Il est de notoriété publique que la France n’excelle pas dans l’apprentissage des langues étrangères alors que les classes sont de plus en plus multilingues grâce notamment à un bon nombre d’enfants de migrants ou issus de l’immigration. Malgré l’ouverture aux langues familiales dans les programmes scolaires, les enseignants et les acteurs éducatifs déclarent manquer d’outils pour accueillir les langues des enfants, une condition pour favoriser l’inclusion, les apprentissages et l’ouverture au monde pour tous les enfants. En lien avec des réseaux de professionnels et de chercheurs, DULALA propose un projet global qui a permis de produire plus d’une dizaine d’outils pédagogiques, testés sur le terrain et diffusés lors de formations en présence et/ou à distance.
Dulala s’est lancé en 2009 avec de la recherche-action appuyée par le CNAM. Dulala a un impact direct sur plus de 4 000 enfants par an et est intervenue auprès de plus de 8 000 adultes. DULALA est aujourd’hui une référence nationale dans le secteur du plurilinguisme en France avec un impact direct sur plus de 7 000 professionnels formés et 16 000 enfants ayant bénéficiés du programme. Des formations sont proposées aux professionnels au contact d’enfants d’origines diverses avec pour objectif de créer un réseau de franchises locales et d’agir en priorité dans les ZUS. En 2018, DULALA lance Kamilala, un réseau mondial d’acteurs engagés pour une école inclusive et ouverte sur le monde.
QUI EST-ELLE ?
Italienne et mariée à un Français, Anna est mère de 3 enfants bilingues. Elle a notamment étudié en Espagne et en Russie. Diplômée de linguistique, elle enseigne l’italien dans une école d’un quartier très populaire de la ville de Paris et se rend compte que les langues des élèves sont considérées comme un fardeau et non pas comme un cadeau. Elle décide alors de créer DULALA dans le cadre d’un travail de recherche-action appuyé par le CNAM.
By specifically targeting children in low-income communities and helping them grasp their identity and mother tongues, Anna is actually initiating a deep cultural shift among their families and in their neighborhoods. Through community-based campaigns and grassroots mobilization, she is raising awareness about the value of one’s own language and rendering pride to parents for their ability to share their language and culture with their children.
To reach as many families as possible, Anna is engaging early childhood professionals and extracurricular organizations to adopt her approach and tools as early as possible in children’s learning processes. In addition, she is training teachers to integrate bilingualism into their curriculum. By building a national network of educational professionals who promote and spread bilingualism, Anna is poised to radically transform the perception of cultural and linguistic diversity in French society; ensuring that every child has a true opportunity to build upon their roots and thrive.
Only 5 to 15 percent of the 165,000 children in an age group with immigrant or intermarried parents ever become bilingual. The gap is particularly strong in disadvantaged groups and low-income communities. Immigrants from developing countries, with lower education levels and more vulnerable socio-professional backgrounds, encourage their children to integrate as quickly as possible and to study hard in school, following the general message that the French language is the key to success. Paradoxically, because they are stigmatized and attend lower performing schools, these children would most benefit from the recognition of their cultural identity and from the learning skills they would acquire if they learned and mastered two languages simultaneously. PISA scores demonstrate that France fails to integrate these children effectively: They struggle twice as much as the average student (PISA, 2010).
While increasing the recognition of bilingualism and integrating it into educational practices appears as an imperative to foster equal opportunities in the school system, it requires an in-depth transformation of mentalities and cultures, which is very complex when decision makers do not see a need or opportunity to do so. It requires a deep transformation of teachers’ mindsets, while they tend to be highly attached to the traditional “Republican” school system and resist pedagogical innovation. It also requires increasing the general public’s awareness of the value of cultural and linguistic diversity, while empowering immigrant communities to take pride in their own identity and engage in their children’s education. However, promoting bilingualism effectively has the potential to transform the image of immigrant communities in France and shift the way we value knowledge and diversity, to empower every child to succeed.
Anna’s idea and methods resulted early on in a strong positive response among immigrant families of higher-income backgrounds, most often originating from Western countries. However, Anna struggled initially to reach her priority target group: Low-income families. Low-income families are often stigmatized because of their roots in developing countries and their lower levels of education. From the start, Anna saw the unique opportunity to engage parents in their children’s education and to be proud of their identity, while supporting children to leverage bilingualism and strengthen their cognitive skills. Despite lower fees for disadvantaged households, her first workshops in low-income communities remained empty as parents pushed their children to focus on French. She then shifted her strategy to focus on community-based outreach efforts. These include: Raising awareness among parents, teachers, and social workers regarding the unique opportunity of bilingualism and engaging them in building joint community-based efforts. As a result, Anna increased her workshop frequency from 21 workshops in 11 languages in 2010 to over 60 in 2011, reaching over 1,500 children, with an escalating demand since.
Anna combines her grassroots mobilization efforts with a sustainable economic model—in which she sells the workshops and trainings to direct or indirect beneficiaries—to constitute a strategy that has a strong systemic impact. She has identified 80 partner organizations across the country and is engaging them to use her tools, develop their own pedagogical approaches and promote bilingualism. Anna also offers trainings to a broad range of professionals who interact with migrant children on a daily basis. For example: Early childhood caregivers, teachers, educators, and educational institution administrators. Because she has decided to multiply her reach and capacity, she is now preparing the launch of local franchises that will mobilize low-income communities and identify and train local partner organizations. This process will ensure that every child with immigrant parents takes full advantage of their cultural and linguistic backgrounds to strive and succeed.
Anna naturally decided to teach Italian, and found a teaching post in an at-risk neighborhood’s underperforming school. During her first class, she asked the students who knew a second language (most of whom were of immigrant descent). She was shocked that none of them admitted to knowing a second language. Anna soon understood that French educational culture encouraged them to assimilate rather than cultivate their bilingualism. She was convinced that this contributed to their insecurity, asocial behaviors, and learning challenges. Anna quickly began experimenting and helping students leverage their mother tongues and bilingualism to build their identities and improve their skills.
When Anna’s firstborn child at first struggled with the mix of French and Italian, she looked for organizations that could help her and was startled to find there were none. She decided to create her own, and was quickly overwhelmed with demands from parents facing similar challenges. In order to scientifically demonstrate her intuition of the value of bilingualism for children’s integration, she started an action-research project with a highly recognized research institution (CNAM), while multiplying her experimentations, creating curricula and pedagogical tools and polling immigrant families to identify the type of tools they would need to help their children practice and value their second language.
But while she could have developed her organization to serve middle- and upper-class families, Anna kept her passion for social justice and grew her conviction that immigrants in low-income neighborhoods were those who would most benefit from her work. Without prior experience as an entrepreneur in the citizen sector, Anna has been learning from the best and found strategic support to reach the maximum social impact. With the support of her husband, now a consultant in philanthropy, and of the hub in Paris, she has progressively built her strategy, economic model, and taken opportunities and entry points to reach low-income communities.