Friday, January 22, 2010

The Italian brothers...

Zeno: "Mamma, mi canti 'L'Italia Tedesca' ?"
Me: "Cosa? Che canzone è?"
Milo: " Vuole dire la canzone dei Fratelli dell'Italia..."
Me: "Ah, Fratelli d'Italia...l'Italia s'è DES-TA, non tedesca!"
Zeno: "L'Italia sedesca!"
Milo (singing): "Frateeeeelliiii d'IIIIItaaaaaliaaaaa..."
Me & Zeno: "...l'Itaaaaliaaaaa s'è deeeestaaaaa...."

The dialogue above concerns the Italian national anthem, which I have sang to my children since they were babys on and off, on various occasions.  I learnt the national anthem as an adult, as it is not sang in schools, but rather at football games in stadiums (which, by the way, I never attended!). But since I moved abroad , to the US first and to France next, I became sensistive to this artistic symbol of my country: I find it a beautyful song (despite an occasional recurring debate in Italy concerning the need to swap it with some aria by Verdi or Puccini), and its choppy-rythm version has served several times as a perfect diversion from a tantrum or a difficult situation with my 2 little princes! Moral of the story, they learnt it too, over time,  and they enjoy it just like any other song, although, due to it's aulic Italian (it was written in 1846 by Goffredo Mameli) they don't understand all the lyrics and I always get the odd question ("Chi è Scipio? Perchè Roma aveva una schiava? Chi era la Schiava? Perchè sono pronti a morire?"). I think on some level they think the song is about them, since it talks about Italian brothers! They feel concerned!
While the identification with the French culture and its symbolysm has inevitably begun (Milo's drawings of boats and airplains always showcase a French flag), my two boys also identify strongly with their Italian side. A few weeks ago Zeno was watching a DVD cartoon in French, and after a while he asked me to switch it to Italian, "...perché noi siamo Italiani!"
Also, last weekend in Milan upon landing at the airport, he marveled at the fact that everyone spoke Italian! ("Mamma, ma parlano tutti Italiano qui!").
They are very aware of their Belgian identity as well, we have both flags in their room, they can spot Italy and Belgium on the map,  and they know that they are italo-belgian, but the Belgianite being less fanatic of anthems and symbols, the most Belgian behaviour they have assimilated so far is the addiction to quality chocolate!
I wrote recently on the public debate on National Identity that has taken (dangerously as well as corageously) place in France in the last few months, and one of the measures that came out of this debate is to make mandatory the regular singing of the French national anthem ('La Marseillese') in public schools. So, I guess that's the next song they will learn.
I still have a hard time, though, projecting the way they will feel once grown up, in terms of national identity. Will the amount of time we will have spent in France be a key factor? Will this early identification with Italy  provide a strong root? Will they have the TCK syndrome, at ease everywhere and nowhere at the same time?
I guess, for the time being, the best I can do is teach them also the European anthem, the beautiful 'Ode to joy' (Beehtoven's 9th Synphony) . I'll choose the Latin lyrics, though!


giovanni said...

The Italian side is strong. Your "two brothers" are adorable! (and you too as a mother... and I am only a quarter Italian and don't even know the word piropo in Italian)

"Ma parlano tutti Italiano qui!"
Ay, qué bello!

I think the early identification with Italy will provide a strong root. Even in my case that is the case, though partly self-chosen -- but doesn't it always go like that? You are offering them options, you and your Belgianite, and the family may still be the strongest point of identification, also culturally. So they will become cosmopolitans or multilinguals or whatever you call it. But having a basis including in songs is so important!

And now my surprise: I didn't know there is a European anthem... Does it really exist? I will click on the link after posting this.

Un abrazo e saluti da Amsterdam

PS: Je viens de rentres du Maroc et j'ai parlé deux semaines français, avec plaisir bien sûr !

Clo said...

Caro Giovanni, sei sempre molto simpatico! It's true that the European anthem is not enough played and celebrated, THAT should be sang in schools throughout Europe regularly!!!!

Anonymous said...

I love this post! I have been really into the national anthems lately for our French-American kids. My 7 yr old learned to play the Star Spangled Banner on the piano and I tried to find him the (simplified) music for La Marseillaise when I was recently in France (no doing, I will have to write out the musical notation for him myself, I guess). I love national anthems for their historical and cultural (even if often gory) aspects. My 4-yr old, coincidentally, loves Ode to Joy. I am so happy to learn that it is the "national" anthem of Europe!