Episode 63 – International Collaborations

Episode 63 – International Collaborations
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
It's About Language, with Norah Jones
Episode 63 - International Collaborations
/

“People used to be afraid of languages. What we find is that the more the young people know about their heritage culture, the more they know their heritage language, the more they are open to other cultures and other languages. The stronger they are in their heritage language, the stronger they are in English. So in Australia, when the Ukrainian crisis started, the Russian schools are supporting the Ukrainian schools. The kids have this, as Gisi said, this global understanding that comes from strength in the national, but also their heritage language and culture. That’s what our collaboration can offer.” Ken Cruickshank, Australia

Jump down to listen to the podcast


I hope you have enjoyed and profited from this month’s series of four podcasts focused on heritage languages, including role in society, education, future potential for individuals and groups, and advocacy for this powerful gift in and to our societies.

In this, Podcast 4, a group of panelists from four countries in addition to the United States describe their work, challenges, and successes with heritage language speakers and community-based schools in their country and ways that we can collaborate so that these speakers, their communities, and the organizations that support them become stronger and more vibrant.

One collaboration that you will learn about is the creation of a set of International Guidelines for Professional Practices in Community-Based Heritage Language Schools.

Enjoy the podcast.


Click to listen:

Episode 63 – International Collaborations

Scroll down for full transcript.

Testimonial

Yes, @NorahLulicJones definitely has the talent of "bringing out" the best in others or allowing them to showcase themselves in the best light! Thank you for directing the spotlight on others who have great stories and talents to share with others. 

Lisa Fore

Testimonial

Your podcasts are exceptionally relevant and applicable, thought-provoking and insightful, easy-to-follow and enjoyable!  

Paul Sandrock
Senior Advisor for Language Learning Initiatives / ACTFL

Testimonial

You have an immense talent to draw the best from your participants. 

Richard Brecht

Testimonial

Norah knows how to LISTEN - she really "hears" the message - and the interview is richer because of it.  New questions come from the hearing. 

Terri Marlow

Want to hear more? Access previous episodes, and get to know the wonderful people I talk with through the It’s About Language page, or by clicking on the Podcast tab above. You can also find this week’s episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.

As a certified Gallup Strengths coach, I can provide you or your organization personalized coaching to discover and build on your strengths.

I provide workshops, presentations, and talks that inspire and engage through powerful language insights, and I pair those insights with practical applications for the lives of educators, learners, businesses, and faith-centered organizations. I’d love to share ideas with your organization or group, and develop an event tailored to your objectives.

Click here to start a conversation.


Transcript

Norah Jones:

Hi, I’m Norah Jones. Welcome to It’s About Language. So what is language all about? Well, it’s about learning and sharing. Opening doors and education, work and life. Language is about creating communities and creating boundaries. It’s all about the mystery of what makes us human. So our conversations will explore that mystery and the impact of what makes us human. It’s about language in life. It’s about language at work. It’s about language for fun. Welcome to the podcast. When people speak a heritage language they are by definition taking a stand in the middle of a language group that’s not originally theirs. This happens all over the world. In this fourth podcast, we’re going to take a look at the international setting of heritage languages, the international pressures on and promises of heritage languages. And how international cooperation helps to bring about a possibility for growing the kind of advocacy for an equitable multilingual society all over the world to open doorway for heritage speakers, which has been the point of this four week series of podcasts.

Norah Jones:

Today’s guests are Gisi Cannizzaro, who’s managing director of the Heritage Language Education Network in the Netherlands. Antonella Cortese, who’s president of the International and Heritage Languages Association and director of the Italian Language School in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Ken Cruickshank, who’s program director at the Sydney Institute for Community Languages Education at the University of Sydney in Australia. And Renata Emilsson Peskova, board treasurer of Modurmal, the Association on Bilingualism at the University of Iceland. My panel co-moderator continues to be my friend and colleague Joy Peyton, senior fellow at the Center for Applied Linguistics and in coalition leadership for the Coalition of Community-Based Language Schools. Enjoy the podcast. Welcome to each of you. What a pleasure to have you here. It’s a great pleasure to have you here today. Joy, please tell us again, why is it, tell the listeners, why is it that we are doing this international collaboration week?

Joy Peyton:

Yeah, well, I mentioned in the first podcast in the first week, how community based schools often work in isolation and we in the coalition that you just mentioned are seeking to connect them across, connect these schools working often in isolation, across languages and across the country. But for quite a few years, we and the coalition have focused on US schools. In fact, the coalition is a US based organization and we have worked in isolation from other countries. Then a couple of years ago, we connected with Trudie Aberdeen with the International & Heritage Languages Association, IHLA in Canada, and that connection has opened a whole new world to us. And so this is how we are now working with Antonella, who you just mentioned, who works with IHLA in Canada, with Renata in Iceland, Ken in Australia and Gisi in the Netherlands.

