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The language portrait: We draw our language experience

The language portrait is a creative design of one's own language repertoire that makes pupils' subjective perspectives visible in multilingual contexts.

The method originates from an idea by Gogolin and Neumann, which has been further developed over the years.

I invited the pupils of the "Arcobaleno" project to reflect on their own linguistic diversity and they realised that they are all multilingual.

We analysed multilingualism from different perspectives: What languages do you speak at home? At school? With your friends? Which languages do you like? Which languages do you hear often and which languages do you encounter in your life?

After a short pause for reflection, I distributed a body silhouette (DIN A4 format). Each child decided to assign a colour to each language and write it down as a legend on the right of the picture. For the first time, the children were given free space to create the figure as they wanted. A reflection without external influences. Then they were asked to present the portraits orally. The colours and the body parts chosen for a particular language reflected unique and varied life contexts and the emotions and feelings associated with them.

A. says: "I place German in my head, because I speak German every day, but I also carry it in my heart. In my legs, because I walk a lot through Germany.

Italian in my upper body, near my heart and in my stomach because my body is growing and I grew up with Italian since first grade and because I eat Italian a lot.

French is in my arms because I move around a lot in class.

English is also in my head near my eyes because I speak the language a bit already and watch programmes.

Spanish only a little bit because I have Spanish bracelets."

B. says: "German is in my head because I always speak the language.

Italian is in the heart because I love the language so much.

French is in the arms because they are next to the head. Just like France is close to Germany.

English has placed in the legs because I am often stressed when I learn English and I talk to myself and say: better go forward slowly step by step".

C. says: "German is in my head because I think and speak in German.

However, my whole body is Italian. It is the language of my family, I love the country and I often want to go there".

D. says: "Italian is in my head because I always think of Italy and my heart beats for it too.

My body is German because I breathe Germany's air and I love the language, as well as Italian and a bit of French.

Ukrainian is in my eyes because I learned a lot about the country on TV and I often think about the situation."

E. says: "In my head I have Italian, French and German because I speak and think a lot in these languages. German I have most in my body because I simply know the language best.

My heart beats for German and Italian. I don't know that much English, so it's just a little bit around the arms.

With Italian I'm really happy, I love the language. French on the legs because I don't like it as much but I don't hate it either".

F. says: "German is in my head because I speak the language. Italian in the throat because I like it a lot but I don't know it well yet and that's why the words get (stuck) in the throat.

Turkish in my stomach and in my heart because it's the language of my family. Ukrainian in the arms, because of the war. The war is done with the arms and with the hands.

English in my lower body, because I like the language and I move a lot in class".

G. says: "Actually, I am all Italian. Only in my head I also have German. I feel Italy everywhere in my body. English is in my hands because I do a lot of practical things. French is in my feet because I go to France a lot".

Teacher: Gabriella D'Introno

Course: Project Arcobaleno


Here is a small collection of the artwork:

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