose subjects that hit home with their concerns about growing up: the play I saw, “The Perfect Bride,” dealt with the role of a very assertive mother in the choice of potential marriage partners for her son.
How often was Mom initially taken in by a seemingly wholesome future daughter-in-law, only to be confronted by a critical young woman with thoughts of her own.  In the end, the son just marries for love, and Mom will just have to make the best of it.
Global Voices, as the State Department puts it rather ungraciously, is a “cheap way” to connect young people.  But that economic argument – probably necessary when dealing with Congressional budget cutters – only tells part of the story.  This is an ingenious idea, and one that is applicable wherever internet connections permit.
So TALIM was very happy to host this program – all for the price of a few hours of electricity.
Gerald Loftus

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