As you probably know, Italian people are not very good with languages. Well, it sounds like a stereotype but it’s actually true: Education First, a company specialized in academic education and language training, has created an index of English Proficiency to rate English knowledge through the world, and the Italy’s results are quiet abysmal for a developed country.
With 5 degrees of proficiency (from “Very High Proficiency” to “Very Low Proficiency”) Italy is rated “Low Proficiency”, with the likes of Russia, Sri Lanka, Uruguay and Costa Rica.
If we scroll down and take a closer look at the maps, we find that the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland) are the best in world, with excellent performances in Austria, Denmark, Netherlands and Estonia too, whereas Italy and other important EU countries like France and Turkey are struggling.
Education First goes in-depth on its analysis of the current Italian situation about English-speaking population, here’s a passage:
Although the low level of English is recognized as a concern by many in Italy, none of the reforms in the past decade have succeeded in addressing the issue. An unstable government, aging population, and challenging economic times make change all the more difficult. Many are calling for Italy to accelerate its transition to a more knowledge-based economy in order to get out of its current stagnation. Developing proficient English will be a key element for that transition to succeed.
There is a graph showing the improvement over the past six years, while countries like Poland and Hungary are doing better than us (by the way, Oh My God France, you’re doing worse than us).
Here is a passage about our college education:
Italian universities have been widely criticized as disconnected from the workplace and overly bureaucratic. Insufficient graduates in STEM subjects, low levels of hands-on training, and a lack of professional English skills are cited as symptoms of this disconnect. Although Italy’s higher education system produces nearly 300,000 graduates a year, on average, college graduates earn only 9% more than high school graduates, while in other industrialized countries, the average salary difference is 37%. There is strong variation in Italy between the North, where unemployment of 15- to 25-year-olds is 25%, and the South, where youth unemployment levels reach 45%.
There is also a reference to the decision by the rector of the Polytechnic University of Milan to create English-only master’s degree and doctoral courses, a decision that was deemed unconstitutional by the TAR (“Tribunale Amministrativo Regionale”, regional administrative tribunal) of Lombardia. Why? (via corriere.it)
The critical point? The imposed choice. Teaching and Learning ‘exclusively’ in a different language. Delete the Italian. The turning point of the Polytechnic affect the freedom of teaching and the right to study, as it’s stated in the judgment of the administrative courts.
So, we cannot teach only in English because “we have the right to choose”, not because our teachers will be terrible at teaching in English, as well as the students will understand nothing about the subject.
You probably get it: generally, in Italian high school, English is badly taught by bad teachers, and given the fact that the average Italian college graduate is in an educational limbo where it’s not clear what he can do, it doesn’t get any benefits from learning the language. So that’s why many Italians don’t have a clue about English when they go in a foreign country.
We are actually talking about population in general, but does this applies for politicians too? After all, they are part of the country’s upper class, chosen by their electors for their qualities, to rule the country with intelligence and smartness. Wrong! Even in the political world, we have dozens of examples of bad English by our representatives, even in the most powerful positions. Let’s dive into this sea of ignorance with some YouTube videos, so I can spit some hatred to my fellow politicians. I am ashamed, seriously.
Ok, you probably guessed right, he is our first victim. Berlusconi needs no introduction. He has ruled Italy for over nine years as Prime Minister, serving nineteen years in the Chamber of Deputies. He has been accused of every possible criminal mischief and he is probably the most powerful Italian man on the planet, as well as media tycoon and best friend forever with people like Vladimir Putin and Muammar Gaddafi. How about his international gaffes? This man is priceless.
But wait a minute, how’s his English? He has been a famous politician for so long, serving as leader and representative of Italy during many international meetings like the G8, he has to be some sort of good, right? Well, look by yourself:
To be fair, these videos are quiet old, I was not able to find something more up-to-date, and Berlusconi speaks a decent French. But really, can a leader and Prime Minister like him be excused for this horrible English? I don’t think so.
I always thought that Americans were really exaggerating when mocking Italians talking in English, but Gianni Pittella proved me deadly wrong. Just listen to this magnificent accent (tell me, was he probably looking at a prompter?) :)
Seriously, can he speaks more stereotypical than this? This man is the actual Vice President of the European Parliament and he has been a stable member of the European Parliament itself from 1999! Like, fifteen years working with European institutions, representing Italy on the international stage and that is his level of English? Have you read his biography? Let me post that here, you have to get used to know how Italian politicians have done only politics in their life, climbing the political ladder from young age, totally disinterested of the public wealth (and much more interested on their own wealth and privileges).
- Born in 1958
- Member of the Italian Socialist Party, regional secretary of Young Socialists in Basilicata
- 1979: Municipal councillor in Lauria (Italian Socialist Party)
- 1980: Member of the Regional Council of Basilicata (Italian Socialist Party)
- 1996: Member of the Chamber of Deputies (Labour Federation)
- 1999: Member of the European Parliament (Democrats of the Left, Democratic Party)
- 2009: Vice President of the European Parliament
Gosh, I am already not feeling really well. First, let’s share his biography too (via Wikipedia):
- Born in 1954.
- First elected as deputy in 1983, confirming his office in 1987 and 1992.
