No English please, I'm Italian

Stefano Iacolino, a primary school teacher from Favara in southern Sicily, has decided to take a stand. He won't teach English to his pupils. On principle.

Since January, Mr Iacolino's head has been trying in vain to get him to change his mind and has even opened disciplinary procedures against him. The ministry in Rome has ordained that Italian schoolchildren must be taught English from an earlier age, the local education authority in Agrigento agrees, and now everyone wants Mr Iacolino to co-operate.

But there is one snag. Mr Iacolino doesn't speak English. "I refuse to insult the intelligence of my pupils," he says. "I don't know any English."

Southern Italy is a place where reverence for bureaucratic authority goes without saying, so Mr Iacolino's stand has caught everybody off balance. The headmaster of the Falcone e Borsellino elementary school in Favara, Gaetano Arnone, argues that Mr Iacolino must be able to speak English because he was sent on a 100-hour course to learn it.

Mr Iacolino retorts that the course was five years ago and that only 20 of the 100 hours were devoted to language. "I've done four days of intensive English in my whole life and now they expect me to teach it to three years of primary school," Mr Iacolino said.

Mr Iacolino is even offering to reimburse the cost of the course. "I want to have my English officially tested so they can see how bad it is," he added. "It's a very difficult language to learn and I had terrible trouble with it."

The incident illustrates what can happen when a population anxious to improve its English meets a bureaucracy that has no understanding of how language-learning works. The standard of English teaching in Italian schools is generally lamentable and there is little exposure to English in everyday life. English-language films, for example, are all dubbed.

The English on display in restaurants and hotels is a source of linguistic comedy. A flier for a new restaurant offers "pungents with pourc", whatever they may be. The bistro near our house has this mystifying message in the window: "Dear visitors of Rome, we do not melk you." What on earth does that mean?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there