The Future of Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

How to shape the national identity: Teaching Italian in a multilingual context (or Italian for young Italians living abroad).

Elizaveta Khachaturyan, associate professor, University of Oslo (Norway)


Plurilingualism and pluriculturalism become more and more important features of the modern society. But while problems of the integration in a new society are broadly discussed in the literature (e.g., Norton 2000), the opposite side of the coin (how to maintain the link to the country of the origin) is rarely taken into consideration. The process of the conservation of the distinct identity seems natural if we think about adult immigrants. But the adults often want to transmit their culture and language to their children, in this way they try to shape the national identity outside the nation. The role of complementary schools for plurilingual children is very important in this process. However, the methodology and textbooks that can be used in this kind of schools are missing (Wang 2011).

The present paper will discuss the main ideas and the preliminary results of an ongoing-study dedicated to the problems of teaching Italian language and culture to Italian children living abroad. We will use data collected in Oslo. According to the Italian Embassy, 3,028 Italians were living permanently in Norway in 2010. In Oslo there are “Italian courses” for Italian children attended by ca. 50 families.

The paper will be divided in three parts.

  1. Different types of cultural material. Each country can be characterised by different cultural aspects and different vision of the world. We can distinguish three important types of cultural material usually introduced in textbooks: big C culture – small culture (Kramsh 2006) and linguistic aspect (Khachaturyan 2015). The analysis of textbooks for foreigners and for Italian children living in Italy will help us to identify the aspects that are important for the Italian culture (Khachaturyan 2015).
  2. Pragmatic and linguistic competence of bilingual children. Based on the analysis of data collected with Italian-Norwegian bilinguals and containing description of communication failures, linguistic and cultural errors, cases of code-switching we will discuss what kind of information can not be acquired in a natural way and should be taught at school.
  3. Some possible solutions. We will compare different complementary schools (Italian, Russian, Polish, Latvian, Greek) in Oslo teaching to bilingual children the language of their family (for all these children the language of the society taught at mainstream school is Norwegian). For this purpose we will analyze different didactic strategies and teaching material used in these schools.


Khachaturyan, E. 2015 (in print). Shaping Cultural Identity through Language: Various Types of Cultural Content in textbooks. In: Khachaturyan, E. (ed.) Language – Nation – Identity: the “Questione della Lingua in an Italian and Non-Italian context. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Kramsh, C. 2006. “Culture in language teaching.”  In: Andersen H.L., Lund K., Risager K. (eds.) Culture in Language Learning. Aarhus University press.

Norton, B. 2000. Identity and Language Learning. Pearson Education.

Wang, Xiao-lei. 2011. (2011). Learning to read and write in the multilingual family. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.

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