A Matter of Interpretation

German, Italian, Ladin. These are the languages on the lips of South Tyroleans on a daily basis.

  • September 2016

  • Reading time: 2'

    Reading time (Short): 2'

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Article Article Videos Videos Audio Audio Facts Facts

A Matter of Interpretation

German, Italian, Ladin. These are the languages on the lips of South Tyroleans on a daily basis.

German and Italian. South Tyroleans are familiar with both languages. Yes, you could almost say that both languages characterize the South Tyrolean people. What is it like to switch back and forth between multiple languages? Starting from an early age. Every day. In this film portrait you'll hear all about museum director Letizia Ragaglia’s enthusiasm for languages.

Ladin - the region's original language

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Letizia Ragaglia is the director of Museion, the museum of modern and contemporary art in Bolzano/Bozen. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone else in South Tyrol who communicates contemporary art so vibrantly and passionately as she.

How it came to be that South Tyroleans speak German, Italian and Ladin

● First century BC: The Romans conquer the Alps and Romanize the local population. The Rhaeto-Romanic language Ladin spoken today arises out of Vulgar Latin and the original Rhaetian language. ● Around 500 AD: The Bajuwaren (Bavarians) migrates in, and the population becomes Germanic and oriented northwards, both politically and culturally. ● 1363: The Habsburgs take over Tyrol. Tyrol is part of Austria for more than 500 years. ● Around 1910: 223,000 people are living in the South Tyrol. Four percent of the population speaks Italian; four percent speaks Ladin. ● 1919 South Tyrol comes into existence. Tyrol is divided; North and East Tyrol stay with Austria, while the south falls to Italy as spoils of war. ● 1922−1945: The Fascists pursue a consistent policy of Italianizing South Tyrol. Everything that is German or that sounds German is prohibited. ● After 1945: Negotiations commence for South Tyrol to gain autonomous status. ● 1972: The Second Statute of Autonomy enters into force. German and Italian are recognized as official languages. ● 1951: Ladin is recognized as the third language.

For Letizia Ragaglia art is a means of expression, a language. And the Museion director can really handle languages. Like many others Letizia Ragaglia belongs to that group of “new” South Tyroleans who have grown up fully bilingual: She spoke Italian with her father while German is her mother’s native language. From the time she was very young she spoke both languages, attended both German and Italian schools and later lived in France for a time. German, Italian, English, French – and the arts: in dialogue with people, artists and artwork, Ragaglia easily navigates between all possible languages.

510.000 people live in South Tyrol

German

69%

Italian

26%

Ladin

5%

Foreign (137 nations)

9%

Letizia Ragaglia grew up in Bolzano, South Tyrol’s “Italian” city. Nearly 80 percent of the city’s residents are native Italian speakers. The cityscape of South Tyrol’s capital is rich in contrast: The old city center is dominated by the German Gothic while Italian Bolzano, beyond the River Talfer, was created in the style of 1930s rationalism. Museion stands just at the intersection point where Italian Bolzano and German Bozen meet. It is a point of intersection between cultures, a spot where many languages are the norm.

Video: Andreas Pichler

Bolzano's Città Nuova

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