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December 1996 - Issue No. #25 (p. 16-17)

LINGUAPAX at JALT96 in Hiroshima

Yasuda Women's University, Hiroshima, Japan

by Ruth Maschmeier

Participants at JALT96 had a unique opportunity to learn about UNESCO's Linguapax project through a variety of conference sessions.

On Nov. 1, an open forum was held at the Hiroshima YMCA with the theme, Peace through Education - An International Perspective. The concept of "peace education" was first introduced by Prof. Reinhold Freudenstein from Germany. Mr. Denis Cunningham then explained how schools in Australia use a variety of resources to introduce the different cultures in each community through the teaching of foreign languages and social sciences. Prof. Albert Raasch from Germany next looked at the etymology of the word "peace" in German (frieden) and Latin (pax) in order to better understand the aims of peace education. Following this, Prof. Mitsuo Okamoto from Hiroshima offered a Japanese perspective through the results of a survey he conducted on peace-related university courses in Japan. The final speaker, Dr. Felix Marti, director of the UNESCO Centre of Catalonia in Barcelona and president of the International Linguapax Committee, rounded off the panel with a talk on the UNESCO perspective on peace and peace education.

In his keynote speech, Dr. Marti elaborated further on the UNESCO perspective, on Linguapax, on language and peace, and their relationship. All languages have their place in the world heritage and none is better or worse than any other. If a language is lost, as many have been, then we are all the poorer. While one language, English, seems to dominate as an international language, weaker languages need to be protected. What is needed is a linguistic pedagogy that simultaneously reaffirms the dignity of all languages and the benefits of a multilingual and multicultural education.

Each day of the conference featured a Linguapax workshop and other Linguapax-related sessions. In these, the members of the Linguapax delegation stressed the importance of teaching about peace in our society today. Prof. Raasch explained that Linguapax, formed in 1987 in Kiev, Ukraine, is an open community of people interested in peace. It is not something you pay money to join. Rather, you become a member by teaching about peace in your classes throughout the academic year. The project is interested in practical experiences in the classroom, in teacher training and in textbook development.

Dr. Marti described how a number of Linguapax classroom activities were developed and tested in Barcelona with the help of expert teachers and the sponsorship of UNESCO. The materials are now available for others to use and modify for their own situations. Marti stressed that these were not lesson plans but rather activities which can be used in a variety of classes, not only in language classes.

The workshops were "user-friendly". The Linguapax delegation was interested in getting information and feedback from the attendees. No question was too trivial for them to answer. The point was made several times that even though grammar must be taught, it can be taught through peace issues. They are not necessarily separate topics. A number of participants who have been teaching about peace issues in their language classes also shared their experiences with the group.

"Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed". This statement from the UNESCO constitution lays the foundation for the Linguapax project, a program that can play a vital role in building a future of peace and international understanding by making students aware of the world around them and their place in it. A "Linguapax Asia Network" is now being set up to develop materials and give support to those interested in teaching about peace and peace-related issues. Anyone interested in joining should contact Kip Cates.

Ruth Maschmeier
Yasuda Women's University, 6-13-1 Yasuhigashi, Asaminami-ku, Hiroshima 731 JAPAN


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Kip A. Cates, Tottori University, Koyama, Tottori City, JAPAN 680-8551
E-mail: Work Tel/Fax: 0857-31-5650