Joy Peyton:

And we together, this group, have started participating in and speaking at each other’s conferences and engaging in collaborative projects, which you’ll hear about during this podcast. We in the United States are learning so much from these dynamic, energetic, creative colleagues. We’re learning about their recognition of the existence and value of heritage languages in their countries. The creation and running of heritage language schools, the values that they hold and the standards that they follow, and the funding that some of them have for this work. It’s a real privilege to be together here today and we’re all going to learn a lot from each other. And what I started thinking about this morning is that there are leaders of heritage language schools in many other countries that we can connect and collaborate with. And I think that maybe this conversation will open new doors to those connections and collaborations. So thank you Norah for bringing us together today.

Norah Jones:

It’s a great, great pleasure. And indeed, I’m looking forward to opening many doorways of collaboration. One of the things that I’d like to make sure that my listeners do is go to my website, fluency.consulting and check out not only the specific podcast information, but especially the biographies of our dear guests today. They will have provided a plethora of resources and links, which can open doors for you as listeners too. And one of the resources that I’d like to draw your attention to over and over again, and I’ll be using it as a basis in this podcast today, is the guidelines that were published in November 2021, the International Guidelines for Professional Practices in Community-Based Heritage Language Schools.

Norah Jones:

There’s a tremendous amount of good information there, not only for those that are in community-based heritage language schools, but those who are interested in this topic and in finding out how the power of such schools and such community based organizations can change their lives too. So thank you everyone for dealing with that. So here, one reason why, one thing I’m going to start out with right away is a question to whoever would like to answer first to start. We’re going to start with why, we’re going to start with why, why collaboration when it comes to heritage language schools around the world?

Renata Emilsson Peskova:

Well, I can go first. Iceland is a little country. We have 300,000 people living here and we do have 100 languages spoken by immigrant communities. But our organization is not very large, Modurmal, and we’ve been organizing a conference for years and the audience was very small and there was a lot of effort going into organizing that conference, annual conference. And so at some point I just said, I’m not going to organize a conference by myself for nine people again. And we reached out and that was the time when COVID came basically and the online communication started to be easy and normalized. So we moved online and we started collaborating with Mother Tongues in Ireland who organized the conference. And after that, the next year we started the FOHLC Europe, Forum of Heritage Language Coalitions in Europe. And now we have partners in five countries and we are collaborating on the next conference. And Gisi is of course, one of the key people in that collaboration.

Gisi Cannizzaro:

I think of all of the organizations that are represented here that HLE Network, our organization here in the Netherlands is the youngest. So the reason why we reached out to all of the different people here at one point over the last few years was just for advice and inspiration. Because we had a lot of ideas about which activities and which projects we could still, but we wanted to know which ones would have the most impact for the heritage language programs in our region. And I spoke with, I think every organization here, yes, Canada, US, Iceland, and Australia.

Gisi Cannizzaro:

And I put those conversations on the web so that other people who didn’t have the chance to speak with joy could benefit from the conversation I had with her. I think the heritage language programs here in the Netherlands may not have extra time to be looking for workshops or conferences run by other organizations that might be of interest to them. So HLE Network takes the time to research what all of the other organizations are doing that might be of interest to our programs regionally. So I’ve learned a lot from each and every person here. And I just want to say thank you again, because I think we’ve been successful so far in part due to all of the great conversations I’ve had with all of you.

Ken Cruickshank:

We know that most of the world’s population is bilingual and heritage language schools exist in practically every country around the world, but in each of our countries, we are marginal. Most people don’t know we exist. So for me through this collaboration, it gives us that strength and knowledge, and advice, and help. For example, our Czech schools, our Chinese schools, our Greek schools have made contacts now with the schools in Canada, in the US, and it really supports them. In each of our countries, the schools often operate by themselves and don’t even have the time to collaborate with others. So this collaboration is really key because we are a major sector in languages education. And this collaboration and support is vital for us to get stronger.

Antonella Cortese:

The International and Heritage Languages Association, in spite of its name, it is a provincial organization. And so within Canada, within the Charter of Rights, everyone has the right to maintain their heritage language and culture. However, on a national level, and this is why we were so fortunate to connect with Joy and the coalition, is that on a national level there is no true national governing body that does what the coalition does in the United States with the 50 states. So we work on a provincial level within the province of Alberta doing what the coalition does on a national level. And so it’s been really wonderful to connect with Renata and Gisi, and Ken, and Joy from the start, because that first conference that we attended in Washington DC was interesting, because as we spoke, we were speaking to each other from different ends of the telescope, I want to say.

Antonella Cortese:

So we were from the start of the telescope looking out and they were from the other end of the telescope looking in. Because they’re the larger organization trying to understand, well, how is it that you’re a smaller regional organization and yet do what you do? And we were thinking, well, you’re a larger national organization, how did you do what you do? And so it’s been really educational, as Gisi mentioned, to connect with everybody, because everybody has a different vantage point from which they started and why. And for us, we’ve been in existence for, it’ll be 45 years next year. So this organization started 45 years ago with six people from six different heritage language organizations that wanted to make sure that their children could speak to their parents in their heritage language. So it’s come a long way and we’re really proud, but we’re also really proud at the opportunity to have been able to expand our network with all these other knowledgeable and incredibly valuable people to heritage languages.

