Hocus & Lotus the dinocrocs who teach languages to children
For many years now, the Province of Bolzano, together with Rai Fiction and the European Community, has been taking part in the important project known as "Hocus & Lotus", a series of cartoons in German and English devised to promote an early approach to language learning. The project (52 episodes with the adventures of the "dinocrocs" and their friends) was the idea of the Psychology 1 Faculty at the "La Sapienza" University of Rome, under the guidance of Professor Traute Taeschner. The Province's commitment to this project, at the insistence of the Provincial Department for Italian Culture, is a matter of some prestige, since it involves different countries within the European Union. The project has also won various awards, such as the gold "Prize for Lifelong Learning" in Berlin, a European Commission award for excellence.
The aim of the project, which has been followed up with careful experimentation and scientific validation, is not that of giving children merely a generic "contact" with or "increased awareness" of a foreign language; the idea is actually to trigger the learning of a new language with lots of words, phrases, stories and spontaneous use in new situations. Narration is used in 'Le avventure di Hocus e Lotus" ["The Adventures of Hocus and Lotus"] as a base concept in language learning. The stories can then be used to develop into subjects to play out again against an imaginary background, this time involving events in the children's lives, offering them a reference framework that allows them to understand without becoming disorientated.
Results of experiments have shown that this model, which follows children's natural tendencies to go back over stories and characters in their imagination, not only allows them to learn to tell the stories they have learned spontaneously and to speak to one another in another language when the context is similar to that of the narrative formats, but also to invent new stories.
With this initiative, it has been the intention of the Department of Italian Culture through the Office for Bilingualism and Foreign Languages to offer families and their children another means to approach language learning, with the aim of boosting a new culture for language study which does not stop at school, but which enters the home and develops within the family, with parents' help. A way to make us consider the fact that, if we want children who are able to speak more than one language, we need to set a good example, learning together.
Since the very beginning the Hocus and Lotus project has been accompanied by several initiatives, such as events in kindergartens, theatrical performances, treasure hunts and courses for preschool children in the Kids Corner of the Mediateca of Merano. The project involved on the one hand the distribution of the DVDs containing the 52 episodes in German and English to children who attended the first year of kindergarten, in order to promote an early approach to languages and on the other hand the transmission of the cartoons on the local TV stations Video33 and SDF.
Since 2012 the Office for Bilingualism and Foreign Languages, in collaboration with D.I.T.I. srl (Dinocroc International Training Institute) has been offering training courses for Magic Teachers, that is teachers and educators who are using the model “Hocus & Lotus” to encourage children to become interested in languages.
Since 2012 the Office for Bilingualism and Foreign Languages, in collaboration with D.I.T.I. srl (Dinocroc International Training Institute) has been offering training courses for Magic Teachers, that is teachers and educators who are using the model "Hocus & Lotus" to encourage children to become interested in languages.
Lastly in 2016, the Office for Bilingualism and Foreign Languages became part of an excellent network of organisations which use the narrative format for teaching and the acquisition of languages.
As pointed out by the Assessor Christian Tommasini: “Our aim is to form active, aware and multilingual citizens, in order to provide equal opportunities for all of us to take part in the development of our land and autonomy. However, we do need and require the involvement of everyone: institutions, schools and parents. For this reason it is important to work closely together, in order to launch a new “formative agreement” and to make the next generation actually multilingual. I therefore invite mothers, fathers and grandparents to spend some time with their children watching cartoons: a pleasant experience that will be enjoyed with curiosity”
- The project´s website (Externer Link)