Italians and grammar: a troubled relationship, by Emanuele Carletti

We are living in 2017 and still Italian students don’t know how to write correct Italian. This is what Italian lecturers are complaining about. The Gruppo di Firenze, a group of four Italian teachers, wishing to put an end to this situation, recently decided to send a letter to the Italian authorities. The aim of the letter is to bring this matter to the government’s attention. According to the group, language skills should be the priority of early school years. This letter has been signed by more than 230 lecturers.  Students’ linguistic flaws have always been underrated by the Italian government. For this reason the Gruppo di Firenze has proposed objectives for all students. In addition, they have proposed the establishment of periodic national exams during early school years. This is no doubt because of the belief  that grammar and syntax must be learned during the early school years when the brain is able to memorize things better.

The linguistic flaws issue is surprisingly serious. Sapienza University lecturers, for example, tend to reject thesis drafts when they find grammar mistakes in them. Generally only Italian non-native speakers are allowed to make grammar mistakes. Such strictness is legitimate since we live in an age in which culture is within everyone’s means and everyone can learn grammar and syntax.

Speaking a language correctly is the first step towards mutual understanding. Having difficulties in understanding a language means being unable to understand the messages of everyday life. A person who doesn’t speak and write correctly is often left out, whether intentionally or not. The rules of grammar are a sort of implicit agreement between the speakers of a certain language, and speaking that language correctly means respecting that agreement. If this agreement were to be neglected, there would be confusion and incomprehension.

Italian is a complex language. It took centuries for it to be standardized and I think that writing it wrongly means neglecting this centuries-old process. When I was in primary school, the priority for our Italian teacher was creativity and imagination rather than grammar, so she used to give us grammar exercises only as a punishment when we made her angry. We used to spend all our time writing poems or drawing and never practising our Italian. This is why I still make spelling mistakes despite all the grammar exercises done during secondary school. My parents sometimes take a look at my academic essays and they burst out laughing when they find spelling mistakes. They’re always telling me that, back in their day, primary school teachers were terribly strict about grammar and a single spelling mistake could mean serious trouble. I am sincerely grateful to my primary school for letting me improve my drawing skills but I would also have liked to have decent language skills. At the very least, I would not have to check the dictionary frantically when writing!


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