Journal article

Cultivating ethnicity through the language of origin : The third generation of Italians and language and ‘culture of origin’ courses in Switzerland

  • 2018
Published in:
  • Italian Journal of Sociology of Education. - 2018, vol. 10, no. 3, p. 165-186
English This study examines the motivation of the third generation of Italian immigrants in Switzerland to (re)learn Italian through a language and culture of origin education program. The goal of this program was to ensure continuity of education in case of the student’s return to his/her home country. Today, the third generation of Italians in Switzerland are considered “appreciated” foreigners. Their origin, nevertheless, exposes them to a public discourse which values multilingualism, while the familial linguistic heritage has not necessarily been passed down to them by parents. The present paper analyses eleven
interviews and one focus group conducted with different actors of Italian school (current students, students of the second generation, and supervisors) after two exploratory classroom observations. The goal is to identify the extent to which the process of ethnicity is connected to the individual and a social motivation to (re)learn Italian within a French speaking community. The results show that learning practices of the third generation fall into the paradigm of symbolic ethnicity, highlighting the belief that the knowledge of the language of origin will enhance integration in every linguistic region and increase the chances of accessing the labour market. Participants are cultivating this bilingualism and
considering it for their descendants, which indicates a discrepancy with the second generation.
  • English
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