Our Approach to Content
At Voces, we value kindness, inclusivity, and representation in all we do, from our hiring practices to our marketing efforts and everything in between. These values are especially important when it comes to the content we create for the Voces curricula, since the content is what students engage with, learn from, and potentially model in their own lives.
Below, you will learn more about how these values serve as lenses through which we audit, update, and create content. You’ll also learn about some of our reasoning for doing so.
As educators, we know the importance of valuing and modeling kindness, whether that kindness is the actions we take towards others, ourselves, or a group of people. Kindness is not only a “nice” way to be, but it also helps our students be better students. Kindness is about being mindful and respectful about the way that we speak and interact with those around us. Furthermore, kindness results in more creative thinking, increased positive relationships, and less overall stress. That is why we incorporate themes of kindness and illustrate acts of kindness in the stories, scripts, activities, and other resources in Voces. From a character who shows compassion to an activity that has students reflect on their own acts of goodwill, Voces emphasizes the importance kindness has in the world.
When students feel included, they feel seen, supported, and safe. These are prerequisites for a healthy learning environment. Inclusion is important for everyone, but especially for our students who are forming their identities and building self-esteem. Inclusivity values the diversity of our student population and gives all students a sense of safety and belonging. Therefore, we aim to see and support all students in the content of our curriculum. We do this by including characters with diverse backgrounds, varying appearances, different family types and beliefs, and unique challenges and abilities. We also do this by giving students and teachers options for referring to themselves and the people around them, however they might identify. This means that, in some cases, we include the nonbinary forms of gendered language. The goal of this inclusive language is to be more sensitive to students’ lives, and to avoid assumptions about our students whenever possible. By doing this, Voces becomes a more inclusive curriculum, as well as a model for inclusive language for both teachers and students.
When creating materials about countries and cultures that aren’t our own, we run the risk of generalizing and perpetuating stereotypes about that country or culture. The same risk applies when we write about those with different identities, backgrounds, or experiences as our own. At Voces, we recognize this possibility and work to avoid it by consulting with native speakers that hail from a wide array of countries, cultures, identities, backgrounds, and perspectives when creating content. When possible, we hire these representatives to create the content themselves, giving students direct insight into their unique perspectives. When that isn’t possible, we have these representatives review and comment on the material, pointing out ways it can be more accurate and authentic.
We want to reflect realities, not assumptions or stereotypes. If you feel that you personally have a unique perspective or insight to contribute, please email us at [email protected] so we can add you to our list of representatives!
Inclusive Language Style and Approach
As stated before, the goal of our inclusive language style is to give students and teachers options for referring to themselves and the people around them, however they might identify. Similarly, the goal is to be more sensitive to students’ lives, and to avoid assumptions about our students whenever possible.
Of course, in any language-learning context, it can be challenging to align the historical and cultural usage of a language with the unique needs of language learners. Adding inclusive language to that formula can be even more challenging. This is why our inclusive language style and approach is applied with as much balance as possible between these points while always keeping in mind that our final and most important audience are students.
Concerns About the Style
Given the complexity of the topic of inclusive language and the fact that these practices are still developing, it is understandable to have some concerns about how to address inclusive language in your classroom. The inclusive language style showcased in Voces does not produce a perfectly inclusive language and does not seek to officially codify any best practices. Here are some concerns regarding the inclusive language style:
Our goal is not to ignore these concerns, but to address and acknowledge them, both here in this explanation of our style choices (and in the Q&A portion of this piece) and also in our application of the style itself in the curriculum. Furthermore, we understand that discussing some topics within the broader discussion of inclusive language may not be advisable or appropriate in every context. For that reason, nonbinary language is applied in a way that keeps the traditional language the focus and allows the inclusive language to be removed if necessary.
Benefits of the Style
While keeping in mind all of these concerns, we believe that the benefits of pursuing inclusive language and the method in which we apply it far outweigh the concerns. The benefits include:
Inclusive Language FAQs
Why is Voces choosing to add inclusive language?
