Rethinking language education in the UK’s Greek Cypriot diaspora

Thanasis Gavos   Thursday, 21 March 2019; 7:00-8:00pm
Cypriot dialect, Hellenic Centre, Petros Karatsareas

A talk by Dr Petros Karatsareas

Like many other minorities in the UK, the Greek Cypriot diaspora has established a well-developed network of after-hours schools that complement the education young members of the community receive in mainstream schools. Complementary schools, known in the community as Ελληνικά Παροικιακά Σχολεία (Elliniká Parikiaká Scholeía), have as their main aim to teach Greek as a heritage language and to use it to transmit core aspects of Greek and Greek Cypriot culture to their pupils – most notably, Greek Orthodox religion, Greek and Greek Cypriot history, literature and dance. They, therefore, have a central role to play in shaping and nurturing the community’s cultural and linguistic identity. A number of studies, however, indicate that the use of Greek (encompassing both Cypriot Greek and Standard Greek) is in decline among British-born Greek Cypriots as younger generations increasingly prefer to speak English even when communicating with other people with a Greek Cypriot background – a finding that calls for a rethink of the language provision that is offered in Greek complementary schools. In this talk, he will discuss possible directions of such a reassessment. He will focus on the value attached to the Cypriot Greek dialect by Greek complementary schools and argue in favour of its thoughtful integration in the teaching and learning offered to pupils. Such a pedagogical policy would recognise that Cypriot Greek is an indispensable part of the pupils’ linguistic repertoires and of their transnational identities. It would also harness the knowledge that pupils have of the dialect as a valuable resource in achieving literacy in Greek as a whole, thus helping complementary schools fulfil their mission as key transmitters of the cultural heritage of the Greek Cypriot diaspora.

Tickets here.

Hellenic Centre,
16-18 Paddington Street,
London W1U 5AS

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 August 2021