I’m Italian, so I don’t speak English

by learn a language journalist

“Where are you from?”
“Really? But you speak English!”
This is one of the conversations I had when I joined a beach volley team in Barcelona. I was talking with this guy and when he discovered I was Italian he was surprised I understood him, even though he was talking in English. I know he was right, Italian people are usually very bad at speaking in English and also mine could be improved.
So that’s why I want to start a 30-day challenge (if you don’t know what I’m referring to, watch this supercool TED talk ). During August, while everybody is lying on the beach, I will publish 3 english posts per week on Medium. If you notice some mistakes, please let me know in the comment or on twitter: I’m here to learn! 🙂
Anyway there are some reasons why Italians don’t speak English.
Note: I don’t want to find an excuse for those who don’t speak any foreign language. Note 2: not all Italians are bad in English.

Dubbed movies and cartoons

When I was a child, there was an advertisement on television promoting these video tapes called Magic English. They were basically english cartoons for children and they were the only english thing you could watch on television. I mean the advertising, not even the cartoons.
Original-language films are a rarity. In particular, when I was a child: it was a privilege for those who had internet or cable tv.


I want to tell you a secret: some guys of my generation have never studied english at school. They studied French or German.
In my school, professors one day announced a great idea: they wanted to introduce dialect lessons! Super useful to order a glass of typical wine in the right way when you’re at the village bar! Thank God, it never happened.


Three years ago, when I came back from Saint Petersburg, I was waiting for a bus eating carnival’s sweets and I saw that a guy sitting on another bus was looking at me. He asked me if my sweets were good, and I answered yes. He asked me where I bought them, I answered the first bakery just around the corner. He told me that he wanted some too, I answered that unfortunately I finished all of them. He said “don’t worry” and the bus left.
We didn’t say a single word. We just communicated by gestures and we totally understood each others.
Italians are supposed to be understood by anyone in the word just by using their hands. But it doesn’t always happen.

Laziness and arrogance

Italians do it better. We do everything better. Food? Italian one is better. Seaside? Italian one is better. Architecture? Italian one is better. Cars? Italian ones are better. Fashion? Italian one is better. Design? Italian one is better. So why should we learn another language when we have all we need in Italy and it’s better than everywhere else?

Something is changing…

Luckily, Ryanair and EasyJet invented low cost flights and everybody can travel more. So, Italians learn at least the security recommendations during the take-off.
PS: I wrote this post to explain why I want to improve my english skills. I don’t want to hurt any italian. Yes, I’m Italian too.

This content was originally published here.

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