“Safeguarding Italian language and culture”
The fighting battle of vice-president of Canadian Society for Italian Studies
By Elena Serra
There’s a organization in Canada whose aim is to promote the exchange of ideas and opinions with respect to the various aspects of Italian language and literature, from pedagogy to community to culture. We’re referring to the Società Canadese per gli Studi d’Italianistica (Canadian Society for Italian Studies), which brings together professionals and professors in the world of Italian studies and education by promoting dialogue and debate within the pages of the biannual Quaderni d’italianistica – the society’s official journal.
Corriere Canadese/Tandem interviewed Dr. Paola Basile, vice-president of the Società Canadese per gli Studi d’italianistica Scsi, which has been present in the U.S. for five years, or more precisely, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Originally from Rome and raised in Montreal, Basile, whose vice presidency comes to an end this year – tells us of her experience.
How many members does the Canadian Society for Italian Studies have?
“We have about 400 associates with about 250 who are registered and actively participating. We’re doing very well – if we look at our progress since the ’70s to today, the society has grown significantly, and we’re counting on increasing our registrations thanks to these conferences we’re holding in Italy that draw hundreds of people.”
Who are your associates?
“Almost all are professors of Italian studies, mostly in Canada and the U.S., and also in Europe. As well as from Italy, we have registrants from eastern Europe, England, Belgium, and also some from Australia and New Zealand, who have participated in our Trieste meeting. Therefore, we’re truly open to the world, and at the next conference in Venice, we also hope to have participants from Asia. Our associates also include students, who must be PhDs not Masters, however.”
What happens when someone registers?
“We check who you are and what you do, approving those who are actively involved in the Italian studies field. Being a member means being able to contribute to our publication Quaderni d’italianistica – obviously after an approval process that certifies academic qualifications for doctorate students. The focus, naturally, is on Canada and the U.S., but of course we won’t neglect Italy and Europe.”
What is your objective?
“The safeguarding of the Italian language and culture in the world, naturally, but also of the Italian-Canadian one, which is why we have various sessions dedicated to Italian-Canadian literature, culture, and film.”
Are those who take part in the directive Italians who are newly arrived to North America, or Italian-Canadians born and raised here?
“Robro Perin, the president, was raised here, and if I’m not mistaken, so is former president Olga Pugliese, while myself and others are from Italy. I’d say we’re a bit of a mix.”
So you’re also an example that, even being born and raised in another country, the Italian language can be maintained.
“I’d say so, even if, for example, participation in our events is also available in English and French. However, I work to avoid English-language domination, so I present my conferences in Italian, even though there’d be more participation if it were done in English. However, I want to keep the Italian language alive – that is my heartfelt cause, and I’ll continue along that path here in the U.S. as well, but I do see that many cede to English due to a question of increasing profits.”
Do you differences see between the Italian communities in Canada and those in the U.S.?
“Yes, many. Here, I’m also involved in the Italian-American society, the Little Italy of Cleveland, and it appears to me that everything that was Italian has been lost. If I compare this reality to that of Montreal or Toronto, I see that in Canada they still speak Italian or dialect and there are still tanglibles from Italy. Instead, the language here is gone, and all that’s left of the culture is the food, which isn’t even authentic but is Italian-American. I’d also like to promote the Italy of today, the real one, because we cannot be left behind the times and fall into stereotypes. Both in Canada and the U.S., there are small pseudo- somewhat idealized Italies insistent on family and Catholicism. But the reality in today’s Italy is quite different.”
Do you think ultimately we’ll be able to maintain the Italian language and culture in the world? “I think so. I’m fighting with all my might because our language and culture is beautiful. I teach it with love and I make them see an Italy that is different from what they learn through film and TV. I hope the other professors do the same, and that they overcome these conventions. The important family concept exists in Italy as it does in other countries – and I think everyone all over the world loves to eat. Italy is much more than all that.”
Story Location: http://www.tandemnews.com/viewstory.php?storyid=10440