Photo story from our language workshop for kids

V okviru projekta Večjezičnost velja smo se povezali z Mladinskim centrom v Novi Gorici, ki med zimskimi počitnicami organizira počitniške dejavnosti za otroke.

Preparations for the workshop

Pri pripravi prostora in izvedbi programa sta nam pomagali študentki druge stopnje slovenistike iz Univerze v Novi Gorici. Kako je bilo? Splendido! Terrific! Fantastishe! Izjemno! Genial!

MC-BM_Workshop_1-3-2017 (9)Najprej je Matic Pavlič z otroki razglabljal o mijavmijavščini – in kako se jezik mačk razlikuje od človeških jezikov. Če bi se srečali mačka iz Slovenije in mačka iz kitajske, bi se lahko kaj pomenili v mijavmijavščini? Seveda. Kaj pa če bi mi srečali kitajske otroke? Hm …

Zakaj pa sploh obstaja na svetu toliko jezikov? Na to odgovarja prastara zgodba o babilonskem stolpu. Mi pa smo ugotovili, da je pametno poznati vsaj kakšno besedo v tujem jeziku. Zato smo se razdelili po skupinah, da bi se prek igre katero tudi naučili.

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Igrali smo se jezikovni spomin s pari, ki so bili sestavljeni iz ‘prevodni dvojnic’, torej besed z istim pomenov, ki pripadata dvema različnima jezikoma. Podobno smo spremenili tudi igro domine, kjer so bile namesto pik na ploščicah izpisane številke v različnih jezikih.

MC-BM_Workshop_1-3-2017 (30)Nazadnje pa smo po skupinah tekmovali, katera bo uspela po nabiralnikih razvrstiti čim več lističev, na katerih so bila imena različnih jezikov. Na nabiralnikih so bili izpisani seznami jezikov po jezikovnih družinah: en nabiralnik za romanske, drug za slovanske, ugrofinske, indoiranske, avstoazijske in germanske jezike.

Bilo je veliko smeha in tekanja. Ostal pa je lep spomin in ogromno znanja. Sorting languages acording to their families

Večjezičnost velja!
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Multilinguism is real

Yesterday, 21 February 2017, on the World Mother Language Day, the Youth Center Nova Gorica hosted our event Multilingualism Matters! As a reality or as a myth? Matic Pavlič,  a fellow researcher at the Faculty of Humanities and the Center for Cognitive Sciences of Language at the University of Nova Gorica, lectured on breaking myths about the multilingualism and disseminated information on the research done by Slovenian Branch of BM. The visit was excellent – and the lecture as well! More pics belowPhotos.

AThEME project newsletter

Have you read our latest AThEME newsletter? It is accesible here!

Just over half-way into this 5-year European research project, and as theResearch section of this latest issue shows, research is well underway on all four of AThEME’s research themes. One of the ways in which we aim to share all this information is by means of the international Bilingualism Matters (BM) network on learning multiple languages. Find out more about what each of the AThEME BM country branches has been up to over the past months in the Dissemination news section. Many upcoming AThEME activities are listed under Upcoming Events. And last but not least, we are proud to introduce this issue’s Meet the Researcher, Beatriz Fernández from the University of the Basque Country. 

Don’t miss any of our latest news about AThEME research themes, publications and dissemination activities, which are updated monthly on the new AThEME website.


Bilinguism: myth or reality? (UPCOMING EVENT)

What: popular talk on multilingualism

For whom: parents, pedagogiacl workers and all those that are interested in cognitive sciences of langauges

When: Tesday, February 21 2017 at 17:00 (worlds day of mother tongue)

Where: Mladinski center/Youth Centre Nova Gorica (Bazoviška 4)

Krajevna dvojezična tabla


Multilingualism is everywhere around us: from local traffic inscriptions and subtitled foreign language films to linguistically mixed families, classes and countries. Although we face it every day, we do not know it thoroughly. Many believe that bilingual people do not speak a single language correctly, that bilingualism causes too much effort for the brain and that as a result of exposure to two languages students learn less. Others believe that bilingualism raises their mental capacities to insensible level and that it protect them against Alzheimer’s disease at the same time. These are all prejudices and myths. But what is the reality? Matic Pavlič, PhD, linguist from the University of Nova Gorica will present some interesting experiments that point out the impact that the multilingualism has on human brain.

Hvala v različnih jezikih

The talk is organized by Centre for Cognitive Sciences of Language (University of Nova Gorica) and Mladinski center/Youth Centre Nova Gorica.

Further information and the compulsory registration at or by phone 040-234-423.