- He was then chosen as Ministry of Environment and Urban Areas in 1993. That same year, he was first elected Mayor of Rome. Rutelli held the position until 2001.
- He also served as European Deputy from 1999 to 2004.
- In 2006 he was named Minister of Welfare and Cultural Activities in the of cabinet of Romano Prodi
- In February 2008 he announced his intention to run again as mayor of Rome leading a local centre-left coalition, but lost the local elections.
- In October 2009 he announced his intention to leave the Democratic Party. After leaving the Democratic Party, he co-founded the Alliance for Italy (ApI).
- In December 2010, the ApI became a founding member of the new centre-right formation New Pole for Italy, and Rutelli became one of the new group’s main leaders, along with UdC leader Pier Ferdinando Casini and Gianfranco Fini, the leader of the Future and Freedom party and former leader of the post-fascist Italian Social Movement and the national-conservative National Alliance. The New Pole for Italy was dissolved some time in 2012.
Another perfect identikit of an Italian Politician, what has he done most of life? Politics, politics, politics. Notice how he was the minister of Cultural Activities from 2006. With this fact in mind, let’s watch this video, dated 2007.
I am speechless. Do you want to know the best thing about this video? This video was actually posted on the official Italian web portal for tourism http://www.italia.it (no, it doesn’t even deserve an active link). This web portal is a common example of Italian Fail, nearly 45 million € were allocated for this project! 45.000.000€ for a website. Of course, when it opened with great fanfare, it was a total mess, with gigantic problems. This video was posted in the Chinese version of the site, and maybe many of them decided to see other countries during their holidays. Moreover, what’s a good Italian politician without some legal problems? This one involved Luigi Lusi, which was once the treasurer of another Francesco Rutelli’s party, La Margherita. Lusi stole nearly 5 million €, all coming from public political funding, allegedly giving some of them to Rutelli.
You probably guessed that I cannot pretty much stand all the politicians in this list, and La Russa is no exception. He has had regular appearences in all possible TV channels, and he is not a very nice guy. Ignazio Benito La Russa (take note of his middle name) was part, with many other nice guys like Gianfranco Fini, Maurizio Gasparri, Gianni Alemanno and Francesco Storace, of Movimento Sociale Italiano, MSI (Italian Social Movement), founded by members of the Italian Social Republic like Giorgio Almirante and other members of the Fascist Party of Benito Mussolini. The MSI supported neo-fascism in the post World War II Italy and it was a laboratory of all the post-fascist and social right groups of Italy, advocating nationalism, conservatism and anti-immigration laws.
He was Minister of Defence in the last Berlusconi Government, and he was the protagonist of many tragic scenes. Like, “accidentally” stepping on a journalist’s foot, shouting “Vaffanculo” to the President of The Chamber (by the way, it was Fini :D and you can hear “fascist shit” in the background!), shouting “you’re a pedophile” to protesters in NYC, not knowing who Belarusian Prime Minister Aleksandr Lukashenko is, celebrating fascist troops during a WW2 memorial, using military planes to see soccer matches, saying that “there were many lights in the Fascist regime, Mussolini was a great statesman“. The worst is that he’s in very good company within the country.
So, how is the English of our beloved then-minister of defence? Pretty bad, so much so he prefers to talk in Italian in an official statement to the British government!
5) MATTEO RENZI
And last, our Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, currently hailed by the Italian media as the saviour of our country, but probably failing at it (IT’S the economy, stupid). How can I describe him? He’s considered to be the “rottamatore” (the man who “sends things to the scrapyard”, the “scrapper”) of the Italian political class, and he is well liked by everybody, including Berlusconi (except Beppe Grillo and his movement “against-all”, Five Star Movement), so you can consider him a sort of Berlusconi 2.0, minus the judicial trials of course. He has his nice political curriculum as well as any other Italian politician:
- Provincial Secretary of the Italian People’s Party in 1999.
- In 2004 he was elected President of the Province of Florence.
- In 2009 he was elected Mayor of Florence.
- Elected secretary of the Democratic Party in 2013.
- Appointed Prime Minister of Italy, after the resignation of Enrico Letta in 2014. The Italian electors voted neither of them: Enrico Letta was appointed Prime Minister after the resignation of Pier Luigi Bersani, following the political deadlock of 2013 elections.
He even participated in the Italian version of the Wheel of Fortune! Can he get cooler than this? Yes, with this awesome video in which he is talking about the digital agenda of the government, telling a story (hint: it’s total garbage).
I’m quoting mentecritica.net here:
[…]what really disturbs is the absolute ignorance of the speech technique, the total emptiness of contents, the terrifying approximation of concepts.
It ‘s true. For a politician it‘s not required to know the difference between UDP and TCP protocols, or to be able to describe the TCP Three-way handshake, technicians and consultants exist for this. What unnerves it’s the pomposity with which he foolishly confronts a complex problem where the politician is required to have clear ideas on strategies and concrete proposals immediately. […] the first, if not the only, goal of Renzi was to make the shot, the figure of the “handsome”.
You know, my English itself is not perfect, so it may be stupid to criticize other people that are not very good with the language like me. However, these are the people who represent us in the international stage, and what kind of impression they give? The impression of mediocrity, creating the association mediocrity = Italy, a wonderful country heading to a slow decline.