Globalization has led to the creation of multicultural societies, a reality that is also consolidated in Italy. This raises the question of coexistence between the various cultures, and Italy, in this sense, has chosen to follow the European policy regarding multilingualism and multiculturalism through an intercultural approach. Although it is the third most widely spoken language, the teaching of the Arabic language is very limited and basically is found in secondary schools or at university levels. In this perspective the LEARN project aims to introduce primary school students to the Arabic language and culture.
Daniela Varallo is the parents’ representative at the Balducci primary school at Sesto Fiorentino in the province of Florence. Her son’s class was one of the classes which took part in the LEARN project during this school year.
We talked to Daniela about this experience and this is what she told us:
“I have always been interested in languages, I speak English and French and I wanted my children to study other languages. Through the language you can learn about the culture and get to know and understand it better. The benefits of learning a second language have been largely studied. Those who study a second language acquire the skills to work with different types of people and are adaptable and open minded. My elder son had a classmate of Chinese origin, and was very curious to know more about the different aspects of this rich culture. Then, when he was in fifth grade the school had a project in collaboration with the Chinese community to offer lessons during school hours.
This year my younger son had the chance to learn about another very important language, the Arabic language. I was very happy that he also had this opportunity. He enjoys it very much and talks about this experience at home. I heard him say to his elder brother “ I am studying Arabic and you studied Chinese!”
It is important to create the occasions for interaction with different cultures, especially in an early age, encouraging students to explore different cultures in the classroom. The Italian school should always include such educational projects in the its curriculum. It is an added value that helps expand the horizons of young students and change the perception towards diversity, which is an enrichment for everyone. Such activities should be promoted in our community also outside the School, for example through cultural celebration or food , as means for intercultural exchange and understanding between people.
The geographic proximity and East-West interaction have always led, throughout history, to various moments of contact and exchange between Europe and the Arab world. We can find the effects of this exchange today, in the food or even in the language. In this time and age in more important than ever to take advantage of every opportunity to study other languages and understand the culture related to enable us to live together peacefully and constructively in a multicultural society.
I am happy that my children had this occasion and I thank the teachers at the Balducci school for their interest in cultures and interculturalism and in creating the occasions for our children to become world citizens.”