From Rio to Rotorua: Toitoi creates connections across cultures

A multilingual app that showcases stories, poems and art by young New Zealanders about the vibrant cultures of Latin America is now available to be downloaded for free on all platforms. This app is the companion for the Toitoi: Latin America Special Issue. The journal, app and additional digital resources were commissioned by the Latin America Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence (CAPE), in partnership with the School of Languages and Cultures at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, Toitoi Media, and Kiwa Digital.

Screenshots of the new app.
Screenshots of the new app.

The app is available in English, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese, and readers can listen to the stories and poems in translation, tap to hear individual words and spellings and even record their own narration.

The stories and their artwork are accompanied by teacher support materials full of ideas for exploring the languages and cultures of Latin America.

Language technology specialist at the School of Languages and Cultures Dr Diego Navarro, who project managed the translations, is excited about the development of the app.

“The voices breathing sound into the stories are a perfect example of the rich and complex multicultural make-up of Aotearoa New Zealand. The voice artists were chosen to highlight the way in which many people who live in this country live between two, and sometimes three or more, languages and cultures.”

These organisations are committed to fostering greater accessibility to Latin American content and passion for Spanish and Portuguese language. Journals were delivered to all schools and libraries in New Zealand earlier this year. Dr Sally Hill, Head of the School of Languages and Cultures explains that New Zealand’s linguistic and cultural diversity has increased to the point where we are one of the few nations identified as ‘superdiverse’.”

“We need to value those amazing language and cultural skills, which enrich New Zealand and enhance our economic, political, and cultural connections to the rest of the world. This app is a perfect example of young people doing exactly that,” adds Dr Hill. “We are grateful to the CAPEs for supporting creative partnerships like this one, as they make a real difference in celebrating linguistic and cultural diversity in Aotearoa.”

The editor of Toitoi and of the special journals, Charlotte Gibbs, says young Kiwis and teachers now have access to a fantastic free resource that promotes conversations across cultures. “Writers and artists who submitted work to the journals explored their cultural connections in an awesome range of ways. From personal and fictional narrative writing to moving, insightful poetry and brilliant art, young creatives expressed themselves with authentic and original voices.” The Toitoi Special Issue was the recipient of the Publishers Association of New Zealand Book Design Award for Best Educational Book or Series – Primary 2020.

Director of the Latin America CAPE Matthew O’Meagher says, “Our borders might be currently closed, but global connections are more important than ever.

“This journal and app are part of our education offerings which aim to help parents, teachers and students gain global competence with a focus on Latin America. They advance our goal of inspiring New Zealanders to gain understanding of the countries of that region.”

The app development and multi-lingual project was a first for all parties. For the past four years, Toitoi has produced quarterly journals celebrating the curiosity, courage and creativity of young New Zealanders. There are thousands of submissions from across the country every year and more than 1,800 young Kiwi creatives have had their work published so far.

When approached by the School of Languages and Cultures with the idea of creating journals exploring connections with other Asia-Pacific regions, Toitoi was excited to take up the challenge.

Download the free app here:

Extra digital resources are available on the Toitoi website:

About the Latin America Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence:

The Latin America Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence (LatAm CAPE) is committed to enhancing New Zealand’s economic engagement and cultural understanding with the Latin America region and building New Zealanders' understanding and ability to engage.

LatAm CAPE offers events, programmes, scholarships, internships, and other initiatives to support New Zealand's businesses, schools, communities and students to understand the key countries of the Latin America region better.

About Toitoi:

Toitoi is a quarterly journal that celebrates the ideas, imaginations and creative spirit of New Zealand’s young writers and artists.

It publishes material with an original and authentic voice that other young people can connect to and be inspired by and that reflects the cultures and experiences of life in New Zealand.

Its philosophy is to treat young writers and artists with respect, handle their work with care and produce a beautifully designed journal of high quality.

About the University’s School of Languages and Cultures

The mission of the School of Languages and Cultures (SLC) is to foster the study of languages and cultures as a lifelong and life-enhancing activity that connects individuals and communities and creates international opportunities, through excellent research, teaching and engagement.