Norah Jones:

Antonella, I love the image that you have of the two ends of the telescope and of taking a look at the differentiations between and coming from the different unique experiences and unique histories. So what is it that the five of you and those who have been connected with the various activities and publications, even that you’ve done, have found is in common? How did you pull that together? What does it consist of? Give us some images that our listeners can understand of what you discovered together.

Joy Peyton:

That’s a great question Norah. A really great question. And we talked about that for how long, when we were doing the standards? We talked about that for over a year. What do we have? And I just, I know Renata wants to talk, but I just wanted to say that when we’re talking about why, why do we get together? You can see how this collaboration expands our minds so much. Every time I talk to you all, I learn about place, where do we focus? What schools are involved? What languages are here? It’s just so expanding. So anyway, I’ll let Renata answer your question Norah.

Renata Emilsson Peskova:

I just wanted to start from the bottom kind of. As Ken said, the heritage language schools are all over the world. They’re not mapped. They’re maybe not described in any systematic way. I know that you are doing a great job in the US and also in Australia having this great overview of the heritage language schools but globally we don’t know how many there are. But because the globalization is increasing and people are traveling and immigrating refugees in all kinds of reasons for settling in different countries and now everybody has the need for the heritage, well, I mean, for the mother tongue, for the language that they bring with them and teach it to the children. And for that reason, parents come together and establish little schools, that’s how it starts. It could be a little playgroup, it could be just a platform to communicate and exchange, but gradually it happens because often these immigrants are ambitious.

Renata Emilsson Peskova:

Sometimes and often actually they’re really educated as well and they come to the new country and they have ambition. And this is also a platform just to start working professionally for the benefit of their children. So it kind of rolls, the snowball grows and these schools they are established easily because they’re not a part of the system. They start because they have the need to start. But also, I have to add that they also disappear quickly, some of them, so it’s a very fragile business if you start a heritage language school. But what our coalitions are actually doing is to strengthen and to support these little groups and big groups so that they, we do the extra work that they don’t have the time for, maybe energy. We help them with professional development and we help them with finding information, et cetera. Yeah. But I know that everybody has a lot to say about this. Thank you for listening for so long.

Norah Jones:

Thank you Renata. Giving that background too and what the organization does to that sense of almost tenuousness, great need, great desire, great emotion, but also some fragility and how to support, that was very clearly said. Thank you very much. Who else? Yes, indeed.

Gisi Cannizzaro:

Yeah. About the guidelines, what did we find that was common across the different countries? I think the guidelines, the product itself was the answer to that question, because we combed through a lot of guidelines that were available in Australia, in England. We drew from many different documents from different countries and we put together something that was simple, not too long, something straightforward, so that we could try to make some kind of international standard that was not based on local law in Australia. But something that no matter where in the world you are, you can maybe put on your website, okay, our heritage language program aims to follow these guidelines and these core principles. So that you can maybe across the world start to have some kind of standardization or acknowledgement that we’re all doing the same thing, regardless of where we are. Because some of the local documents can be quite long and very context specific, but Renata came with the idea and we all ran with it.

Gisi Cannizzaro:

And I have to say the meetings, the monthly meetings, where we met with each other, you would think monthly on a Sunday night, you might roll your eyes and say, do I have to speak with these people again? But I always attended with great enthusiasm, left the meetings feeling really positive about the work we were doing, because we’re all the same work. At this level when you speak with Joy or Renata, you don’t have to convince them that what you’re doing is important. But in our daily work, we are often speaking with people from the local community who don’t already automatically agree that the work to support heritage language programs is important.

Gisi Cannizzaro:

So you’re kind of constantly explaining yourself or trying to convince people, but to be in a space where you can just all have that starting point that you agree that this is important, that was comfortable and fun. Yeah, thank you again for you guys’ time, because that was really an enjoyable experience. And we have this really nice product to show the world, and I hope it’s useful. And that we can reassess in some time and see how people have been using it, because I’m curious about the feedback. We have a form on Joy’s website for people who used the document that they can share their experience and feedback with us.

Ken Cruickshank:

I’d like to pick up what Renata said about the smaller schools. The large schools like the Chinese and others have good capacity, but for many smaller schools, they come and go. I was working with the Cook Island Maori school, it worked for 15 years and stopped. And then no one in the community, the young kids had no access. By working together, I think we can start providing better support with what we know now for the schools that are fragile. These languages are important, often with languages like Thai, Tong, and Samoan, where does anyone go to study them? The community language schools are the only place. And so I think by working together, we can support all of our schools better.

Antonella Cortese:

Even though I wasn’t personally a part of it, having been a part of it on the periphery, the one thing that was really energizing and encouraging to know when working with everyone is that everyone finally got to see each other and say, okay, we’re not going to reinvent the wheel because each individual that participated brought their information. And from what I’m understanding, based on the standards that I read, everyone was able to contribute. And I think because it was a document that was, as Gisi was mentioning, written together, it belongs to everyone. So it’s not just one, it might be featured on one site, but it has everybody’s signature and it has every country’s signature from which it came based on their experiences, which is invaluable. And I think that also gives credence to this notion that we’re not all operating in a vacuum.

