Urban study partners with Italian language students
Project applies translation skills to greenways research
by Michelle Cook, staff writer
Geographically, British Columbia and Tuscany couldn't be much farther
apart. Academically, the same can be said for the study of Italian
language and landscape architecture.
Now, thanks to a unique multidisciplinary pilot project, a group
of Italian language students at UBC and a landscape architect visiting
from the University of Florence are attempting to bring their landscapes
and academic disciplines closer together.
The shared knowledge initiative is the brainchild of Assoc. Prof.
Daniela Boccassini of the Dept. of French, Hispanic and Italian
Studies and Sergio Maria Pelligra. Pelligra has been coming to British
Columbia since 1996 to conduct research in association with the
UBC Landscape Architecture Program.
Pelligra wanted to have his research on urban open spaces in British
Columbia as a model for Italian cities translated from Italian to
English in order to make it widely available on-line, and he wanted
to get students involved in the project.
On the recommendation of Agricultural Sciences Dean Moura Quayle,
Pelligra approached Boccassini who saw the potential to create a
If Pelligra introduced the 10 students in her Italian 300 class
to sustainability issues in the Lower Mainland -- in Italian --
they would translate his research paper on B.C. urban greenways.
The pilot would also give Boccassini's most senior-level Italian
students the chance to apply their language skills on a practical
level - a rare opportunity on a Pacific Rim campus.
"This pilot was an experiment, an opportunity that arose," Boccassini
says. "But if I had to pick a project for my students, this one
addressing issues of sustainability here in Vancouver was both interesting
and relevant to them."
"They were very enthusiastic about doing it when they heard their
translation work would be published on-line," adds Pelligra of the
students' response to the proposal.
The challenge was getting students who knew very little about
urban development to translate an academic paper on the topic in
four weeks. To prepare, Boccassini redesigned her course to provide
some background on the development of Italian cities.
Pelligra's instruction included a guided bike tour of Vancouver's
greenways to give his translators a firsthand look at his subject
matter. The students then divided into teams to translate Pelligra's
research, but by then the project had become more than a language
"I liked the idea that this project had so much to do with Vancouver
but from an Italian perspective, and he not only taught us something
new about our region, he introduced the Italian way of teaching,"
says student Emilia Finamore. She adds, laughing, that she found
the Italian teaching style much more "blunt" than the approach she's
used to at UBC.
"In the end, I think we had an equal exchange," Pelligra says
of the unusual collaboration, adding that he hopes to return to
UBC next year and expand his shared knowledge project to a full
semester and involve more departments.