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Language wokrshop for kids (UPCOMING EVENT)

When: WEDNESDAY, 1. 3. 2017, 9.00–12.00

Where: Mladinski center Nova Gorica (Bazoviška 4)

What: Nowadays children get to know some foreign words very early in their lives –  you are most probably no exception to that – and sometimes this may be enough. It is certainly enough for you to join us playing language domino, language memory, language quiz and other fun games all in connection with languages.

How many languages are there in the World? How do people communicate when they do not speak a common language? Why do certain words in different languages sound so familiar?
And finally, after all these questions answered, the big game: we will take up the role of postmen and deliver postcards with regards in different languages.


More info: workshop will be organised as part of holiday activities in Mladinski Center Nova Gorica (from 27. 2. 2017 to 3. 3. 2017, to apply call 040 234 423 or write to, and will be carried out by dr. Matic Pavlič from Center of cognitive studies of languages and by students of Slovene Studies at University in Nova Gorica.

Click here for complete program.
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Living with two languages: from childhood to third age (CONFERENCE)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016. The hall of the Provincial Council (Corso Italia 55, Gorizia) housed a conference on Multilingualism, organised by Slovenian branch of the project Multilingualism Matters and Slovenian Research Institute. The working languages of the conference were Slovenian and Italian (simultaneous interpretation was provided). More than 60 participants attended it, among whom there were many teachers and practitioners from local schools.

What did we talk about? Both in general and professional public bilingualism has always been inducing interest and curiosity. Now, old doubts and prejudices (stating that bilingualism may cause confusion to the speakers and prevent children from achieving good learning results for example) are finally refuted. We know – and these facts are proven by scientific research – that, quite the contrary, it endows speakers with communicative competence in two (or more) languages and has a number of advantages from childhood to the third age. Therefore, modern policies at European level strongly support multilingualism from early age on.


And what is actually proven by above mentioned modern scientific research? In the first part of the conference, we focused to the neurocognitive aspects and advantages of bilingualism. Mirta Vernice from Milan Bicocca University spoke about the impact of bilingualism on neurocognitive development of an individual during childhood and adolescence while Vojko Kavčič from Gerontological Institute of Wayne State University in Detroit stressed the advantages of bilingualism in the fight against dementia.


In the second part, the latest research carried out on the Italian-Slovenian language contact was presented. Collaborators of the strategic project JezikLingua, Susanna Pertot, Klara Vodopivec and Jana Pečar gave us a few guidelines for the targeted acquisition of Slovenian language in multilingual peer groups of children. Head of the Slovenian branch of Multilingualism project (from the Center for Cognitive Sciences of Language at the University of Nova Gorica), Sara Andreetta, presented the results of the pilot study of 10-year-old bilingual children with respect to their language skills. Finally, Matejka Grgič from the Slovenian Research Institute (SLORI) presented some phenomena of language switching with regard to language use, perception and ideology.



On June 28th 2016 the public conference “Living with two languages from childhood to the third age” will take place in Gorizia (corso Italia, 55).

The conference will be divided into two sections: a cognitive one, and an empirical one, focusing on some studies realized in the area of Gorizia.

The event will be in Slovenian and Italian. Simultaneous translation will be provided.


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picture experiment

From March to June 2015 we collected data for one of AThEME studies. Participants were kids aged 10 y.o.: half of them were bilingual Slovenian/Italian, half monolingual Slovenian.
We would like to give a big thank you to all the schools that involved their students in our project. We therefore thank directors and teachers from:

– Elementary school Šempas, Šempas
– Elementary school Vincenzo e Diego de Castro, Piran
– Elementary school Dante Alighieri, Izola
– Elementary school Pier Paolo Vergerio Il Vecchio, Koper
– Comprehensive Institute in Slovenian language, Gorizia
– Elementary school Milojke Štrukelj, Nova Gorica
– Elementary school Ivana Roba, Šempeter pri Gorici
– Elementary school Dobrovo, Dobrovo


Ana, can you tell us how your family is linguistically made up?

My husband is Italian, and the family in which I grew up is a mixed family: my mother is Italian and my father belongs to the Slovenian minority in Italy. My husband and I have two children: I speak Slovenian with them and he speaks Italian.

In the family in which you grew up did you speak both Italian and Slovenian?

Yes, we did. Then my parents decided to enroll my sister and I in Slovenian language schools in Italy. Therefore my schooling was in Slovenian. Italian, however, was a curricular subject. We studied Italian just like Italian students do, not like a foreign language. Then I studied at the University of Trieste, therefore in Italian. Once I started working I studied in Slovenian what I learnt in Italian because I needed it for my job.

With your children you are the referent just for Slovenian and your husband for Italian. Was that a spontaneous choice?

