Problems for learners in Italy The Italian and the English language


The Italian and the English language are totally different in writing, speaking and listening. The first derives from the Latin language family , the second from the Anglo- Saxon. Although the English language adopts many Latin words, they are not commonly used, and the pronunciation is completely different. Because of this, it's very common to come through 'false friends' like the word 'actually' 'attualmente' in Italian, which means 'at the moment', while in English we know that it has a different meaning. For this reason Italians are inclined to use many Latin words which are not used in everyday English. There are dozens of similar examples like this that can be very confusing for the Italian students.

The Italian language is quite a simple language at least for what it concerns writing and pronunciation, not grammar which is much more complex in my opinion than English grammar.

The main difficulty that Italian students have to face dealing with the English language is the pronunciation. Words are pronounced in Italian the way they are written so we can imagine how hard it must be for the learner to get used to this 'strange' way of speaking. Learning the International Phonetic Alphabet would be probably the right solution for this matter, but unfortunately not all teachers are willing to teach it in schools.

Learning the English language in public schools is what I'd call a 'Mission Impossible'. The time given for foreign languages is only 3 hours per week which is in my opinion too little to give an adequate knowledge of the language.

Not long ago, teachers who didn't have a University degree in English could teach the language anyway just by attending a short course and they were ready to give all their so called 'knowledge' to the students in the schools. Fortunately now days things have changed and hopefully will get better and better in the future. There are many subjects at schools that students have to study and require attention to be able to do well. Some of these may be interesting or the student has the right skill to do his/her best in it, but some are not, so much depends on how the teacher makes the lesson interesting. I've noticed that in my daughter's school the English language teaching is based on only the course book without using creative or authentic materials to supplement or replace the book. This way the students loose their interest for the language and the lessons can become very predictable. Students need to be encouraged in every way possible to get to know the language they are learning and not be afraid to use it. In the Italian schools teachers tend to give more importance to grammar and therefore develop more the students' writing skills than their speaking skills. Well, it is not very handy in an English speaking country to go around with a piece of paper and a pen to ask for an information for example.

There are still lots of aspects that should be changed or built up in the future concerning the English language teaching in Italy, in the mean time probably it would be enough to start with employing native speakers of English also in primary schools where students are ready to experience and explore new things without prejudice.