Antonella Cortese:

So that’s the first thing. And I’m really proud for that. And I’m sorry I wasn’t a part of it personally. However, by extension with our colleague Trudie, we were always a part of it. So I hope you know that. And then to what Ken was just saying about the small schools. At least in our experience with the small schools, what we try to do, and this is what we’ve experienced recently with COVID, is some of our schools have stopped operating and some of them have stopped functioning. And what we’ve been doing is we have been making sure that we keep in touch with them. Even if it’s one person, even if it’s the one person who was the director of the school or the principal of the school and keeping them engaged within IHLA. Because just because you don’t have a school does not mean that promoting and nurturing, and sustaining heritage language in our community isn’t important.

Antonella Cortese:

So whether you’re one or whether you’re 100, whether you’ve only been operating and you tried to start for six months, or you’ve been, as one of our Polish schools has been operating for 68 years, every little bit counts. So thank you Ken for saying that, because this is something that every principal’s meeting, when we send out our invitation for all our principals to come, the first thing they say is, “Well, but our school isn’t working anymore. Can I still attend?” And of course you can because your insights are valuable. And if there’s something that we can do to help, that conversation takes place and we mobilize, we mobilize and we help.

Antonella Cortese:

And in fact, two today’s emails, I have two schools that are looking for space and they’ve stopped working because the school districts are no longer renting to Saturday schools because of COVID. And so we’re working with them to find them space with other schools or within our office space. And again, if they don’t attend the meetings, then we can’t help. So we make them attend the meetings, we fish them back out and get them, as Gisi said, energized and motivated to keep fighting the good fight because their families are depending on it actually. So thank you for mentioning that Ken.

Norah Jones:

That passion Antonella and everyone, I would like have to tap on for just a second. Because you understand that part of me is extraordinarily envious and sad because my own background is the daughter of a Croatian refugee immigrant. But at that particular stage of life, which was World War II and directly afterwards, I even asked, he said at that point, and we all know that this is in quotes, it wasn’t in to be ethnic. But what I would’ve given, as I spoke to my husband today about the conversation that we were about to have, to have had a Croatian heritage language school to go to on Saturdays, it would have been transformational for me. Thank you so much for listening to this podcast today. Please join me in sharing with those in education, business, and organizational leadership, the opportunities that come from knowing and celebrating human language. I invite you to become a sponsor of this podcast. Please see my website, fluency.consulting for more information, and to connect up with me about sponsorship.

Norah Jones:

So I’m bringing some emotional content into this because I’d like to turn to making sure that the listeners know that there are four main areas within the international guidelines that you published. And so folks I would like to turn your attention to this. There are four areas, at least four major areas in your guidelines, the core values, organization, the educational programs and the community outreach. And I considering that as core values as the why you are doing this anyway. And I’d like to address that first and heads up that I’m going to be looking, especially for the community outreach part as an impact, but let’s turn for just a moment to those core values.

Norah Jones:

And I was struck by not only the core values, but I’m not going to enumerate them. You can, if you desire and as part of your conversation, but the vision statement, which included the following, heritage languages are a way of nurturing diversity, mutual respect, and inclusion. So I would love for each of you to take a look at however you would like to address for our listeners, the core values of why heritage language schools are developed, for one or for 100, as you’ve said. And why you have chosen carefully as language people do the nurturing of diversity, mutual respect and inclusion.

Renata Emilsson Peskova:

Well, it takes a bit of thinking to answer this complicated question. Thank you for it. But I can maybe start with where we started, Modurmal, 21 years ago. Firstly, it was the parents who wanted of course, to provide the heritage language and communicate with their children and children being able to communicate with grandparents. But when I came in maybe 10 years ago, the discussion was very much about the right, the human right, the linguistic right to speak the language and the fight for recognition. Like we are out there, we are doing semi-professional or professional work, we want the system to see us. We want the schools to see us. We want to promote these linguistic rights of the children to their mother tongues, which are in the chart on the rights of the child, which is a part of the legal system here in Iceland and many countries of the world.

Renata Emilsson Peskova:

So we are basing this human rights argument on that. But the conversation is shifting on, it’s not where we are fighting for rights, this right perspective. I think as the world develops and the diversity increases, and even this super diversity, the term, maybe somebody knows, the look into the future is any competence in language is valuable for whatever reason. So distinguishing languages between mother tongue heritage language, second language, foreign language, I think that is not in anymore. Like you said, it wasn’t in to be ethnic after the second World War. It’s not in maybe to talk about some baggage of the past and it’s more looking for the future and competence, and how to be able to be plurilingual, all of us are plurilingual in a way. So I think there is a shift and there is a development in how this, well, fight or conversation went on throughout the time.