That was a choice made long before kids arrived. When my husband and I decided to live together we could go anywhere else, where it could be easier for my husband getting a job. However I didn’t feel that in a 100% Italian area I would have been able to hand down my language and my culture alone, without a social and cultural background. When we had to choose where to live then, we decided to come here, on the border.

You come from a minority, the Slovenian minority in Italy. Then, you should have a history and a special territorial bond that may differ from other people coming from Slovenia. Do you think it’s important handing down culture and the historical events the minority went through, to your children?

Social and political situation has changed. I grew up in the Eighties, when there was still Jugoslavia and the social context was different. Our parents either had lived the war or, if they were older, they had lived fascism. Therefore, in those moments the minority felt like “if we don’t survive they will wipe us out”. Indeed, that’s what fascism did, it persecuted us for 25 years. I still remember stories my father told me about my grandfather, who had to hide himself and hide his books, otherwise they would have burnt them. Or about Slovenian intellectuals that were killed during Fascism because they sang or directed church choirs. We listened to some of these stories even at school, when we were just eight years old. So there’s a strong feeling of belonging to another ethnical group; we have roots, here I am and here I want to stay. Furthermore, we’ve always been here! We’ve become a minority just when they put a border. Before that, we simply were Slovenian who lived here. This border transformed us in a minority and we struggled to survive.  Luckily nowadays this border doesn’t exist anymore, so I don’t tell my children that they belong to a minority because I don’t think it still exists a minority! In the Slovenian language there’s a word, “za mejo”, that means “beyond the border”. Since there’s no border we simply are Slovenian just like the others. I’m sure that I will hand down to my kids the historical contexts because we must not forget, but when I was a child people were afraid of being a minority. Indeed, many people of my age didn’t talk in Slovenian with their parents because parents were afraid. They had lived in terror, so they thought that if they didn’t speak Slovenian anybody would have known they belonged to the minority. This was a great loss. However, nowadays many people, maybe looking at their Italianized surnames discover their roots and try at least to know something about their history. Many of them didn’t know anything because Fascism created a big process of Slavic denationalization and Italian nationalization in areas mostly populated by Slovenian. Therefore, it’s important that my children know the history but nowadays contexts are different and I really feel like we can look ahead. There’s more freedom now and I don’t feel threatened by an extinction.

Getting back to the linguistic aspects, which language do you speak with your husband?

If we are alone we speak Italian.

What about when you are all together?

We try to keep using our own languages: I speak Slovenian with children, my husband speaks Italian and between my husband and me we speak Italian, that’s the most practical option.

Do children always differentiate language/parent or does it ever happen that they talk to you in Italian and to him in Slovenian?

No, they always differentiate when we are home. It happens that, when we are with grandparents, who are Italian and don’t understand Slovenian, kids approach to me in Italian sometimes.

That’s very interesting!

Yes, they recognize the context and they don’t want nobody to be excluded, even though I keep speaking to them in Slovenian. My mother-in-law says that when they get on the train to go to grandparents’ house they switch code, even between them.

So which language do they normally use between them?

It might be mostly Slovenian but when they are at their grandparents’ place my mother-in-law says that they never use Slovenian between them. The reason might also be that often they are with cousins or other Italian people, so language of communication is obviously Italian.

Do you think they have a dominant language?

I think that now they are pretty balanced. I also think that when they’ll start school the school language will be the dominant one; since they will attend school in Slovenia that language will be Slovenian.

According to your own experience, are there advantages and/or disadvantages as a consequence of this bilingual situation?

Well, we live half in Italy and half in Slovenia, therefore children are able to communicate with everyone. They never feel uncomfortable in understanding or talking with other people. They never ask themselves questions. As soon as they hear which of the two languages is spoken they adapt themselves and use that language. Furthermore, according to my own experience of being a bilingual, I would say that this is a question that monolinguals ask, but bilinguals wouldn’t ask that to themselves. It’s like the question that I’ve been asked many times “do you consider yourself more Italian or more Slovenian?”. Well, I’m just what I am and I don’t want to choose. This question, however, made me feel like they wanted me to make a choice between black and white. Choosing would have meant choosing between one or another half of my family. So it’s just a society issue. I hope my children live in a historical context where no one will ask them what they are but that they would be evaluated just by their qualities.

Are opportunities to talk one or the other language balanced in their daily life?

Thay attend a Slovenian-language kindergarten in Italy but there’s a lot of children who are Italian monolinguals so sometimes they speak Italian with them. Then they do other activities in Slovenia. In the afternoon they are always with my mom, who speaks Italian, or with my mother-in-law, who also speaks Italian.

Hvala! Grazie!