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Gentiloni: “The Italian language, a heritage to protect” (Il Messaggero)

Tomorrow and the day after Florence will host the second edition of the Joint Action for the Italian Language in the World. I would like to dedicate it to a great Statesman who devoted so much effort to promoting our language: Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. Spreading the Italian language is part of our Country’s foreign policy. Because language is the means of transmitting our culture, our values and our vision of the world. It is an essential part in the promotion of what we call our “Country System”. The young boys and girls who study Italian today will become the tourists who will visit our Country in the future, the consumers who will appreciate Made in Italy products, the entrepreneurs who will invest in Italy, the citizens of the world who love the Italian culture and lifestyle. My very first commitment, as foreign minister, was to take stock of what is being done to spread the Italian language. The result was a complex and composite picture that went well beyond our expectations. In 2014, the year of the first edition of the Joint Action, the data on the spread of Italian indicated approximately 1.5 million students in the world. Today we have counted up to 2.3 million, and the figures are not complete yet. Who are these students? Where do they live? The first catchment area is the roughly 80 million people of Italian origin who want to maintain a lifeline with their roots: in Germany, France, Australia, United States, Argentina. The second-largest group, which is quickly climbing up the ranking, is the category of foreigners who do not have “blood ties” but are interested in the Italian language either for professional reasons, for geographic proximity, or because they feel the appeal of the Italian culture in general (art, music, design, cuisine…). I am thinking of the 3,000 young Chinese who have signed up for the Marco Polo and Turandot programmes, or of the 80,000 Peruvians enrolled in the courses of the Italian Cultural Institute in Lima. In Florence, we will also take stock of the policies promoting the Italian language and the deadlines set two years ago. Among the many projects implemented, we will present the new web portal for the Italian language, which will finally gather all the information and resources necessary to all the students, teachers and professionals in a single website. Enhancing and improving the promotion of Italian abroad is a commitment shared by the whole Cabinet – starting with the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Education and Culture – and requires coordinating different initiatives and players: our diplomatic and consular network, the Italian Cultural Institutes, together with the players who contribute to the promotion of Italian culture and language abroad (Italian schools, Italian lectorships), in addition to the Dante Alighieri Society, now under the leadership of professor Andrea Riccardi. Without forgetting the key role that the public TV and radio broadcasting service can play in this area. This strategy is in turn integrated with other system goals, such as attracting more foreign students to Italian universities, who are far from filling their full potential, and which can have important spillover effects on improving the teaching of Italian to immigrants, a factor that is essential for the success of integration policies. This year, the Joint Action coincides with the start of the Week of Italian Language in the World, from 17 to 23 October, scheduling hundreds of events in as many as 130 Countries in five continents. The theme chosen is Italian creativity and brands, especially in the sector of fashion, lifestyles and design: another tangible example of the complementarity that exists between economic promotion and the projection of Italian language and culture abroad.      

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