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I'm Migrant: A Digital Picture Dictionary

#ImMigrant is a crowdsourced dictionary for tutors and students to better understand and explain their world through picture comparisons.

Photo of Sarah Lowe
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If I say the word "elephant" in English and you don't speak English, you might not know what I mean. If I show you a picture of an elephant, then we understand each other. That's the power of a picture dictionary. An elephant might look relatively the same everywhere you see one, but what about milk? Do you buy it in a bottle, a can, carton or a box? Is it refrigerated or powdered? Milk is a basic necessity but locating it in a foreign country isn't always easy. I envision a responsive design platform that translates "milk" into pictures, photos that are crowdsourced from language tutors and students across the world. Here's how I see it working. You choose your country's flag to filter the site for your own understanding. Then you pick a category, like Milk. You can choose to see all photos for Milk compared to the one you know or pick a specific country to see the direct comparison. Suddenly, without words, you have understanding. These are the small learnings that happen between ESL tutors and students everyday. "I'm Migrant: A Digital Picture Dictionary" is my vision for how to share that knowledge on a global scale.


Initially, I see this as a tool for ESL tutors and students worldwide. Everywhere I've taught, teachers share their notebooks, Google docs, emails, etc. about the things currently confusing their students (i.e. sweet tea vs sweetie) and delighting their students (i.e. an anchor on a sign means the ocean?!). I know of no tool that harnesses and shares the wealth of information found in these notes.


Please join me in providing feedback on the first draft of my very basic, low-cost prototype here: I'm currently presenting it to the ESL conversation circles in my area and have reached out to ESL tutors in Los Angeles, Bangkok, London, and Tel Aviv to give it a spin. The questions I have: 1. How easily can it be accessed via different devices/services/technology levels? 2. Is it fun? It must be fun! 3. Does it create understanding that makes a genuine difference?


The initial feedback has been tremendously supportive, ranging from potential sponsor ideas to thinking through technical hurdles. Initially, I saw it as a tool just for ESL students in America but the overwhelming response from contributors was to keep the idea simple but think global when it comes to the platform's potential

SKILL SHARE (optional)

I can speak techy but I am no engineer. I can talk wireframes but I am no designer. I can tell a good story, digitally. I can build a content strategy plan. I can be very interactively resourceful. For my project, I would love volunteer photo ambassadors--people who want to represent their country and culture in the form of adding pictures to the dictionary. Let's work together to help each other!


Hi! I'm Sarah working in the USA as a Digital Content Strategist for a global health services provider. I'm a volunteer ESL conversation circle leader, a volunteer marketing manager for The Tiziano Project, and a first-year PhD student in Community Health Education at the Univ. of Massachusetts.


  • Yes, I have implementation capacity and am interested in and able to make this idea real in my community.


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Photo of Venkatesh Ramanujam

Hi Sarah,

Its quite unique, pictures says more! you can give your views on my ideas as well. I have designed this idea to eliminate issues like child labor, so it can be extended in future for other countries as well who are facing this issues apart from refugees.

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