Personal project about romagnolo: what, where and how?

Ciao ciao a tutti! Or should I say: Ue burdél!

As a part of our ESC-volunteering, everyone dedicates a little bit of time every week to a personal project. It can basically be anything between heaven and earth, something that you are interested in, something you want to develop, related to your passion or curiosity, but usually related to the community you live in: like the ESC-projects in general, it should somehow contribute to the local community and the people around us. I realized I might have never written about my personal project so I thought that now is the right time to do so. For those who know me better, they understand even better that my choice to work with the language was very obvious. And because working with Italian would not have been challenging enough, I chose the original local language/dialect romagnolo. Well, that is not quite true because my interest in minority languages goes back to university and my time in Corsica. In fact, I wrote my master’s thesis about the French linguistic policy towards one of its minority languages, Corsican. Therefore, it was easy to pick up such a subject as local minority language and try to support its survival and “new rise”. 

The idea was to work with romagnolo, but it wasn’t clear what to do exactly, what measures to take or which approach to choose. First of all I had to study the situation and get a better understanding what is the role of the language in society. The situation is complicated and I cannot explain it here in detail, even though I wanted to, otherwise this would be a scientific publication. Briefly said, romagnolo is dying. The measures taken during fascism, linguistic unification and general compulsory education (in Italian) for all, invention of TV, industrialism and people moving from the countryside to cities, the decades of the Italian economic miracle, Emilia-Romagna being a wealthy region with a lot of work opportunities that attracted many to move here, even from all the way from Sicily leading to a change in linguistic habits; these are all only the most obvious reasons to both voluntary and forced decreasing use of romagnolo.

It became clear to me that it is crucial to try to revitalize or even preserve what’s left, increase the visibility and contribute to the way people perceive the local language. Already shown in previous studies, the biggest and hardest part of conserving a (endangered) language is the transmission of the knowledge to the next generations. In addition to the actual language skills, there has to be also a natural environment where to use the language. Taking these facts into account, the best thing to do, is to concentrate on the younger generations in order to work on the current situation of romagnolo, and to expose young people even more to the language use and possibly stimulate an increase of interest towards the traditions.

So, what did I do in practice? I decided to divide the project in different parts, the focus still remaining on the youth. The more scientific part contains a research about the linguistic situation, young people’s competencies and attitudes towards romagnolo. I carried out the survey through Google form and in total I got 164 answers from people under 35 years in the Romagna area. What remains is to complete the analysis based on the answer and hopefully the results of this study can shed light on the current conditions and that they can be used to plan measures regarding the language and its future in the region. What comes to increase the visibility and therefore the knowledge of the language, I chose to approach young locals through social media platforms, where they are already present. Luckily, I can use the accounts of Informagiovani and SE.M.I. Associazione that already have an established group of followers from the region. There will be published two types of series regarding romagnolo

  • Parola del giorno: this is basically “the word of the day” with one word published everyday for 2 weeks. 
  • Quanto conosci il dialetto? : This is a quiz about romagnolo to be published in Instagram stories everyday for 10 days. 

Besides these actions, I am organizing a serie of meetings called AperiTrebAperitivo romagnolo in collaboration with Istituto Friedrich Schürr (which purpose is to protect and enhance the linguistic heritage of romagnolo), my hosting organization Cooperativa LibrAzione and Alberto Giovannini.These meetings in a convivial environment are aimed at young people under 40 who don’t really speak or understand the language. Organized at Café Solito Posto in Faenza every Thursday from 14th of October till 11th of November for 1,5 hours, it will be a beginning to actually transmit the language. In order to make these meetings even more attractive, we managed to invite two well-known figures from Romagna area who will come to tell about their work with the language: 1) Mattia Liverani: He is the coauthor of the books “Romagna Says”. 2) Marco Sant’Andrea works for the Associazione Torre dell’Orologio and is known by Faentinians especially from videos “Faenza in un minuto” where he explains historical facts, names, places etc. in one minute.

Indeed, there is still a lot to do in order to execute everything I planned to do regarding my personal project. But, I still have 2,5 months left! Anyway, it has been very instructive to plan a project of my own from zero and implement it. A project that only I am responsible for, that I can take to any direction I desire or make it as big as I want. In fact, in the beginning the problem was that there were too many ideas and I couldn’t find the right angle on how and where to focus. Also during the spring and my first months in Italy, the pandemic made it impossible to organize any events in presence. There were no guarantees that it would have been possible even later and therefore now that it is possible, I am already almost at the end of my project. In the end, I have to say I am grateful to have been given this chance to work with a topic I am passionate about. Gladly I have found the right people to support me and push forward. I have dedicated more time to my project than it was actually planned but that is just the proof of my devotion for this cause and my willingness to improve the situation. I could talk endlessly about languages and their importance, language preservation, minority language and the national policies towards them, about linguistic identity and attitudes. However, the point of this text was to tell a little bit about my personal project from the volunteering point-of-view but also raise awareness about the minority language situation in Romagna and the linguistic richness present in the area. If you would like to collaborate in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact me through our Instagram page @aperitivo_romagnolo. 

Laura, the Finnish linguist volunteer

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