Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Celebrating minority languages in Scotland

On Friday 22nd June the Gaelic community of James Gillespies High School, some 130 pupils, came together to celebrate the end of the Erasmus+ Champions of Languages and Minorities project. In addition to the pupils and Gaelic speaking staff, including our Headmaster Donald MacDonald, we were joined by representatives of the Gaelic Parents Council, The James Gillespie's Parents Council and the wider Edinburgh Gaelic community. 

Our presentation began with an introduction from Mr Seonaidh Charity who was instrumental in setting up the Erasmus+ link and led our first two Erasmus+ excursions. Mr Charity spoke at length about how building links with other countries and minority language speakers had helped the students involved to re-evaluate and better appreciate their minority language and culture by allowing them to see that they were not alone in Europe, as well as praising our hosts in both Finland and Poland for their friendship and hospitality.

This speech was followed by a presentation from two of the pupils, Lachlan peel and James Murray, who attended our excursion to Sterzing, Italy in September 2017. The pupils presentation, which they created with no teacher input, covered our excursion in-depth, approaching the topic in a way which fully engaged their audience of fellow pupils. The boys praised the educational and personal benefit of the Erasmus+ project and encouraged everyone present to grab the opportunity if they are lucky enough to be offered it in the future.

All our invited guests were impressed by the Erasmus+ project and the positive impact it has had on the pupils at James Gillespie's High School, with the question on everyone's lips being "when will the next project be taking place".

Monday, June 4, 2018

Festival in Switzerland

Report in Romansh news on Swiss television (RTR - Radiotelevisiun Svizra Rumantscha).

Our festival was celebrated on Wednesday 28 March 2018 from 10am until evening. It took place in the Aula – the school hall - and was attended by around 200 people. 

All the Romansch speaking students at our school were invited along with their parents. In addition, local dignitaries, politicians and members of the education board were there. 
 Of course, Romansch organisations like the Lia Rumantscha, Dicziunari Rumantsch Grischun, the local Romantsch radio and television stations and the Romantsch newspapers were represented.
We were also very pleased to welcome Nadine Habegger from Movetia, the organistion that financed the project for the Swiss.

There were speeches in the hall followed by workshops in which the experiences of each group were presented and short films were shown of each school that we visited.

Parents and guests circulated from room to room, affording them a glimpse of everything we did and saw over the two years.

Finally, everybody was invited to an apero and snacks in the mensa – the school canteen.

We combined the festival with the traditional annual dinner and show organised by the senior Romantsch class. The motto this year was Harry Potter, which seemed fitting with the Welsh dragons still fresh in our minds.

It was a day that was enjoyed by all, students, parents and invited guests, a fitting end to a wonderful project. Thank you again to everybody.


Review of Swiss teachers 5/2018:

This article appeared in the May edition of “Bildung Schweiz – Dachverband Lehrerinnen und Lehrer Schweiz,”  the umbrella association of teachers in Switzerland. 

Maximiliano Wepfer
Translated by Chris Fannin

The journey of the language champions of the Grisons has come to an end.

As representatives of the Romansch language, students from the class 6Gc of the Bündnerkantonsschule (BKS) Switzerland completed an exchange program with other language minorities throughout Europe, entitled “Champions of Languages and Minorities”. All those who participated look back at the exchange with enthusiasm.

“I did not look for the project, it rather came to me” says Werner Carigiet, Romansch teacher and form teacher of the class 6Gc at the BKS.
In 2016 his colleague and English teacher at the BKS, Chris Fannin approached him with an email. A school in Finland had asked the BKS if they would be interested in taking part in a European Erasmus + School Partnership Program, “Champions of Languages and Minorities”.
The aim of the project was an exchange between European high schools where regional minority languages are taught. At the same time there was the possibility of strengthening the intercultural competence as well as the awareness of the students’ own language and culture. Werner Carigiet surmised that the request was due to the fact that the Rhaeto Romansch language has gained prominence among European language minorities since it became the first small language to achieve recognition in 1938, when it became the fourth official language in Switzerland. Chris Fannin added that “the Romansch speaking population of Switzerland are in some ways ahead of the other minorities in that they are very well organised with their own media.”
In addition, the BKS brings with it a great deal of experience resulting from their two-yearly exchange with the Romansch speakers in the Dolomites in Italy. For Fannin and Carigiet it was clear from the start, “This school partnership fits in perfectly with the philosophy of our school, we must participate.”

