Doctor Giorgia Miazzo in collaboration with the UFSC Brazilian University of Santa Catarina and UERJ Rio de Janeiro has devoted years researching and findings ways to encourage Talian’s future use and existence. The Padua-born scholar, specialized in Linguistic Mediation and Language Sciences, published a book on the subject: Scoprendo il Taliàn - Viaggio di sola andata per la Mèrica ("Discovering Talian"), describing the history of Venetian emigration in the 1870s, and how these settlers brought over their traditions, which she believes, are what kept them alive in these strange lands.
In an interview with Panoram Italia Miazzo explains how the much dreamed about America, a land of opportunity, proved to have its own difficulties. “In order to thrive, immigrants banded together to share the problems of their daily lives and this in turn gave rise to a native culture that embraced imported customs,” she says. Similarly to the Chipilo of the Venetian communities in Mexico, the fusion of the Venetian, Bergamo and Friuli dialects gave birth to a new language, which Italian immigrants called Talian. “Its diffusion and importance was such that even other settlers, like the Germans and Polish, were forced to learn it because in the southern states of Brazil, such as Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and Paranà, the “Taliani” made up almost 90% of the population,” explains Miazzo.
“Today, everywhere you go in Southern Brazil, there are neighborhoods and villages with Venetian names, such as Nova Veneza, Nova Bassano, Nova Trento (Flores da Cunha), Nova Pádua, Nova Vicenza (Farroupilha) or Garibaldi country town. Talian is even given co-official status in some areas of the southern region of Brazil, and considered the second most spoken language in the country,” says Miazzo. Talian, together with five other minority languages, is officially recognized by the Historical Heritage of Intangible Cultural Affairs of Brazil, within the National Inventory of Linguistic Diversity, by Decree Law no. 7,387, signed in December 2010 by the President of Brazil Ignácio Lula da Silva. “The fact that it has survived is incredible, since during the Second World War, Talian was actually forbidden by the Brazilian authorities and some of the above mentioned town names were changed as a means by which to discriminate against all foreign cultures,” says Miazzo.
Miazzo turned to the research about the language’s characteristics by looking at the publications of Darcy Loss Luzzatto and Tonial Honorio, who specifically worked out and extracted the rules and spelling, lexical and morphosyntactics that describe it. Formed from a mixture of dialects of northern Italy, Talian, according to Miazzo’s findings, is spoken today by more than one million people, and it has spread and strengthened due to its oral and written traditions.
Talian, a language at risk
Ozias Alves Jr., author of the book Parlons Talian: dialecte vénitien du Brésil, believes that after 140 years of Italian presence in Brazil, Talian is now at risk of disappearing. Notwithstanding its inclusion in books, newspapers and radio shows, Alves Jr. thinks Talian is lacking an essential factor: university classes for the training of professors and professionals for the diffusion of the language.
Although the language is still quite popular among the elderly and adults, maintaining it into the next generation seems quite bleak. According to Alves Jr. the problem lies in the fact that young people see no point in learning it, especially from an economic standpoint.
A few years ago, the city of Serafina Corrêa, in the North of Rio Grande do Sul, declared Talian as the second official language of the region and started offering classes in Talian through its public school system. Alves Jr points out in his research that the downturn is that the teachers were certainly not trained in Talian. Miazzo’s research discovered that much of the language lives in song and is an excellent teaching tool in order to keep it alive. She even wrote a workbook: Catando in Taliàn - Imparar el talian cola mùsica (“Singin in Talian – learning talian with music") in which she proposes a two level teaching tool on how to teach Talian through the use of music, readings and other cultural phenomenon.
The target audience for her educational activities are adults, rather than school-age students. Her hope is to create an opportunity to further strengthen a certain consciousness and pride for Talian and for its historical importance because it speaks so much about Italian immigration to Brazil. “The teaching of Talian is a strategy to give dignity to a language of immigration and to illustrate the resilience of the Italian people”, she says.
Celebrations in Flores da Cunha, Rio Grande Do Sul, Brazil
Proverbs and expressions in Talian:
“Can vècio no’l ghe sbaia a la luna”
(Cane vecchio non abbaia alla luna / An old dog doesn’t bark at the moon)
“Come noantri no ghen’è altri”
(Come noi non c’è nessuno / There is no one like us)
“Chi fà de so testa, paga de so borsa”
(Chi fa della sua testa, paga con la sua tasca / He who does as he pleases pays out of his own pocket)
“Amor sensa barufa el fa la mufa”
(Amore senza litigio fa venire il mal di pancia / Love without argument brings stomach ache)
“Chi dà, se smentegá; chi riceve se ricorda”
(Chi dà si dimentica; chi riceve si ricorda / He who gives forgets; he who receives remembers)
“Chi ga prèssia, magna crudo”
(Chi ha fretta, mangia crudo / Whoever is in a hurry eats raw)
“Chi ga mia testa, ga gambe”
(Chi non ha testa, ha gambe / Whoever doesn’t have a head, has legs)
“Ciuco come na porta”
(Ubriaco come una porta / Drunk like a door)
“Co l’àqua la toca el col se impara nodar”
(Quando l’acqua arriva al collo si impara a nuotare / When the water reaches the neck, you learn to swim)