Scope of Study

For the study "(Inter) regional case studies of multilingual education", LINEE researchers have investigated whether and how linguistic, cultural, economic and social needs of minorities are taken into account in the school systems of South Tyrol (Italy), Vojvodina (Serbia), Transylvania (Romania) and Felvidk (Slovakia).

They looked into the methods of language teaching in these regions and evaluated their success. To do this, they used historical and political background information, statistics about the demography of certain areas, about the relevant municipal and political units and about the investigated communities.

Researchers interviewed teachers, school principals and human resources managers; they video-recorded language lessons and had students fill in questionnaires.

4th Issue, August 2009

State Language Teaching in Need of Modernization

The dominant need of linguistic minorities in South Tyrol (Italy), Vojvodina (Serbia), Transylvania (Romania) and Felvidk (Slovakia) is fulfilled: they get education in their mother tongue. However, another important need, the need to learn the state language, is not met (except in South Tyrol): both teaching methodologies and the lessons content are inadequate. This is what the LINEE case studies "(Inter) regional case studies of multilingual education" suggest.

LINEE researchers have surveyed, compared and analysed educational models, practices and experiences in multilingual settings in four regions: South Tyrol (Italy), Vojvodina (Serbia), Transylvania (Romania) and Felvidk (Slovakia). All these regions share a multilingual history, and national laws clearly guarantee the teaching of the state language to minorities. However, only in South Tyrol is the teaching of the state language satisfactory.


High literature for beginners
The main problem in Vojvodina, Transylvania and Felvidk is that school systems lack a foreign language teaching perspective: the state language is taught as if all students already knew the basics or even more than that. Students have to study high literature and expand their grammar knowledge. In some cases, even teachers have difficulties in understanding the vocabulary of the texts they are using. Furthermore, the teachers are not trained as foreign language teachers but as teachers of a language that students already know.


Multilingualism not exploited
Surprisingly, the teachers interviewed by the researchers do not seem to exploit the mother tongue of the students when teaching a foreign or second language. There are, however, some exceptions: either some teachers in some of the schools consult with the teacher in charge of mother tongue education, or, as in South Tyrol and in particular in the Ladin schools there, a special program is devised in order to respect, value and exploit the linguistic skills of students.


Bottom-up improvement
The interviewed teachers, school principals and human resources managers suggested changes and pointed out problematic areas. This could lead to a bottom-up, local improvement of the situation.

Such a bottom-up approach would be able to take into account the diversity of minorities something that national policies neglect: they tend to treat "a minority" as a homogenous whole, even though the minorities under investigation are very diverse and changing as are their needs.


>>> comment by Paul Videsott, Free University of Bolzano, Italy