The most positive plus point: the meetings
Apart from promoting a minority language,  the BKS created the opportunity for encounter pedagogy, an important element in the recommendations of the Swiss Education Authorities. What is meant by this is best left to the students of 6Gc to explain.
For Lina Camenisch, who was in Chojnice (Poland) with the Kashubian minority, the subject has broadened. “Before the exchange program we discussed more about minorities in Latin languages, whereas we have now examined other minority languages more closely.” By means of the exchange they have learned from one another how to deal with discrimination and prejudice. For this purpose, they enacted situations in workshops involving discrimination and had to try and work out possible ways of dealing with them,  which might lead to a “happy end” to the situation. Gianna Caprez was impressed by the openness and hospitality of the Welsh in Llangollen, in contrast to the reserved manner of Switzerland. “They hugged us warmly from the beginning, without even knowing us, and helped us wherever they could.”
Alexander Bott, who was also in Chojnice, appreciated being able to make friends and, thanks to the stay with host families, getting an insight into their everyday life. “It was a great pleasure to realise that other minorities are not that different and far away from us.” There were, however, differences for instance in the infrastructure. The villages in Poland are not as well connected as they are in Switzerland. For Curdin Steiner the exchange of customs was something that impressed him: the students from the other countries cooked specialities from their region or sang traditional songs. He was able to experience the Lucia festival in Grankulla in Finland, which is accompanied by singing. But he also mentioned that, “Not all the youth of the other minorities are able to enjoy such a high standard of education as we are in Romansch.”

The puzzle fits together
Having already had contact with Movetia, the Swiss Agency for exchange and mobility, turned out be advantageous for Carigiet. He was already aware of the fact that, within the framework of the Swiss solution, Movetia financially supported participation of Swiss schools in European Erasmus+ programs. The catch: the school executive had just three days to examine and approve the project from the day it was handed in. “A monstrous idea, thank goodness I did not understand everything in the application form down to the last detail”, said the headmaster, Gion Lechmann with a laugh. As a result of previous projects with Werner Carigiet, however, the headmaster had complete trust in him. Carigiet knew the organisational and financial limits of the school. “For this reason I was certain that something good would result from it”. All the same, the project was only able to be realised thanks to the cooperation of teachers not directly involved, who agreed to move test arrangements and give the class time to catch up on school matter that they had missed. Lechmann is very grateful to his staff for their understanding. He is convinced: “Such a project is only possible in a school that promotes the interdisciplinarity necessary in a trilingual school.” The exchange program was also demanding in terms of resources. Not only the students but also the teachers were absent for a week at a time. “One can and should not have such a project every year. There will have to be a new impulse for another such program.”
And seeing that so much was gained from this project, there has to be another impulse.

Minority is not just minority
The starting point for each minority is different: Swedish in Finland is on equal terms with Finnish and with Sweden the Finnish Swedes have an entire country of Swedish speakers next to them. The same applies to the German/Italian South Tirol with an even larger number of German speakers behind them. The situation of Welsh in Wales and Gaelic in Scotland is comparable to Raeto Romansch in Switzerland. All three of them have to survive without a large number of speakers of their language surrounding them. However, as in the case of Sweden and South Tirol/Italy, their languages are officially recognised and are taught equally in schools. The Kashubians in Poland occupy a special position as “onlookers”. In spite of state support, their language has no official status and is only taught two lessons a week in schools. In the classes participating only two students spoke Kashubian as their mother tongue. This led Chris Fannin to observe that Kashubian is rather an exhibition object in Poland. “A culture and a language do not belong in a museum, but are something living.”

Self-confidence has grown significantly
Due to the composition of her family – her father learned Romansch to be able to speak to her and teach her the language - Lina Camenisch learned at an early age just how important their language is. This attitude has become entrenched over the past two years: “Romansch is what we are. We are the future of this language and it is up to us to use it and pass it on to others.” Gianna Caprez takes the same line: “We have to set higher targets to retain our language. If I want five francs, I have to ask for ten francs.” When one hears these words, it becomes clear why Werner Carigiet speaks of an increased self-confidence in his pupils. “We achieved something in one week that might only have been possible in one year of normal school lessons.” The exchange meetings caused the students to reflect in a way that would not have been possible in the artificial atmosphere of a classroom.
After the exchange meetings in Finland, Poland, South Tirol and Wales the program “Champions of Language Minorities” drew to an end with a festival on 28 March 2018 at the BKS. A planned evaluation meeting involving all participating teachers, which had been planned in Chur this spring, did not take place. Werner Carigiet and Christopher Fannin regret this very much, as an important mosaic stone is missing. In addition, Werner Carigiet would have wanted the know-how of the Rhaeto-Romansch students to be made use of in matters pertaining to minorities. In the early stages of the project many aspects were rather superficially covered. Apart from that he looks back on two enjoyable years from which he learned and profited a great deal. “Minority languages have a tendency to shut themselves off. For precisely this reason it is important to open themselves with such projects.” Carigiet  looks to the future with optimism: “Nobody of my generation, including my grandchildren, will see Rhaeto Romansch die out.”



