‘European classics’ in Roman schools

Recently on the Living in Bergamo Facebook page we discussed this initiative in Rome, which tried to introduce children to a variety of European ‘classics’. Sadly, it appears to be a great idea that was badly executed. I’m also really disappointed in the choice of some of the dishes. Traditional Irish chicken and chips? Not so much, really. What about Irish stew, or some Irish salmon? A dish with lots of lovely, floury potatoes? Soda bread? One can only assume the hot dogs were actually sausages, maybe representing Germany or Austria? Except that a properly made Wurst or Wuerstchen has precious little to do with the ‘wurstel’ the kids were in all likelihood served.

Accents and pronunciation

This article in The Guardian reminded me of a story I recently heard from a fellow mom of bilingual kids. A young kid (elementary school) who is growing up bilingual with one Irish and one Italian parent, got a lower mark than expected in an English oral exam. When the child asked their teacher why they hadn’t gotten full marks, they were told that their pronunciation was ‘not correct’ — they spoke with an Irish accent, and the teacher is teaching ‘British English’. I am assuming that by ‘British English’, this teacher meant RP, as much as biscuit v cookie vocab issues.

This has always been a bit of an issue for me when teaching English — as much as I love New English File, I’ve always absolutely hated the pronunciation sections. I don’t speak like that, so why teach my students to? Surely the aim is communication, not sounding like you’re from a very particular place and class? So long as your pronunciation (note that pronunciation and accent are not the same thing) is intelligible, you’re good to go, in my opinion. All sorts of cultural and class issues going on here …