For the original article see - Cultural Differences: England vs.Italy by Danny Singh see Year 11; Issue 3; June 2009 for the reply see My Considerations About D. Singh’s Article: Cultural Differences: England vs. Italy by Anna Maria Aiazzi, Italy Year 11; Issue 4; August 2009
Reply to Anna Maria Aiazzi’s Comments on My Article
Danny Singh, UK
Danny Singh, born and raised in London, but now based in Rome, gives creative English language lessons and teacher training courses all over Italy and abroad. He often attends Pilgrims TT summer courses as a Guest Speaker. His interests include; high-quality cinema, wine tasting and long distance walking. Website: www.laughnlearn.net
I was somewhat surprised when I read Anna Maria Aiazzi’s reaction to my article.
Before Hania (the editor) even laid eyes on this piece of work, it had been carefully scrutinised by at least 70 Italians and 40 English people. Despite these Italians probably having a lower level of English than Ms. Aiazzi, they understood the humour and wit and in most cases congratulated me on my observations. On no occasion, did anyone claim to be offended.
Ms. Aiazzi meanwhile, has found evidence of my underlying English superiority. Where did she get that from I wonder? My origins are a mixture of Indian, Caribbean and South American, as well as being British and having spent numerous years in Italy, I would say that I have a rich experience of cultural diversity. Fewer people are as critical of the English defects as I am (ask the canteen staff at Pilgrims), but more importantly, in relation to the article, I have made observations on both cultures, while refusing to make judgements about what is good, bad, right or wrong. This is exactly the opposite of what Ms. Aiazzi has done, taking some of my points and making her own personal judgements on them.
Initially, I thought that Ms. Aiazzi was simply seeking attention. Her introduction and qualifications take up a large part of her letter and she seems rather disappointed that no one in her city/town calls her a doctor. In addition, her whole letter is underlined. However, on reading more deeply, I realised what the problem was. Ms. Aiazzi accuses me of using extreme and exaggerated examples. Of course they are extreme and exaggerated! That’s what gives them their humour. She has in effect, completely misunderstood the sense of my article and the mood in which it was written.
I would suggest she reads Beppe Severnigni the great writer from Cremona, if she hasn’t already. While in no way wishing to compare myself to him, especially after having met him, the style of his witty observations comparing the English and the Italians are in part, similar to mine. If she doesn’t find him funny either, then she really should try Laughter yoga, which could help her to lighten up a bit. The great thing about laughter yoga is that you don’t even need a sense of humour to laugh. It transcends all cultural and linguistic boundaries. See my article, Laughter yoga in English Language Teaching, published in the August 2008 issue of old.hltmag.co.uk/aug08/mart02.htm There is a great club run by my Tuscan colleague in Florence.
Ms. Aiazzi mentions body language as an important form of communication, as though I have in some way criticised it. She obviously hasn’t attended any of my workshops on it. I probably do more work on body language, intonation, pronunciation, role-play, rhythm and emphasis than on grammar. I would suggest she reads my article, The Language of Communication, published in the December 2008 issue of old.hltmag.co.uk/dec08/less01.htm
Ms. Aiazzi declares that she drives well. That’s nice to know, but totally irrelevant to the article, just as most of my Italian friends drive well. I wave my arms around a lot when I speak, but that doesn’t matter either. She also insists on pointing out that my observations are based on Romans and not Italians, but if she had read my article carefully, she would have noticed that I had reiterated that point several times.
Ms. Aiazzi’s conclusion is the classic superficial one that outsiders who regard Italy as just pizza, pasta, sun, sea, football and mafia would make. She needs to look more deeply at why people behave in certain ways, especially if she intends to teach cultural differences in schools. She is not by any means the only person who indeed lacks understanding of her own culture. I often find myself having to explain to Italians the differences between regional cuisines and wines from varying parts of Italy.
While appreciating that everyone including Ms. Aiazzi is entitled to express their opinion, it would be more interesting and indeed valid to hear the views of those who like myself, have lived different cultural experiences, as for example, an Italian lecturer in Politics who works at the University of Kent and whom I was lucky enough to meet by chance while attending the Pilgrims conference in August, rather than people who live in small provincial towns rarely venturing outside.
The only criticism of this article came from a handful of English people who felt I should have dealt with topics such as racism and immigration in Italy, Italian TV, meritocracy in Italian society and the fact that the current Italian Prime Minister has been democratically elected three times. I deliberately stayed away from these subjects as they are hugely controversial and my aim was to avoid that at all costs. Hence, my surprise at Ms. Aiazzi’s letter.
Although I disagree largely with most of Ms. Aiazzi’s points, I still feel I ought to thank her for having given greater importance to my article than it probably deserves by bringing it even more into the limelight. I also believe that the majority of readers are clever enough to make their own observations from reading the article, without needing to hear further comments from Ms. Aiazzi or myself on this subject.
Please check the British Life, Language and Culture course at Pilgrims website.