The team at Voces is constantly evaluating how we can be truer to our Mission Statement:
[T]o make voices more accessible and comprehensible for learners, for teachers, for people around the world—for all of us. The most lasting impact we can make is one in which more people are heard and understood. Therefore, at Voces Digital, we strive to dismantle systems of oppression by having open minds, approaching problems with curiosity and kindness, and being brave in our approach towards the world. (If you haven’t already, we recommend you read our entire Mission Statement!)
Adapting our language in this subtle way creates that lasting impact where learners of all genders are “heard and understood.”
Why should I make this change in my language and my classroom?
Like our Mission Statement says, we do not assume—just like teachers should not assume—the identities of the students in their classroom. Research shows that over one in four LGBTQ+ youth identify as nonbinary (Carlisle, 2021). It is important that these students do not feel marginalized in their classrooms. Additionally, creating a safe environment in your classroom shows all of your students that you respect them and that they can learn and discuss sensitive topics free of judgment from others. Younger generations are more and more interested in the topics of inclusivity and gender identity, so we should present curricula that both captivates their attention and accurately reflects their experiences in the world. Refer to our list of readings on creating a safe space in your classroom.
Do official institutions recognize inclusive language?
Language is constantly changing to reflect the views and needs of the speakers using the language. In some cases, institutions like the Royal Spanish Academy and the French Academy reflect these changes. We see this with words like “confinamiento,” and “cuarentenear,” two words that were added to the 2020 edition of the Royal Spanish Academy dictionary after COVID-19 swept the world and changed everyones' lives.
Yet, as of 2023, neither the Royal Spanish Academy nor the French Academy recognize inclusive language or nonbinary gender identities in their respective languages. Why is this? In part, it is because the purpose of these institutions is to act as gatekeepers, ensuring the “stability” of the language, as the Royal Spanish Academy states. Another reason they don't recognize inclusive language may be because inclusive language brings with it socio-political connotations. We saw it when the French dictionary Le Petit Robert included the pronoun “iel” - a decision that was met with much backlash. So, even while inclusive language is being used in the real world by native speakers, the institutions don't reflect it. That doesn’t, of course, mean the language doesn’t exist. As Rosalia Vázquez states:
The most wonderful thing about language is that if people speak a certain way, it inevitably becomes the rule… Because language belongs to the people.
—Rosalía Vázquez (Benavides, 2020).
So, while the Voces style tends to be guided by the academies, it is also guided by native speakers and how they use language in the real world, and therefore our style allows for exceptions to the rules set forth by the academies. By including inclusive language, the team at Voces is simply reflecting a more authentic and accurate version of the language spoken today.
What if my school or I have an opposing viewpoint to inclusive language?
While we highly encourage our users to embrace inclusive language, at Voces, we believe that every teacher should have control over what they present in their classroom. If you would like to remove specific language from your version of the curriculum, use the Voces Editor. It is an easy way to revise and amend any content across any of your Voces titles. If you need help with this, please reach out to [email protected].
What if I don’t know anything about nonbinary identities?
That’s okay! This is a wonderful opportunity for you to model continued learning for your students. Teachers are sometimes expected to know all the answers, but there is value to hearing your teacher say, “I don’t know. Let’s find out together!” We highly recommend doing some research on your own before introducing the topic to your students. Check out our list of articles and resources for language teachers below.
Resources of Interest
The following articles and videos have been suggested by members of the Voces community to better understand the importance of kindness, inclusivity, diversity, and representation in the language classroom. The views and opinions in these third-party sources are not necessarily those of Voces, and are intended to serve as a jumping off point for your own personal research. If you have a resource to contribute, reach out to [email protected].
Kindness and Compassion
Safe Spaces in the Classroom
Inclusive Language and Nonbinary Identities
Inclusive Language in Spanish
Inclusive Language in French
Representation and Diversity