New app to encourage multilingualism

MM author Kelleen Toohey, along with her colleagues, have developed ScribJab to encourage multilingualism among 9-13 year- olds. Here, Kelleen tells us a bit more detail about the project.

ScribJab (www.scribjab.com) is a website and free iPad application that tries to encourage multilingualism and appreciation for multilingual resources in Canada and throughout the world. ScribJab allows writers to write, illustrate, narrate and publish stories in at least two languages. It also provides space for authors to comment on other people’s stories. Developed initially for 9-13 year old children, the site and app are seeing the creation of stories by older and younger authors. While ScribJab does not correct or edit authors’ stories (wishing to encourage writers at all stages of proficiency), a teacher moderates the site for appropriateness. Authors can contribute stories individually or there are provisions for teachers to enrol classes.

Like most educational researchers today, we believe that children learn second languages faster and better if they have a strong foundation in their first language. We also believe that valuing languages is important for the development of children who grow up in multilingual homes, whether they know their heritage languages or not.

Children who are not multilingual are encouraged to contribute to the site as well, if they can find some help in translating their stories into other languages. Developing positive attitudes to multilingualism is important for all citizens, and through this website and app, we hope to provide a positive experience for all.

The first books on the website were developed by a group of 9 and 10-year old children whose teacher asked them to write books for younger children which might be read (in their first languages) by grandparents visiting their school for “noisy reading” time. Children gathered the stories from their grandparents, stories about when the grandparents were children. The stories differ in length, complexity and accuracy. We see this as entirely appropriate, and children discussed the fact that some books might be appropriate for younger children and their grandparents and others suitable for older children. These books are published on the site as “hand drawn samples”.

We hope that writers and readers internationally will find ScribJab a helpful resource, and that it fosters an appreciation for multilingualism and promotes discussions about multilingualism.

For further information about ScribJab please see the website www.scribjab.com or contact Kelleen Toohey at toohey@sfu.ca

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