Voices in Pictures: a unique way of teaching migrants

Fri 26 Aug 2016 01:15:00 PM EEST

EAEA GRUNDTVIG AWARD 2016. Pictures have a language: this was the underlying principle of the Voices in Pictures (VIP) project consortium. By offering easily understandable visual materials, the project partners wanted to open the door to education for illiterate migrants.

The article series shares good practices by introducing the nominees of the EAEA Grundtvig Award 2016.

Voices in Pictures was a project implemented with the support of the EU Lifelong Learning Programme and included partners from France, Germany, Latvia, Poland, Spain and the UK. Believing that pictures can be equally informative and communicative as a written language, the project consortium developed visual materials to support foreign language learning.

The resources, which include a large pictures databank, are available for free and can be used in any European language. Such universality turned out to be an unexpected challenge.

“We had to decide what kind of resources could be useful to all partners, as we belonged to different kinds of schools for the education of adults and we had quite different groups of learners in terms of age, nationalities, level of education, background,” says Hélène Sajons-Gilman from Volkshochschule Olching e.V, the project coordinator.

Hélène adds that cultural sensitivity was of paramount importance in choosing the pictures.

“The resources were developed so that they can be easily translated in a large range of languages. It was a challenge to create and select teaching and learning materials for large dissemination taking into account sensitivities arousing from cultural differences,” she tells EAEA.

Just in time

The topics depicted in this plurilinguistic project provided a genuine chance to reach learners of any education level, even those who are illiterate. The impact was even larger than expected: with the numbers of refugees swiftly rising, the project offered a timely response to an urgent problem.

As many aid agencies, volunteers and regular schools needed adequate resources to teach the country language, the VIP consortium was able to largely support very different educational initiatives with the project materials. Such a wide outreach was one of the reasons why the project has already garnered praise: VIP has been selected as a “best practice project” by the German National Agency and a “star project” on the European Shared Treasures platform.

Hélène stresses that developing the project turned out to be beneficial to everyone.

“Working on this project with European partners of different countries reasserted my opinion that personal exchanges between teaching staffs are always enriching experiences,” she says. “They are the best way of supporting the development of multicultural education in Europe.”

The project: Voices in Pictures

Project coordinator:


  • Germany: Volkshochschule Olching e.V. (coordinator)
  • France: Greta du Velay
  • Latvia: Kusa Elementary School
  • Poland: Deinde
  • Spain: Escuela Oficial de Idiomas of Gijón
  • United Kingdom: WE Bridge International


Text: Aleksandra Kozyra
Photos: Voices in Pictures project consortium