The Life Story Project: How can we make meaningful connections with others through language education?
After experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic and a global movement for social justice, we all face this one question: How can we connect and reconnect with others? This question requires us to reconsider how we connect with people virtually—with people outside our preexisting communities and with people with whom we have lost touch—and how we can make these connections with others more meaningful. A life story project provides students the opportunity to think about this question as they interview people around them using digital tools (Zoom, Voice Memos) and write life stories to be shared with classmates. In this presentation, I will share ideas of how language instructors can use the life story method, a commonly used technique in sociology and anthropology, in their classrooms to enhance students’ intercultural competence and help them make more meaningful connections with others. The repeated interactions between the student and their interviewee makes the student realize how multifaceted the target language and culture are by exposing them to the variety of experiences (the life stories) of individual speakers. Over the course of the project, the students are made to rethink their own lives, environments, opportunities, privileges, and biases. As a result, they come to reassess their individual relationships with others and learn the importance of communication through languages.