University of Aveiro (Portugal)
Department of Education and Psychology
Plurilingual Kamishibaï Contest since 2018
Extract from an interview with Delphine Leroy on February 14, 2020 in Aosta within the framework of the Erasmus+ Kamilala project
Portugal now has a large number of foreigners who arrived in the 1990s. It is no longer solely a country defined by the massive emigration of the 1960s, it is also a country of immigration. The training of teachers is very important to work on these questions of taking into account the languages of families.
The teachers in Portugal acknowledge the native languages of their students and value them, but then they feel great difficulty in taking them into account in pedagogical terms. When questioned on this point, they mention three major obstacles: the uselessness of the family language in the educational context in Portugal, the lack of a linguistic policy in the sense of diversity, and the absence of the instruction of these languages in the curriculum. For them, the necessity is the children’s academic success, and therefore there is a great reluctance to work with languages of origin that are not recognized within the school. And then, the big question always came back, even at the level of continuing education: “It’s all very well, you academics, you always have grand ideas, but you don’t know the field, whereas we have a program to respect. We can’t invent work outside the curriculum just for fun. So we’re not going to do it. And anyway, we don’t have materials.”
After this feedback we understood the need to really identify some concrete elements at the level of training. We had to convince them of the necessity, of the importance of taking into account the languages of the families, of the visibility of these languages as well as the openness of the school to what is outside.
We then started to go to conferences, like Edilic. That’s how I discovered the Dulala association. All of a sudden, we saw more materials for fieldwork, concrete proposals for teachers and I said to myself, “There, that’s good, that’s the next step.”
“There has been a change in Portugal at the level of school policy concerning autonomy and flexibility in schools. They have a number of hours to dedicate to school or class projects outside of the national curriculum, depending on the region and the individual school. So it was a good time to be able to offer it in the schools. At first, I didn’t know if it would work because it was so new.
Would teachers buy in, would they not? And finally, I realized that it’s not that hard to sell something you believe in. I dedicated myself a lot and it worked. At the beginning, I intervened in all possible structures, I presented the project and animated a kamishibaï workshop in each school. As I didn’t have any Portuguese Kamishibai, I translated 3 French Kamishibai and my first Kamishibai was Nya-Nya. I went to the schools with Nya-Nya translated into Portuguese, and I recounted the story to all the primary classes. They said to me: “Kami, Kami, Kami what? what does it mean?” There was even an article in the newspaper. I had an interview on the radio. It’s true that I did a little bit of marketing.
I went to see the teachers, the teachers in the schools with our master teachers, and I always went with them and I did a reading and a Kamishibaï presentation. I showed them that this was another way of telling stories, a very old technique that didn’t require much, just a box that could be created with children. And a lot of schools began to construct their butai, it was very funny because all of a sudden in the schools we work with in the department of Aveiro – we started in Aveiro- the children all knew the word “Kamishibai”.
Every summer, the University of Aveiro organizes an “Academia de Verão” (Summer Academy) and the department where I work, Education and Psychology, proposed activities for the sixth/fifth grade, I went with them to the park, to the university garden. We put fabrics on the ground on the lawn and with the butai, we told stories. It was very nice because it was something completely different, something new. And it’s true that little by little, the teachers saw that there was potential. And that’s how it started, a really successful experience.
At the beginning, I thought I would start the initial training with the second year master students and propose it as an Action Research project. My master’s students went to the schools to do their internship and their pedagogical project, which then gave rise to theses about the Kamisihibaï carried out with primary, middle, or high school teachers.
At the end of the first year, the results showed that the teachers-to-be, once in the field, would spread this practice. In the end, things worked well in the schools. The teachers said to themselves, “Oh, this is great and it works really well. It’s an assignment that motivates the child because it’s personal. And then, there is something else that is extraordinary, that all of the curricular learning is present in this work, even if we play, since it is working while playing.”
And the teachers realized that the children were progressing and that there is real learning at all levels, the mother tongue, the language of schooling, music, history, geography, etc.
Rosa is Portuguese. When she was nine years old, she moved to France and studied there until she obtained her M.A.S. “I started with Portuguese as my mother tongue. When my parents fled the war and I went to France, I didn’t speak a word of French. The 70’s were very difficult: we were immigrants and Portuguese was not well viewed in France in those years. I was forced to manage, to learn the language also thanks to intercomprehension: before learning French, I went through Spanish. I had a little friend in my class who translated French into Spanish for me. This friend would tell me: “The teacher said you have to do this and that. Tomorrow you have to bring such and such.” In order to get into French, over time, I began to block out Portuguese. I denigrated Portuguese because it was a language that was not known, not considered. I was in a kind of denial: at a certain point, I stopped speaking Portuguese and spoke only French at home. French then became my mother tongue. I had forgotten Portuguese. It came back much later. When I went to university. It was there, but I didn’t speak it. I understood it, but it was only once I began my professional life that the desire to speak it, the desire to rediscover its literature, to revisit its history – to give it a valued place – appeared.
Sincerely, I don’t think that it’s innocent that I am working on these questions today. To find a project that can give a place to languages and their speakers, is a great joy for me. I think that I may have a mission for these children. To not leave them in situations of suffering. Often, when there is no visibility of a language by the other, denial settles in and the child begins to suffer. I work on these questions, not only in a pedagogical way but also from an existential point of view, from the essence of being. That is to say, I am interested in the question of respecting and valuing a human being in all that constitutes him or her: his or her culture and language(s).
As a little girl, I would have liked someone to treat me this way, and in a way, I experienced it through this little friend who helped me with intercomprehension. He was a god to me. All of a sudden I thought: “Ah, someone who understands me and whom I understand”. I was able to understand Spanish and that was important. Because in the 70’s there was no place for native languages and the recognition of those who speak them.
I don’t come from a “first cycle” background at all, that is, kindergarten and elementary. I am a secondary school Portuguese teacher and then French as a foreign language. For years I was a middle and high school teacher. After an M.A.S. in didactics of French as a foreign language, I switched to adult education. The public was mainly oriented towards linguistic needs in order to get a job. Working with refugees brought me into contact with linguistic and cultural diversity. The difficulty of teaching people who did not understand the language, who came from different countries, different continents, in similar languages, in distant languages, changed my view on teaching and accompanying people. For ten years I worked with adult refugees and also in the continuing education of low level qualifications, always for migrants.
For family reasons, I decided to return to Portugal. So I went back to high school, where I taught French again. But, after fifteen years of working with adults in training, my experience in high school was not the happiest. I then undertook a doctorate in language didactics. I was studying the learning of the languages of origin of immigrants and of Portuguese as the language of origin of emigrants. I started to work on Portuguese immigration and how the school and the teachers valued the languages of origin or not. This passage towards the languages of origin took me back to school. Little by little, I became very interested in linguistic and cultural diversity.
Portrait conducted in the framework of the production of the booklet entitled “Guide for any educational structure wishing to set up a plurilingual Kamishibaï Contest” updated in the framework of the Erasmus+ Kamilala project.