Ken Cruickshank:

I agree, Renata. I think there’s been a shift. It’s not perfect. Still, if you are bilingual people often look at you and think that you’ve got only half a brain. But if I can tell the story of one of my colleagues, she’s Russian background. When she started school, she went home the first day and said, “Mom, at school, they don’t speak Russian. I’m not going to speak Russian anymore.” And she lost her language like so many. Now she’s attending the community language school with her daughter learning Russian from the babushka, singing songs. Something like 30% of our schools now have classes for adults who lost their language, who didn’t have that chance. It’s so important for people to keep it. It’s more acceptable now. And I think it’s wonderful to see the second, third, fourth generation Australian kids learning their heritage language.

Gisi Cannizzaro:

My understanding is always shifting and changing based on all of the new information I get. This week what I think is that you have like a, I guess, a continuum of how much does a particular country value multilingualism, multiculturalism or on the other end, how monolingual is it and what phase is it in maybe shifting from a monolingual mindset to a multilingual mindset? My understanding from Trudie at IHLA, Antonella, was that Canada had kind of reformation and that’s why you all were able to get some funding at some point in the past was because the government decided, okay, Canada’s going to embrace its multilingualism. Sweden had also some kind of reform. And what I see in the Netherlands where I try to, I ask myself, where are we in the Netherlands on this continuum? And I see change happening.

Gisi Cannizzaro:

Lots of groups are doing workshops with the mainstream Dutch school teachers to explain to them not to be afraid of the multilingual children in the classroom, to tap into it as a resource. For instance, we get a lot of newsletters from an organization that is promoting internationalization. Internationalization, it’s very, it’s a hot topic for the primary schools here in the Netherlands for the children to become global citizens or to have exchanges with other countries. And I think, well, yeah, you can send a Dutch child abroad, but they’re sitting next to a Turkish kid and a Polish kid in their own class. So there is a shift here that there are organizations trying to put it into, to build it into the teacher training. Because right now it’s like post, you’ve already become a teacher and then you can have these workshops after you’ve already had your training. But they’re trying to put it into the regular training.

Gisi Cannizzaro:

How do we cherish and nurture, and use the multilingualism that’s in the class? So that’s one side of the coin. What Heritage Language Education Network is trying to do in the Netherlands is also put the spotlight on the lessons that take place outside of the school. Because Dutch teachers and their attitudes, and not discouraging, to not discourage a child from speaking Russian with their friend at the school, that’s important of course. But we’re trying also to make sure that the people who are doing the hard work of running these supplementary schools outside of school time also get some kind of recognition and support, that we see now the Dutch mainstream teachers getting.

Gisi Cannizzaro:

Because at the end of the day, the Dutch mainstream teachers are not going to be able to teach a child how to read and write in Russian. You’re going to have to have somebody from the language community doing that. And we want to remind people of that, that the heritage language programs are providing a service to the community and filling a gap in the children’s education that the Dutch education system is not equipped and you can’t even expect it to be equipped to fill that gap. So that’s my view.

Antonella Cortese:

Gisi, as you were speaking, I was thinking a lot about teacher education, because that is something that even here in Canada, I will speak specifically to Alberta though and Edmonton, is … So I’m originally from the United States. I grew up in a bilingual home. However, my bilingualism was our small town dialect and then English. And the rule was, don’t teach her Italian because she won’t learn how to read. So I was educated in Italy first and then I went to the states and then they said, don’t do that. But because my parents had the education they did, they couldn’t learn English fast enough to teach me so we did dialect. That being said, teacher education still, I feel to this day and I’ve been a teacher a long time, having been in the US and now in Canada, and in Alberta, is that I think within our teacher education programming, we have a lot of teacher ed training in ESL.

Antonella Cortese:

How do we help our students learn English as a second language and respect their heritage language, respect it? However, to Gisi’s point, when we’re in that classroom and we hear them using their language to try to get through a problem, suddenly our barriers go up because we don’t know what they’re saying. And we feel like we’re at fault because we don’t understand what they’re saying to get to the English. And so within teacher training, I think that’s the piece that’s missing that heritage language schools can help with, is to sensitize our teachers to not worry. If they’re using their heritage language, have faith that they’re using it to get to solving that problem. Here, our teacher ed programs do not have a course in how to do that.

Antonella Cortese:

As a teacher in an English language speaking school that will be working with a kid that’s from Poland or a kid that’s from Turkey. More than likely now our students are from Afghanistan, from Syria, from North Africa. So a lot of the traditional countries from which our students used to come from back in the 50s, 60s and 70s, those students are coming with English. Our newer population is not coming with English. So I appreciate what you’re saying Gisi. And I feel like our heritage language organizations can help our English speaking colleagues who are not in heritage languages get there, to at least be comfortable with it. So thank you.

