Mother Tongues Stories
Our journey through Italian
I grew up speaking French, as my mum’s family migrated to France while she was the only sibling who remained living in Italy. I began speaking that language quite naturally, playing with my cousins and talking to other members of the family during regular visits to my grandparents. At home, my mum would sing songs and read books in French to us. We would also watch French TV. Without realizing, I became fully bilingual and I’m pretty sure that this was the beginning of my journey into language learning and teaching. Later, I went on to complete a degree in Modern Languages and a Masters in Anglo-Irish literature.
When I became a mother, I knew the importance of passing Italian to my children. My Irish monolingual husband was a self-declared bad language learner and it took him years to become fluent. Nonetheless, he supported me all the way in my endeavor. When my daughter was 2 years old, I set up a mother and toddler group called Playgroup Italiano, which was awarded European Language Label in 2008 and then developed into a bigger project, Divertitaliano, a non-for-profit association for bilingual children, supported by the Italian Embassy in Dublin. This provided the perfect opportunity for her to learn in a dynamic environment along with other kids of similar background and age.
When my son came along he followed in her footsteps. He sometimes resists the idea of speaking or reading in Italian but when he is put to the task, he knows what to do. Both of my kids are happily bilingual and find it easy to study other languages like Irish and French in school. Still, the journey continues, as we explore together new ways to maintain and improve our skills.
Alessandra Di Claudio
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