(Rome, “Sapienza” University, Rome, 18-19 April 2008)
The Conference, organized by Giuseppe Castorina, Director of the Department of Languages for Public Policies at the Faculty of Political Science of “Sapienza” University, Rome, in collaboration with Student Cultural Initiatives and with the Association “Eurolinguistica-Sud”, Directed by Professor Castorina, focused on the challenges of multilingualism and multiculturalism in Europe and beyond. Speakers covered an impressive range of topics, related to the following areas: 1) processes of re-organization and reciprocal influences of European and non-European languages in Europe, and the evolving role of European languages in other parts of the world; 2) innovation in school and university language teaching which helps to forge the multilingual identity at the core of the European experience; 3) translation as a tool for developing a common European identity and as a way of fostering linguistic democracy and intercultural dialogue; and 4) multilingual and multicultural aspects of media genres (TV news, advertising, and the press) in continuous evolution. A key event during the first morning of the conference was the participation of pupils from an elementary school in Rome, who through their performances demonstrated the benefits of a European approach to education as the key to linguistic and cultural enrichment and dialogue. Another unique feature of the conference was represented by the contributions of poets and writers illustrating the influence of local languages and of other languages and cultures on their artistic production.
The Conference was opened by Giuseppe Castorina, who underlined the values that underpin Eurolinguistics as concept, practice, association and area of study, and the great resource which it constitutes for all Europeans. Greetings were extended by Giuseppe Zia, representing the National Council for Engineers, by Giorgio Bologan, the Romanian Attaché for the Immigration Cultural Policies in Rome, and by Aurelio Misiti, President of the ‘Ateneo Federato’. The first speaker, Franco Ferrarotti, set the tone for the conference by emphasizing the privileges and potential of living in a multilingual European community. Important contributions were made by two European Commission representatives: Angeliki Petrits, EU Coordinator of University Relations, and Alessandra Centis, Italian Member of the EU Monitoring Group for Multilingualism. Angeliki Petrits presented the European Master in Translation (EMT) initiative, which aims at creating a benchmark for translator training in Europe. Originally developed to overcome the shortage of qualified translators from some of the newer members of the Union, it now offers a high quality standard curriculum for the training of translators that may be adopted by universities all over Europe and further developed in a joint effort to ensure high standards and a productive degree of harmonization of objectives and methods. Alessandra Centis spoke about the important role of the European Commission in promoting best language teaching practices. By assessing, identifying, describing and publicizing best practice in language teaching, the European Commission aims to make these strategies available to institutes of learning throughout the Union and to stimulate collaborative innovation. Louis Begioni (University of Lille 3) closed the first section speaking about the evolution of the verbal systems in Romance languages, with specific reference to French and Italian, and suggested that this process can be better viewed as efficient reorganization of part of the language system rather than a simplification which represents a loss. He outlined the way in which similarities in these languages can be exploited, as an example of how the learning of different but related European languages can be made more efficient as they are added to the learner’s growing repertoire of languages for different purposes and at differing levels of competence.
A particularly entertaining and exhilerating moment in the Conference was the performance by pupils in multilingual, multicultural third, fourth and fifth grade classes at the “Nando Martillini” elementary school in Rome. Manuela Cipri, who greatly contributed to the overall organization of the Conference, coordinated this special event with the school’s Director and teachers. Romanian Professor George Carageani (“Sapienza” University, Rome) explained the cultural significance of the poems, stories and songs that were performed by the children in Romanian, and commented on the language ability of the non-Romanian pupils as evidence of the success of the children’s joint efforts. Marcella Scazzocchio, on behalf of the school’s Director Maria Fani Capella, introduced the second group of pupils, who performed a play based on stories from Greek mythology, followed by a group rendition of the Greek folk dance, the sirtaki, much appreciated by the audience, who clapped to the rhythm of the music.
The morning session continued with a talk by Rita Salvi (“Sapienza” University, Rome) about the essential role of language training for non-language majors at university level, particularly with regard to the teaching of specific academic and professional communicative competences. She expressed concern about the dwindling resources being allocated for this purpose in view of the fact that Italians lag behind the citizens of many other European countries in their knowledge of other languages. Ilias Spyridonidis (University Aristotele of Salonicco) presented a specific case of the spread of Italian language and culture in Northern Greece, followed by Massimo Palumbo from the Italian Office of the European Parliament, who focused on the crucial function of European multilingualism as a “carrier of democracy”.