Renata Emilsson Peskova:

Yeah. So many thoughts just listening to you. So I jotted down a few points. I wanted to say that what is kind of appearing in research and hopefully teacher education are these plurilingual approaches in educating children. That you’re not separating the languages, but they have linguistic repertoire, and they’re developing all of those languages. And that even if the teacher doesn’t speak all those 13 languages that are represented in the classroom, you can still have techniques and methods to support plurilingualism. I wanted to say that I know, I’m aware of a new platform in Ireland where Mother Tongues collaborating with second language teachers and they’re having a constructive dialogue conversation about how to support multilingualism in the classroom. So that’s a fantastic model for anybody in the world. And I wanted also to bring in the Nordic language policy from 2006, because I think, and similarly also the Council of Europe policy on languages in Europe, that as an inhabitant in a country, in a Nordic country or European country, you have the right to develop your mother tongue or indigenous language.

Renata Emilsson Peskova:

You need to learn the language of the society. Well, in the Nordic context, you’re expected also to learn one Nordic language, because we are neighbors and we have this collaboration here. And fourthly, you are supposed to learn a global language. So plurilingualism in reality is the goal both in the Nordic countries and in the Council of Europe. And mother tongues or indigenous languages are the right that’s recognized in these policies, but then also that you need to learn the language of the society and a Nordic country and one of the global languages so that you can be a global citizen.

Renata Emilsson Peskova:

And I really think that the idea of plurilingualism, and I’m not going to go into the explanations what’s multilingualism and what’s plurilingualism, but thinking about individuals as naturally plurilingual, everybody, it’s natural for a human brain to have more languages. So the idea that this is the educational goal and mother tongues, heritage languages, they are the right that the individual has. And the policy at least says that these children should be able to learn these languages as well as other languages.

Ken Cruickshank:

I was always wondering why it’s easier for mainstream schools to embrace multiculturalism than it is for them to embrace plurilingualism. And I think the main reason is that the teaching profession is still largely monolingual. We know that the diversity of the student population in most countries is double the diversity of the teacher population. And so for me, one thing that we can work together on is having pathways for heritage language teachers to get accreditation as mainstream teachers. So many of them, we found that something like 60 to 80% have overseas qualifications and they start doing volunteer teaching in the heritage language schools, really is a steppingstone, but often it’s blocked for them. So if we can work out how to get these teachers accredited to teach in mainstream schools, then I think we will have a truly plurilingual school system.

Norah Jones:

Ken, I appreciate you so much you saying that because one of the experiences that was just happening in the United States right now, for example, is meetings discussing the vast gap of world language education folks. And the idea of making it possible for folks various languages to be able to achieve teacher certification to get started would help to ease those things that is a crisis here while accomplishing that excellent, excellent goal that you have just illustrated there. Thank you very much for it. And Gisi, you used the word fear when you were speaking.

Norah Jones:

And I do think that it’s interesting to watch what, perhaps in your illustration about the student working in Turkish to try to get that answer, that the teacher is concerned that they’re missing something. The administrators are concerned that something is out of control and maybe community members are concerned that their communities are losing, quote unquote, losing their identity rather than gaining additional identities. That’s a very big question, but fear, I think is something that we need to address at least a little bit. Do you feel that I have asked you a question? Sure. Joy.

Joy Peyton:

Oh, yeah. Thanks for bringing that up because that’s what I was thinking of when I was thinking about our values in our guidelines document, the value of inclusion. And sometimes in the United States anyway, we say this is a multilingual society, but that’s us saying that, there’s a group of people saying that. There are other people who are saying, no, we’re English. And to feel, sometimes an individual does not feel included. I’m not part of this. I don’t know what these guys are doing. I don’t know and I don’t speak right. And I don’t feel included, but Neila who works with the Lithuanian schools, she had written us this very touching email today about how Lithuanian students are feeling very fearful and confused. And their school is so important to them because they go there and they feel included. Like, oh yes, I do have a community.

Joy Peyton:

There is a community here for me. And then one other value, which is citizenship, global citizenship. And Gisi was talk about, I love that term Gisi you used, internationalization. But I’ll just give one example of students who come to this country and don’t feel that way at first. And these are French speaking students from Africa and Haiti, West Africa and Haiti, and they speak the language of the country and they also speak French. And they come to New York city, and guess who learns French, students at the Alliance Francaise, expensive private school. Those are the French speakers. But the kids who come here from those other countries don’t even consider themselves to be French speakers. So French schools were founded to say, yes, you are. And guess what, you’re a good global citizen. You’re global, you’re not just a visitor here. You’re just not an immigrant here. You’re a global citizen. So those are just two of the values that I think are so important and alive in our programs. Thank you.

Norah Jones:

Thank you. And there indeed I’m going to say, but the impact, the community outreach, that’s one of your four aspects that you worked on that wonderful guideline document and the impact of the schools. I’d love to, for you, again, to provide a vision about what uniquely your collaboration, your insights, your experiences, this sharing that you’ve done, what are some of the unique messages that you’re bringing to the world? Because the volatility of our times right now in Europe and well, and beyond, speak to the need of people to understand what plurilingualism means, what understanding of cultures mean and what kind of role your schools play. What’s the impact for communities? What role are you playing to make this world understand where indeed inclusion, mutual respect and diversity can be a part of their daily lives?