Newspaper article in 'La Quotidiana' (Romansch daily Newspaper March 28th 2018):



Videos about the meetings 

(GERMAN subtitles only):




Meeting in Chojnice/Poland:

Meeting in Sterzing/Italy:


Meeting in Llangollen/Wales:

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The festival in Italy

We held our festival on the evening of 12 April 2018.
We had invited the families of our Erasmus student group, friends, classmates, teacher colleagues, the headmasters of the schools of our town and local political representatives (among them the mayors of Sterzing and the surrounding municipalities and the city council responsible for education and culture). A representative of the EURAC (European Academy) of Bozen as well as journalists from the local newspapers and the TV station RAI Sender Bozen were also present.

Our survey of the two-year-project started with a presentation of our partner schools and some facts about their language minorities. With photos and short films we also showed some funny moments and anectodes that had happened in the course of the two years.
Then our guests had the opportunity to have a closer look at our exhibition made up of various stalls where our students reported about their trips and gave further information about the countries they had visited.

At the buffet our guests could also taste various food specialities of the 6 minorities: Scottish Shortbread, Welsh Cakes, Polish Pierogis, Swiss Bizochels, Finnish Runebergtartor and Südtiroler Apfelstrudel. They could also take a recipe booklet home.
Our students made a tour around the exhibition with other classes during the lessons the following days. The exhibition can still be visited in the hall of our school until the end of the school year.

The media reported about our festival in two newspaper articles and a very nice TV report on RAI Sender Bozen.

Our guests were really impressed by the work and the outcome of our project. And with the festival our Erasmus group has again realized what they have achieved and what an enriching experience this project has been. We teachers are extremely proud of the work of our students!
Andrea & Dora

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

How we arranged the festival in Finland

Our project is coming to an end and in order to summarize and celebrate what we have achieved during the past two years, each school has organized a “festival” of some kind. The purpose has been to show others what we have done and learnt and spread the message about the importance of minorities and minority languages.

In Finland we celebrated the project during an entire week in mid-May. The week before we had invited a guest to come and talk to the whole school. Our guest was the actor Sampo Sarkola who talked about the relationship between language and identity. He shared quite a lot of personal experiences and told us in what way he feels it’s different to do theatre in Finnish compared to Swedish. We had also made a visit to The Swedish Assembly of Finland, Folktinget, with the project group. Folktinget is an organisation with the statutory task of safeguarding the Swedish language and the interests of the Swedish-speaking population in Finland.

For the festival week itself, all the students involved in the project had been split into groups, responsible for one day each. We had also hung up posters around the school with information and pictures about all the minorities involved in the project.

The week started with a quiz about European minorities, prepared by Valter and Mats. They invited other students in school to come and take part and gave the winner a prize. On Tuesday, Alexandra and Linnea had another quiz, but this time the topic was languages. They played recordings of Welsh, Gaelic, German, Kashubian, Romansch and Finland-Swedish and the participants had to guess the language and in what region the language is spoken.

On Wednesday, Otto and Tomas gave visitors the opportunity to use VR-glasses and experience the 360 degree photos and Google flights that had been made during the meeting in Poland. The next day the theme was culture. Trine, Eva and Carolina had baked Welsh cakes and Scottish shortbread that they treated the visitors to. They had also made a collage of pictures from the meetings in Poland, Italy and Wales and compiled some information about customs and traditions in the minorities represented in the project. Friday was the last day and the theme was minority rights. Astrid, Valerie and Iia had prepared a sort of bingo game where students could mark the boxes they felt applied to them, e.g. “I can get service in my mother tongue” or “I can read newspapers in my minority language.”

All in all, we were quite happy with the week. It was a fun way to summarize the project for the rest of the school and for ourselves. As teachers, we are very proud of the work our students have done throughout the project and it’s been great to hear the students say that they feel they’ve actually learnt quite a lot.

Sarah Mattila & Brita Långström
Project coordinators

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Drama manual

One of the final products of our project is a drama manual. The purpose of the manual is to function as inspiration and aid for those who want to work with theatre pedagogy as a creative method. Feel free to use it yourself and recommend it to colleagues!


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Project meeting in Wales

The last meeting of the project was held in Wales on March 4-9, 2018. Here you can hear the students' experiences of the week!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Bill of rights

One of the things the students were asked to do during the project meeting in Wales was to create a bill of rights for 2nd language or minority language groups. This is what they came up with!