Have you ever wondered why so many Italians have a poor knowledge of English ? Tip: not what you think …
PLEASE NOTE: the observations and reflections that I share in this post are based on the fact that I have visited Italy several times, over the course of 10 years and each time I have been a guest of several Italians. As a result of these trips, I was able to get to know Italians from various parts of the nation, from North to South, and from different social backgrounds, belonging to the political elite and the working class.
(1) Poor knowledge of English – You probably expect me to say that Italians do not speak English because of the problems of their education system. There could be several hypothetical problems related to the way in which English is taught in Italian schools, for example there are not enough mother-tongue teachers or the lessons for children start relatively late, in comparison to other countries. While considering that these factors play an important role in the quality of education that Italians receive, this does not mean that the Italian school system is in medieval obscurantism and that all English teachers are inept. Rather, Italy’s problem is that the school system trains students who “know” English, but cannot get them to use it. Why is this happening?
(2) The culture of “The best; Or nothing “– You don’t have to spend much time in Italy to understand that it is a country with a taste for excellence in all things. For example, if a cheese is produced by an Italian, it will be an excellent cheese, the mother of all cheeses. The same goes for everything that is made in Italy, from a humble cheese to a racing car. Basically, when the Italians do something, there is this instinct and way of doing inside them that drives them to want to be the best in that thing. If they can’t be, there is a strong desire to give up completely and then pretend that they don’t care, as if it wasn’t important to them. So when we apply this value or characteristic to speaking in English,struggle to speak in English , if I will never be as good as a German? ” In this way they avoid the feeling of frustration.
Making mistakes is ridiculed – Italians do this when they laugh and mock people who can’t speak English “well enough”. If you are an Italian “Public Character”, prepare to be assessed by the whole nation for your language skills in English and, then, to make you laugh in the face as soon as you are wrong.
Certainly, Matteo Renzi will not win language competitions for his skills in English shortly but at the same time I would hope that Italy would recognize him that at least he tried to speak in English!
The same beliefs that are seen behind the harsh criticism made to Matteo Renzi, that is, that errors are unacceptable and must be avoided at all costs, range from the public sphere, referred to celebrities and public figures, up to the classrooms and families , where they have a more devastating impact. When an Italian speaks in English, sometimes it seems that the others are waiting to pounce on the speaker as soon as he says something wrong, taking advantage of it to be able to laugh. Of course, if you are taking the first steps towards communicating in English, you don’t want other people, every time you say something wrong, make it a national case, as this will destroy your trust. Probably, if you are Italian you must be little influenced and you don’t have to worry if you look silly when you speak English; however, having such an attitude to resilience is much easier said than done.
(4) The Oratory art– Actually, I don’t speak Italian myself, so what I’m saying here is simply the result of my impressions of hearing and seeing Italians talking: public speaking is an art form in Italy and the ability to speak well gets better evaluated, from an institutional point of view, than in many other cultures. For comparison, when a person goes to university in the UK, all exams are written. Taking an excellent mark in the British university system means demonstrating a profound “written” knowledge. The system in Italy is different; many university exams are oral exams. This means that to get excellent results you must be a prominent speaker, able to debate and discuss the topics with precision, using the word. Beyond the university system, in everyday life it also seems that talking and expressing oneself with friends and family is a very appreciated and intrinsic part of culture. Of course, all people in all parts of the world speak with their friends and family; only that Italians seem to do it with more taste in expressing themselves, than in many other cultures. When learning a foreign language as an adult, this is important, as when speaking a foreign language; one feels as if the whole personality has been lost during the humiliating early stages of language acquisition. only that Italians seem to do it with more taste in expressing themselves, than in many other cultures. When learning a foreign language as an adult, this is important, as when speaking a foreign language; one feels as if the whole personality has been lost during the humiliating early stages of language acquisition. only that Italians seem to do it with more taste in expressing themselves, than in many other cultures. When learning a foreign language as an adult, this is important, as when speaking a foreign language; one feels as if the whole personality has been lost during the humiliating early stages of language acquisition.
What is the solution to the problem of the English language in Italy? – If a greater number of Italians want to reach a high level of ability to speak English in the future, there must be a much more tolerant and encouraging attitude in culture, in relation to “REALLY TRY” to speak English. So rather than demolishing people for making small petty mistakes here and there, when speaking in English, Italians would do better to keep criticism for themselves about how others do it.