The afternoon session began with a talk by José María Jiménez Cano (University of Murcia) about current political implications of the teaching of Spanish in a general context of supremacy of the English language, including the role language policy played in the recent Spanish elections. Linda Lombardo (LUISS Guido Carli University, Rome) illustrated teaching materials for developing university students’ media literacy through a comparative analysis of the language of TV news reporting of the 2003 Iraq war in Italy, the UK and the US, demonstrating the ways in which differences in reporting reflected a cultural construction of the conflict. Juan Antonio Cutillas Espinosa (University of Murcia) focused on changing models of English pronunciation and the case for teaching a Lingua Franca Core, concluding that the choice of a model for language teaching should be based on a careful consideration of geographic, demographic and mobility factors and should in any case avoid establishing a priori limits to student achievement. Stefano Arduini (“Carlo Bo” University, Urbino) spoke about the importance of translation in establishing and maintaining intercultural dialogue, while Marinella Rocca Longo (University of Rome 3) discussed features of New Zealand English, comparing Pâkehâa English and Maori English. André Rousseau (University of Lille 3) examined recurrent models of nominal composition across languages in a comparative historical perspective. Filippo Bettini (“Sapienza” University, Rome) focused on plurilingualism as the central experience and driving force behind the literary event known as “Festival Mediterranea”. Poet and publisher Vincenzo Luciani spoke about the revival of Italian dialects and expressed an optimistic view of their future development, while Elio Miracco’s (“Sapienza” University, Rome) contribution explored historical and contemporary contacts with the Albanian language in a prospective of European convergence.
The final section of the day included contributions by Paolo Donadio (University of Naples, “Federico II”) on the tension between local and global during the European constitutional process; Massimo Bartoletti, on behalf of Fabrizio Locurcio (Editor of the journal AtlasOrbis) on the practice of multilingualism in newspapers and journals; Laura Ferrarotti (“Sapienza” University, Rome) on the challenges posed by adapting advertisements to different languages and cultures; and Ancelita Iacovitti (LUSPIO University, Rome) on the relationship between internationalisation and innovative language teaching on the one hand and social cohesion on the other.
On the second day, the conference was opened by the Dean of the Faculty of Political Science, who underlined the importance of university language training for study and professional purposes. The first speaker was Giuseppe Castorina, who discussed the need for innovation in the evaluation and certification of linguistic competence at university level, and described the features of the Test of English for Special Purposes (TOESP), currently being used at several Italian and European universities. Angelo Avella (“Tor Vergata” University, Rome) illustrated what he called “the Italian roots” of South America through an account of the life and influence of Teresa Cristina di Borbone in Brazil and the spread of the Italian language and culture in that part of the world. Antonio Castorina (University of Rome 3) spoke about a variety of Spanish which has developed in equatorial Guinea on the West African coast, and its particular evolution and influence. Francesco Zannini (“Sapienza” University, Rome) talked about the presence of the Arabic language in European history and its growing importance in Europe today, and discussed the strategic and political significance of the teaching methods adopted. Domenico Sturino (University of Calabria) presented a study of the linguistic barriers in health care in Italy, with suggestions for what needs to be done to overcome them. Anna Maria Curci and Carmen Dell’Ascenza (Lend, Lingua e nuova didattica) described the principles and outcomes of the “Poseidon” programme, whose aim is to prepare foreign language teachers and teacher trainers as reflective facilitators in a learner-centred approach, which develops native language competence and awareness as the basis for the more effective and interrelated learning of other European languages.
In the final section, Tiziana Colusso (Board Member, European Writer’s Congress) talked about poetry as a tool for learning language, and illustrated this concept through a reading of one of her own poems as well as a poem by Giulia Niccolai, member of the avantguard Italian literary movement “Gruppo ‘63”. Writer and Poet Chidi Uzoma discussed his experiences of multiculturalism in Italy, particularly in Rome, suggesting that a focus on interculturalism is needed in order for recent immigrants and their families to be able to feel part of the new community. Daniela Giordano (Artistic Director of the Festad’Africa Festival) explored the impact of African theatre in European languages both in terms of enrichment of these languages and as an instrument for cross-cultural communication. Paola Giunchi (“Sapienza” University, Rome) illustrated ways of helping students at lower levels of language competence to gain access to authentic specialized texts without impoverishing these texts by simplifying them lexically or syntactically. Arnulfo Martínez Portales (“Sapienza” University, Rome) discussed the political implications of specific translations of selected Spanish words, giving data on student interpretations of these translations. Serafina Filice and Rossella Pugliese (University of Calabria) presented a case study involving the teaching of German through English, which supports the efficacy of a teaching approach relating new languages to known languages, a practice which is central to the concept of eurolinguistics. The Conference ended with Sture Ureland’s (University of Mannheim) comments on the teaching and acquisition of foreign lexemes in Europese. The varied but interrelated approaches to languages, their interactions and evolutions presented during the conference will hopefully provide an impetus for the further promotion and development of multiculturalism and multilingualism in a world much in need of dialogue