Italians speak better English than the French

Italians are getting better at speaking English, even pipping the French with their language skills, according to a study ranking English proficiency in 63 countries.

Italians speak better English than the French
Italians are getting better at speaking English. English photo: Shutterstock

Italian women also speak better English than Italian men, according to the study by EF Education First, a unit of the global group, Education First.

Italy came 27th, with a proficiency score of 52.80, in the ranking of 63 countries.

“Italian adults speak English moderately well, and their proficiency levels have improved in the past seven years,” the report said.

Still, Italians lag behind their European counterparts – but are better than the French – at English.

Italy came 20th out of the 24 countries in the European ranking,  one place ahead of France.

Though “the average Italian does not have a command for English sufficient for the workplace”, there is some cause for optimism, the report added.

“English proficiency among Italian adults under 35 is higher than that of their older counterparts. This finding indicates that the education system has been more successful in teaching English than it was previously.”

Those living in central and northern Italy spoke the best English, with Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lombardy, Lazio, Piedmont and the Aosta Valley, and Tuscany being the top five regions.

The Danes are the best in the world at speaking English, scoring 69.30 points, followed by the Dutch and the Swedes.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Italian expression of the day: ‘Qualcosa non torna’

Does this phrase add up to you?

Italian expression of the day: 'Qualcosa non torna'

Ever get the feeling that things aren’t quite right, that perhaps you’re missing something, that something fishy might be going on?

In Italian you can express that with the phrase qualcosa non torna (‘qual-KOH-zah-non-TORR-na’).

Qualcosa you’ll probably recognise as meaning ‘something’, and non of course here means ‘doesn’t’, so the slight wild card for anglophones is the verb torna.

That’s because tornare means ‘to return’ in most contexts – but it can also mean to balance, to add up.

Ho calcolato le spese, il conto torna.
I added up the costs, the bill checks out.

I conti dell’azienda tornano.
The company’s accounts add up.

The Math Seems To Check Out! GIF - The House Will Ferrell The Math Seems To Check Out GIFs

The word can also refer more nebulously to something sounding or feeling right – or not.

Secondo me c’è qualche parte del mio discorso che ancora non torna.
I think there are parts of my speech that still aren’t quite right.

And when something doesn’t torna – that’s when you know things are off. It’s the kind of expression you’re likely to hear in detective shows or true crime podcasts. 

Qualcosa non torna nel loro racconto.
Something about their story’s off.

C’è solo una cosa che non torna.
There’s just one thing that doesn’t add up.

It’s similar to how we can talk in English about someone’s account of an event not ‘squaring’ with the facts, and in fact you can also use that metaphor in Italian – qualcosa non quadra (‘qual-KOH-zah-non-QUAHD-ra’) – to mean the same thing as qualcosa non torna.

Trash Italiano Simona Ventura GIF - Trash Italiano Simona Ventura Qualcosa Non Quadra GIFs

You can adjust either phrase slightly to say ‘things don’t add up’, in the plural: this time you’ll want le cose instead of qualcosa, and to conjugate the tornare or the quadrare in their plural forms.

Ci sono molte cose che non tornano in quest’affare.
There are a lot of things about this affair that don’t add up.

Le loro storie non quadrano.
Their stories don’t square.

You can also add pronouns into the phrase to talk about something seeming off ‘to you’ or anyone else.

La sua storia ti torna?
Does his story add up to you?

C’è qualcosa in tutto questo che non mi torna.
There’s something about all this that doesn’t seem right to me.

alfonso qualcosa non mi torna GIF by Isola dei Famosi

The next time something strange is afoot, you’ll know just how to talk about it in Italian. Montalbano, move aside…

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.