Itinerant Dialogues between Language and Culture

Teaching and Learning with “Itinerant Dialogues between Language and Culture,” is the title of the first experimental cycle of thematic meetings in the area that involved a wide audience of foreign students from Federico II (international, PHD and Erasmus). An innovative methodological proposal “that inaugurates the project of a CLA,” says Director Pasquale Sabbatino, “as a cultural and family community.

With the aim of promoting meaningful language learning through dialogue with the city, students enrolled in the summer courses on teaching Italian as a second language, organized by the University of Naples Federico II, were supported by teachers Anna Baldan, Annalisa Castellitti, and Emilia Longobardi on guided tours of the historic center of Naples, the Castel dell\’Ovo and Borgo Marinari, the Vergiliano Park in Piedigrotta, the Grotto of Seiano and the Pausilypon Archaeological Park, the Rione Terra and the Flavian Amphitheater in Pozzuoli.

“The Frederican students were involved in fascinating itinerant and exploratory educational experiences,” Professor Sabbatino continues, “visiting archaeological sites, museums, castles, churches and neighborhoods. And then, exhausted, they stopped together at a pizzeria. Almost an international family. In this activity, the Italian L2 teachers put to good use the experience gained from the European project EULALIA, proposing to the students the use of an app containing a dictionary of entries for visiting Naples and its surroundings.”

The city is seen through the eyes of the foreigner not only as an unseen scenery to (re)discover alley by alley, but also as a privileged interlocutor in everyday situations of direct exposure to the L2: “The thing that helped me the most during the Italian course,” says Chemseddine, a doctoral student at the Department of Physics of the University of Frederick, “was the itinerant teaching, because in the lessons I did in the city together with my teacher and the other foreign students I had to listen, understand and speak at the same time. In order to learn a language we have to constantly be exposed to her and talk to local people. I really like the concept of itinerant teaching because we can see the usefulness of the things we learn. Even when we know more about the city, we learn why this or that word is said that way, and the history behind it. I speak a very old language, Berber, where everything is implied. To tell about Naples I would like to use the adjective \’timsserrit,\’ a word used to describe women who have grace, charm.”

Naples “is never boring,” adds Orçun, research fellow in Global History and Governance, “because it is not completely schematized, sterilized and domesticated. It has its difficulties, certainly, but it is also generous when it rewards you. I think it belongs to the class of cities where you can spend a lifetime and still have so much to discover.” Relating to the city means for the foreign student to lay attention to its history, recover the memory of its traditions, listen to the language of its inhabitants and learn to communicate through their gestures.


“At first, I was a bit disoriented,” says Mathias, a Ph.D. student in Mathematics at Southern High School, “as if I were in another world, a time gone by when baskets were raised from the ground to balconies. I left all my prejudices behind to understand this new world: I observed the chaos of the traffic and the frantic gestures of the people, I listened to the infernal noise of the city and the Neapolitan chants of my neighbors. And, like Stendhal traveling to Florence, I almost fainted from such beauty! Being lucky enough to discover another culture, another country, is the experience of a lifetime. And I am overjoyed to have been able to experience it. Now, for me, Naples is not just a city: it is a way of life near the sea, it is a language that fascinates me more every day, it is a place full of mythical legends, it is a vacation photograph and a centuries-old culture. Tenghe Napule int\’o cor mij and \’o cor mij int\’o zucchero!”

Through a culinary tour, various reading paths and a revisiting of musical texts, the students dwelled on the theme of traveling to Naples to describe the emblematic places of their educational journey and narrate the feelings the city evokes in the stranger who sees it for the first time:

“Born and tested during the Italian courses organized by CLA,” concludes Dr. Annalisa Castellitti, coordinator of the meetings, “itinerant teaching aims to place the dialogue between language and culture in an inclusive and socio-affective dimension in order to enhance the emotional component of learning. Feeling part of an academic community in which differences mutually belong to each other in their uniqueness is the first step so that students, coming from different continents, can integrate, with their linguistic diversity, and thus with the typical values of their respective cultures to which languages refer, first in the host city and then in the University that welcomes them.”


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