Paola Giorgis

PhD in Antropology of Education & Intercultural Education
BA, MA in English Language and Studies

paolagiorgisThroughout my years of teaching experience as a Foreign Language teacher in Italian high schools, I have had the opportunity to witness several episodes which confirm the capability of (foreign) languages to foreground many aspects connected both to personal and collective dynamics and representations, displaying how the experience of a non-mother tongue can question, challenge and problematize meanings, assumptions and representations taken-for granted, thus remoduling the perception and the representation of the self and others.

My interest with Multilingualism thus mainly began as a reflection on the connection between Language(s) and Identity(ies). Meanwhile, as new migrations were bringing to the already multilingual Italian linguistic landscape new voices and sounds, I came to notice cross-linguistic interactions between my adolescent students. So, I began to ask myself what these spontaneous practices meant, where they came from, to which needs or desires they responded, and what they could teach to us, teachers and educators, about, for example, language instructions and language uses in the multicultural contexts of our superdiverse societies. I thus embarked on a PhD research investigating cross-linguistic interactions among adolescents in multicultural and plurilinguistic contexts from the perspective of Linguistic Anthropology, Intercultural Education, and Critical Linguistics and Pedagogies. My findings show that cross-linguistic interactions reshape personal and collective identities, constantly moving and recombining the (narrated) borders of language, identity and ethnicity: bottom-up language practices can facilitate intercultural encounters and create spaces in-between for trans-cultural affiliations, and are also able to reveal aspects linked to language creativity and to the personal agency of speakers as social agents.

Therefore, what I am mainly interested now is the critical and intercultural potential of Foreign Language Education, that is how FLE can be used to develop an awareness on different languages, representations and cultural conceptualizations able to dismantle a priori assumptions on individuals and groups in order to favour a critical perspective on languages and cultures, and consequently to promote intercultural communication.

Within this perspective, I consider Multilingualism as the much needed critical side of Foreign Language Education, as it foregrounds the fundamental critical reflection not only on the multiple languages which shape our common world, but also of the multiple languages we are all made of.

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