Italian Town Takes English Lessons

Spoleto -- now speaks English?There will be no more shoulder shrugging when tourists ask directions in the Umbrian town of Spoleto: officials have decided it’s about time locals here learned English.

Though known for hosting the international Festival of Dei Due Mondi, the locale of 38,000 could use a language boost, according to the city culture councilman.

The answer? A program called “I Speak Spoleto” featuring American movies. A square in the town center hosts free outdoor flicks until mid-September. It’s the first in an ongoing series of language programs for business people, the police department, administrators and everyone else.

The ambassadors of English-language culture include: “Grease,” “Saturday Night Fever” and the “Blues Brothers.” These old faves will seem new to Italians watching them in English for the first time — at least in the case of “Grease,” the songs were translated in italiano, too.

It’s a timely idea: Italians aren’t the most linguistically agile in the EU when it comes to English, under 30% have any knowledge of it and 60% aren’t able to hold a conversation in English. Giuseppe Roma, head of the national census bureau, Censis, recently called it a “sad situation,” adding that languages aren’t taught well in Italy.

So kudos to Spoleto for trying out something new and fun, but one wonders, however, just how much help the French accents will be in “Ratatouille,” the film showing as part of the English for kids program.
Image courtesy @Nina.

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