The plea of the intellectuals to Macron: do not marginalise the Italian language

Dante Alighieri

On the eve of the visit in France of President Sergio Mattarella who, on May 2, will meet his counterpart Emmanuel Macron in Amboise, where in 1519 Leonardo da Vinci died, to celebrate the fifth centenary of the great genius, a critical issue crops up about the cultural relations between the two Countries. The teaching of the Italian language on the other side of the Alps, complains a plea launched by Jean-Luc Nardone, professor at Toulouse and president of the Italian scholars of France, runs the risk of deteriorating severely for the choices of the Paris government in teaching matters. The document is signed by many French teachers, but also by important Italian personalities, like the writers Andrea Camilleri, Gianni Biondillo, and Anthony Moresco, actor Ascanio Celestini and director Emma Dante, historians Luciano Canfora and Carlo Ginzburg, and linguistics scholars Paolo Fabbri and Raffaele Simone.

The object of the controversy is the “unprecedented dwindling” of available places for the teaching of the Italian language in schools. For the Agrégation channel, allowing to teach in the secondary schools, the places have been halved, and for 2019 there are only five left. For the Capes (an acronym that stands for certificate of aptitude for professorships for the teaching of the second degree), enabling teaching in secondary schools, the places went from 28 to 16, while the seats, the document reminds, “remained 35 in 2016, 2015, 2014, and were 64 in 2013”.

They are impressive figures, even more so than, the text broadcast by Nardone (signed in five days by about 3,500 people), the request of the Italian study, on the part of children is not decreasing, but it is clear that the lower offer of professorships in this field will discourage it. On the other hand, the demand of young people seeking to begin to grapple with the language of Dante in the universities of the French is growing, because many have not been able to study it in high school, while they wanted to do it. We are faced with a “oppressive policy”, declares the appeal taking its cue from the fifth centenary of Leonardo’s death, which is tantamount to withdraw the Mona Lisa from the collections of the Louvre.

A direct testimony comes from Luciano Canfora, which subscribed firmly to the appeal: “Last January, I attended a seminar of Italian studies in France, in Aix-en-Provence, University of Aix-Marseille, and I had to see that the ranks of the scholars are dwindling because of ministerial choices that aren’t justified in the least. From the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, the relations between our Country and France were very close. And the Italian Risorgimento, take the moves right from the descent of the revolutionary army at the command of Napoleon. How can all of this be forgotten?”.

Among other things, the conduct of the French government is in contrast to the rest of the world. “I understand — Canfora observes — that in the United States the interest for the Italian culture is in strong growth. And in Germany I found a great passion for our Country, not only in the descendants of our countrymen, but in many Germans, also in the eastern areas that have not known the immigration from Italy”.

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