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What do Italians feel about learning English?

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What do Italians feel about learning English?

On April 19, 2016, Posted by , In Latest News, With 4 Comments

As my wife teaches English in Italy (amongst other things) I guess I am in a fortunate position to be able to get some fantastic feedback on exactly how Italians feel about learning English, particularly from the perspective of those who want to learn English.


Talking to our Italian friends they seem to feel that kids are in a fortunate position today if they are bilingual and that this opens so many doors. We are yet to explore this seeing as my kids are 11 and 13 but I’ll let you know!


Where we live it is fairly remote and so understandably there is less of a drive towards learning another language seeing as the streets are not teeming with tourists and if there is any desire to it is particularly less than you would expect to find in larger Italian towns or cities. Generally it is here that we find an abundance of English language lovers and it is in these larger towns that the teaching is done.


Apart from the obvious advantage of increasing ones options in the labour market by being bilingual, the other reasons that Italians put forward as to why they are learning English are:


a. Literature


Appreciation of the words of Byron and Shelley (who were great lovers of Italy and very well known around the Cinque Terre, Liguria); as well as Shakespeare and Dickens in their original language. In much the same way as many English speakers would love to hear the opera in its original score, the feeling is the same here when it comes to literature.


b. Cinema

Many Italians feel that the translation of a great movie into Italian loses much of the story, humour, irony, drama from the original English production and recently it was interesting to hear from some Italians that they would like to hear the actors real voices. I found this out first hand a while back when I mimicked Sean Connery’s Scottish accent while saying ‘Shaken, not stirred!’. Wondering why there was so many blank Italian faces in the room I realised that i. Sean Connery doesn’t have a Scottish accent when talking in Italian (to most Italians British, American, Australian…we all sound the same to them but that’s beside the point); and ii. Sean doesn’t actually say these words in Italian anyway.


c. Music


Although many in the UK and the US may not realise this but a large percentage of the music played on Italian radio is British or American, with about every 3rd or 4th song being Italian. Incredibly during some of the pub pop quizzes I’ve been to over the years have seen me being beaten hands down by older Italians. Their knowledge of British and American music is incredible. When Italians get passionate about something they go all the way and there is a certain ‘coolness’ in Italy in being this knowledgeable about overseas music and even cooler when a young Italian is able to sing along unhindered to a Justin Bieber song in English.


d. Technology


Most of the best apps are in English. The highest percentage of videos uploaded to YouTube are in English and so once again there is a thirst particularly amongst the younger generation (I include my peers under 50 in this category just this one time!) for understanding what has been said in the original language so that nothing is lost in translation. I do find that particularly in this area where so many English words are used in the Italian language on a daily basis that one can easily be understood. Not only are many words kept in their original format such as computer and download, but certain English words are Italianised such as Googlare (to Google something) or Photoshopare (to Photoshop something).


If you have something to add or you’d like to comment on this then please do so below.

4 Comments so far:

  1. amin says:

    I often thought that Italian was the same as Spanish !! It turns out that there is a huge difference between them in terms of spelling words and vocabulary !! Nice post!

    • Brendan says:

      There are lots of similarities between the two languages in terms of structure and there are lots of similar words. Sometimes I hear a song on the radio and it takes me a little while to realise that it is in fact Spanish. I think it is also fairly common because of the similarities for someone learning Italian to tackle Spanish and vice versa. Many Italians too embark on learning Spanish first before tackling English.

  2. Tina Follano says:

    I love this blog. I’m half Italian. My father grew up in Avellino. My mother grew up in the midwest so I love the connection between the two cultures.

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