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EDUCATION

Italians ranked among worst in the EU at speaking English – again

Despite some progress in their foreign language skills Italians are still behind most other EU countries when it comes to speaking English, according to a new global ranking.

Italians ranked among worst in the EU at speaking English – again
How does English teaching in Italy compare to other European countries? File photo: Mychele Daniau/AFP

Italy's English proficiency is second to last in the European Union, going by how its nationals scored in language tests, with only Spaniards performing worse.

Italy ranks 30th out of 100 countries where English isn't a national language in the latest English Proficiency Index  from global language training company Education First, on par with Malaysia and well behind top-scoring countries in northern Europe.

The Netherlands, Denmark, Finland and Sweden topped the table, while Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iraq and Tajikistan scored lowest worldwide.


An extract from Education's First's 2020 English Proficiency Index.

Within the EU, Italy and Spain were the only two countries where English-language skills are classed as “moderate” rather than “high” or “very high”. 

And even though Italy has climbed the ranking compared to last year – when it came bottom in the EU and 36th overall – its two biggest cities performed worse than any other EU city included in the index. Even Madrid and Barcelona in Spain showed “high proficiency” compared to “moderate proficiency” in Rome and Milan, Education First said.


An extract from Education's First's 2020 English Proficiency Index.

People with moderate English skills should be able to make small talk, take part in meetings and write professional emails about subjects they're familiar with, the company says, but cannot necessarily read a newspaper, understand TV shows, give work presentations or communicate at an advanced level in social situations.

Italy has long lagged behind its neighbours in the index, with a lack of native-speaker teachers in public schools, lessons that focus on memorising grammar rules than practicing speaking and the tendency to dub foreign films and TV shows all cited as factors in why Italians struggle to perfect their English.

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“The gap in English proficiency is particularly concerning because both Italy and Spain suffer from high rates of unemployment, particularly among the young, and could desperately use the new economic opportunities that faster, smoother communications with the rest of Europe would bring,” Education First said.

Its ranking is based on scores from more than 2.2 million English learners worldwide who took its free online language test in 2019. People who choose to take the test are probably interested in studying English, which means that people who already speak it to a high level are less likely to take part.

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HEALTH

Swedish opposition proposes ‘rapid tests for ADHD’ to cut gang crime

The Moderate Party in Stockholm has called for children in so called "vulnerable areas" to be given rapid tests for ADHD to increase treatment and cut gang crime.

Swedish opposition proposes 'rapid tests for ADHD' to cut gang crime

In a press release, the party proposed that treating more children in troubled city areas would help prevent gang crime, given that “people with ADHD diagnoses are “significantly over-represented in the country’s jails”. 

The idea is that children in so-called “vulnerable areas”, which in Sweden normally have a high majority of first and second-generation generation immigrants, will be given “simpler, voluntary tests”, which would screen for ADHD, with those suspected of having the neuropsychiatric disorder then put forward for proper evaluations to be given by a child psychiatrist. 

“The quicker you can put in place measures, the better the outcomes,” says Irene Svenonius, the party’s leader in the municipality, of ADHD treatment, claiming that children in Sweden with an immigrant background were less likely to be medicated for ADHD than other children in Sweden. 

In the press release, the party said that there were “significant differences in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD within Stockholm country”, with Swedish-born children receiving diagnosis and treatment to a higher extent, and with ADHD “with the greatest probability” underdiagnosed in vulnerable areas. 

At a press conference, the party’s justice spokesman Johan Forsell, said that identifying children with ADHD in this areas would help fight gang crime. 

“We need to find these children, and that is going to help prevent crime,” he said. 

Sweden’s climate minister Annika Strandhäll accused the Moderates of wanting to “medicate away criminality”. 

Lotta Häyrynen, editor of the trade union-backed comment site Nya Mitten, pointed out that the Moderates’s claim to want to help children with neuropsychiatric diagnoses in vulnerable areas would be more credible if they had not closed down seven child and youth psychiatry units. 

The Moderate Party MP and debater Hanif Bali complained about the opposition from left-wing commentators and politicians.

“My spontaneous guess would have been that the Left would have thought it was enormously unjust that three times so many immigrant children are not getting a diagnosis or treatment compared to pure-Swedish children,” he said. “Their hate for the Right is stronger than their care for the children. 

Swedish vocab: brottsförebyggande – preventative of crime 

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