Ken Cruickshank:

People used to be afraid of languages. What we find is that the more the young people know about their heritage culture, the more they know their heritage language, the more they are open to other cultures and other languages. The stronger they are in their heritage language, the stronger they are in English. So in Australia, when the Ukrainian crisis started, the Russian schools are supporting the Ukrainian schools. The kids have this, as Gisi said, this global understanding that comes from strength in the national, but also their heritage language and culture. That’s what our collaboration can offer.

Norah Jones:

Ken, I’m actually going to do something that I don’t normally do. Can you repeat what you said to make sure that all of the listeners heard what you just said about what’s happening in Australia, based on this experience of Russia and Ukraine right now.

Ken Cruickshank:

The Russian schools have come out in support of the Ukrainians. They work with them. They support them because they see this as something that is not them. It’s not them. It’s the, what happens is you get the understanding between the different schools they work together.

Norah Jones:

Thank you. Thank you for doing that. It’s brought tears to my eyes, frankly, but I wanted to make sure that our listeners heard that clearly. Renata, you had, you were interested in saying something.

Renata Emilsson Peskova:

Thank you. I wanted to actually pick on where Ken ended. We have a Ukrainian group and Russian group and they collaborate. And we have as Modurmal expressed our support for the Ukrainian group and the Russian group took part in this. And I think we have this safe space, or as Terry Lamb calls it, spaces of hope. These are spaces where we feel at home. So our groups, we have common goals, common values, we support each other and we express that. But I also wanted to say that our collaborations, they connect us and they connect us both within the countries where we operate and across the countries within the languages that we teach. But also the coalitions, as we are represented here, we connect. So we have this wonderful network and so we represent languages.

Renata Emilsson Peskova:

And it’s really important that we exist because we are the voice and often the face of the multilingualism in our countries. In our context, we are having a discussion and have had a discussion about the sustainable development goals, for example. And I feel that Modurmal is kind of a green association, that we have the language and we collaborate. And we should also kind of aim at saving the planet and peace on the planet, that we have all these safe spaces that give us the possibility to develop communication skills and competencies. And these are the skills for the future, people need to be able to communicate, collaborate, make the connections. And so I really think this is a little idealistic maybe, but I really think we’re preparing people to take part in this complex future challenge or challenges that are waiting.

Gisi Cannizzaro:

We’ve really, our organization has learned a lot from speaking with all of the other organizations, the like-minded organizations in other countries, trying to bring the heritage language programs together. And what we’ve learned is that there is always, there is really always going to be work that needs to be done no matter how progressive a country is. So when I first met Ken and heard everything that was going on in Australia, super impressed, Sydney, New South Wales is doing fantastic, Victoria. But when you dig deeper and you have conversations with people, you see that, okay, certain territories are very advanced and progressive, but not all of Australia. Some territories are less progressive and open-minded in embracing multilingualism than others. Even in the case where in some countries, in the canton of Zurich, for instance, where the students are able to get a grade on their primary school leaving certificate based on how they performed in the supplemental class outside of school time. Even there, you listen to the people who run the teacher training, and you’re very impressed.

Gisi Cannizzaro:

That’s why you wanted to speak with the people. But when you really dig deeper, you see, wow, there’s still the same challenges there. Logistically speaking, you have a language community who happens to be in a certain place outside of the home country. All of the stars have to be aligned for you to have a qualified teacher, a mobilized language community, enough resources. In the case of Zurich, for instance, they have them up with their own funds to pay the teachers. So when you really look closely, even in the best of circumstances, you need people motivating each other, giving each other the information they need to start the legal entities they need in order to qualify for the subsidies when they’re even available. So it’s not discouraging to me. It just, it makes me think that this work, it makes sense that we have started the organization HLE Network and that there’s really a lot of work to be done, and there will always be a lot of work to be done.

Antonella Cortese:

I wanted to go back to the community that is coming together, also here in Edmonton and in Calgary, where we have larger Ukrainian and Russian population with heritage languages. So we have a doctor who is Ukrainian of background here, who has a connection in Ukraine. And with the Ukrainian Federation, they started a drive to collect necessary materials and items. And what’s happened is through IHLA we sent out a call. And so straight away our Russian school actually contacted us and said, “Can you let us know the information so then we can go and help?” And it’s actually quite emotional, because I did stop by there and I saw one of the school leaders there just right in there. And if you met her, she’s very graceful and very dignified. So to have seen her working side by side with other people doing this drive and helping put things in, it made me think that the work that we do, as you were saying Gisi, it’s hard.

Antonella Cortese:

There are pockets that don’t appreciate it necessarily, or don’t understand it. But when I saw that scene, I thought, “Yes, this is why we do what we do.” And here in Edmonton, anyway, our Russian school is worried. The parents are worried about bringing their children to school, even though it operates out of a church in Calgary, there was vandalism at one of the Russian churches. So they’re worried and the Ukrainian leaders of the Ukrainian schools have been encouraging to them and saying, don’t worry everything’s going to be okay. We know that you support us. We support you. We know that this is not about us per se, but about other powers that we have no control over.

