Junior and seniors collaborate on website for Spanish program

May 24, 2017 — by Daniel Bessonov and Patrick Li

Coming home from the Spanish program’s Mexico trip last year, junior Ryan Anderson searched for a way to get in touch with the friends he had made while on the trip.

After unsuccessfully trying to find them on social media sites, Anderson quickly realized that the existing means of communication are by no means accessible or efficient to serve his needs.

With the approval of the school’s Spanish program, Anderson set out to create a website called World Without Walls, along with the help of  seniors Kha Nguyen and Kyle Seid-Phan.

In an an attempt to bring the age-old concept of pen-pals into the 21st century, the website makes communication between students of different linguistic backgrounds easier. Instead of following an outdated letter and email system, the website centers around texting as its main communication format.

The website holds the same premise as a generic messaging service, but provides in-website translation features in order to make communication between students who speak different languages easier.

In order to use the website, users simply add the email of their respective pen-pal, and are then able to chat away. Although the messages are in the user’s original language, each student has the option to copy and paste the text into the site’s integrated translation service to see what their pen-pal had written.

According to Anderson, World Without Walls differentiates itself from services such as Facebook’s Messenger by providing a centralized user-experience, revolving around the site’s integrated translation features.

“Sending letters in the mail was too time-consuming, and the messages could have easily been lost,” Anderson said. “On the other hand, emails, although faster, were just kind of boring.”

In order to solve this problem, Anderson followed the Silicon Valley solution of programming his own website rather than looking for a third-party solution.

Inspired by Google’s material design concept and the simplicity that a service such as Facebook Messenger provides, Anderson ultimately set out to create a website that implements both of these popular websites, a design he thought would speak to teenagers in a way emails simply couldn’t.

As soon as they finished a prototype during mid-April,  Anderson, Nguyen and Phan introduced their product to  Spanish 4 Honors teacher Arnaldo Rodriguex. They plan to get the website live and operational before school ends. In addition, they plan to speak to both Spanish and Linguistics Clubs in order to spread word about the website. If all goes well, Anderson said that Rodriguex will be able to offer cultural credit in return for certain milestones accomplished on the website.

“We are working on implementing a feature where Mr. Rodriguex will be able to see how many messages students have sent, giving him the ability to somehow convert that into class credit,” Anderson said.

All three hope to pursue the project in the future if it meets success in the Spanish program. Their goal is to expand it to as many schools as possible to truly connect students with various linguistic backgrounds.

“We are extremely excited to see how the website will perform, and if it is successful, this is definitely a project [we] would love to pursue later on in our high-school and college careers,” Anderson said.