A gifted linguist

Sara De Ventura is the face behind a series of webinars for SEM language courses. Working with internal and external partners, she put together a range of courses for language instructors at short notice during the pandemic.

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Sara De Ventura is responsible for promoting basis skills at SEM. Following the lockdown in spring and talks with the cantonal delegates for integration, it became immediately clear to her as head of the Integration Division that they had to create a framework for ensuring that language teaching would continue, for language skills are key for integration.

At the start of the pandemic, many cantons cancelled face-to-face teaching. Everyone agreed that courses – in particular easily accessible, basic level language courses – must be kept going. “The courses are very important because they give asylum seekers a daily routine, an opportunity to socialise and a chance for personal development,” Sara De Ventura explains. Thanks to prompt action and an extensive network of contacts, the Swiss Federation for Adult Learning (SVEB) and the fide Secretariat (the federal service responsible for promoting language skills among adult migrants), together with specialists from the different language regions of Switzerland, had put together and were running a selection of online courses within a few weeks.

Participants with an internet connection generally had no problem adjusting to remote learning. But many migrants lack the necessary technical equipment or skills for online learning. Sara De Ventura and her partners had to determine the most pressing needs. “The most important thing was to help the language teachers and the course participants make the sudden transition to remote learning and to keep a useful range of courses goingunder difficult conditions,” says Cäcilia Märki, head of the basic skills section at SVEB. “I have rarely seen a project get going so quickly,” she adds.

Sara De Ventura has been involved in educational integration for a number of years – first as a teacher and now at SEM. “Language is the basis for human interaction and integration, especially in times when social contact is at a minimum. We have a long road ahead.”