Antonella Cortese:

So in terms of heritage language communities, I think all of our communities do a lot to help galvanize the hope that through the work that we’re all doing that we’re going to make it through this. And as I was hearing Gisi say that we have all these issues to confront. Tutto il mondo è un paese, I don’t know if your husband knows that phrase, all the world is a town. So wherever we are, we all have those same challenges and we’re all lucky to have each other so then we can talk through them and hopefully connect with other countries and other organizations to help them talk through them as well to make our way.

Norah Jones:

All the world is a town. Really the time to say that the podcast has come to its pinnacle is right there in that beautiful statement. And each one of you today have provided a very clear picture about why it is that diversity is not division. Why heritage is additive and brings joy and in very, very challenging times actually creates the breakthrough for us all to be able to work together. I have always provide an end to the podcast in which I ask each guest to provide a short statement. It’s a statement that you don’t want this podcast to go out to my listeners around the world without hearing. One last insight, a repetition of a key point that you want to make sure they hear again. One last exhortation. What is it that you want to be sure that you say before this podcast ends today?

Joy Peyton:

I just, going back to the guidelines, this one statement, I want to read this statement that we made about our vision. And that is, our vision is for community based heritage language schools across the globe to be united through common professional practices that lead to successful and respected educational programs. We hope that our collaboration will send a message to the global community that these schools provide a crucial service to plurilingual children, families, language communities, and societies, as a whole. And I think that’s so important that we’re united in that message, in part, because of what Antonella was just describing. So sometimes in the education community, there’s this thing like, oh yeah, those guys. Oh, those guys. Yeah, they’re helping each other, I can see that. But those schools are not very good, I’ll tell you that. They are not good schools. The teachers aren’t certified, the teachers aren’t trained. And we are making a statement that these are high quality schools that bring huge value to schools and to the community.

Gisi Cannizzaro:

The take home message. The work that we do bringing together heritage language programs is important. That’s what we discussed today. But at the end of the day, the real work is done by the heritage language programs themselves. They are providing a service to the community. They are filling a gap in the children’s education. If the communities, local or worldwide, if communities worldwide recognize this, then the heritage language programs can be a lot more successful. I think that the key message is recognition.

Renata Emilsson Peskova:

All languages are valuable as all people are valuable. Because the language’s a part of our identity of who we are so if we do not respect and recognize the language, it’s like not respecting and recognizing the person. And plurilingualism or multilingualism is a natural state for human mind. It’s normal that we are plurilingual. So it’s a positive thing and it is an educational value. It’s a goal for everybody to be plurilingual in the world that we are facing.

Antonella Cortese:

I was thinking of an activity that we did with Renata when she did her PD session with us about plurilingualism, and it’s about which language is in our body. What part of our body incorporates our language. And for me, and all of us at IHLA, our heritage languages and cultures, they help ground us. And they help us realize who we are at our core on good days and on bad days. With that, we carry them with us everywhere, whether we realize it or not. And that we need to remember that no matter where we go, they follow us and we need to carry them with pride.

Antonella Cortese:

Because as humans on this planet, where we go, we leave a trace of who we are, wherever we go. And that’s what we try to teach our students here at the Comitato Promotore della Lingua Italiana. Whether they speak a little bit of Italian or a lot of Italian, whether they come because their grandparents know that they love hearing them speak, we help them realize that no matter what, who they are at their core will always shine. And that’s something that they have to show the world with pride and with joy every day.

Ken Cruickshank:

It’s hard to add to that. But I was thinking what Joy was saying that heritage language schools have been running for 300 more years in the states, 170 years in Australia, and yet they’re seen as marginal, as sort of not proper schools. But in actual fact, heritage language schools are where everything is at. The students there, they’re bilingual, they’re plurilingual, they’re in touch with what’s happening overseas. They’ve got strong senses of their heritage identity, their national identity. They’re the ones, the schools are where everything is happening. They are a really important complimentary sector of education, and they really need to be supported because of this. The heritage language schools form and start communities. They provide such service to communities that in some ways, monolingual administrators are not aware of this. They’re not marginal, they’re central.

Norah Jones:

The essential nature of heritage language and heritage language community-based schools. My dear friends, it’s been a great pleasure to welcome you today to talk to the world about these important educational places and especially their service to the individuals in the communities and the world. Thank you so much for your service. Thank you so much for everything and that you’ve done to create these possibilities, for the touching stories, for the exhortations, and especially for the hard work you’re doing. Greetings to all of your teams. And as you connect across the globe with other heritage schools and heritage school leaders, please give them the greetings of those of us that appreciate everything that they’re doing to create human bonds that are stronger than events and look to the future.

Norah Jones:

Appreciate every one of you. Thanks again, for listening to this podcast. Take a look at your community please. Take a look at your work, your business, your educational institution, your organization. In what ways does language have a positive and important impact on your life? Join me, take a look at my website, fluency.consulting for opportunities, for sponsorship, and for working together to demonstrate the importance of heritage languages and all languages in the lives of individuals and communities. I look forward to welcoming you to the next podcast.

Become a Sponsor

Leave a Reply