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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Spanish now ranked worst in EU at speaking English

A new ranking suggests the Spanish are making very little progress when it comes to mastering English with Spain ranked the worst in the EU... even below the notoriously-bad-at-English French.

Spanish now ranked worst in EU at speaking English
Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

The Spanish may have come a long way from the stereotype waiter epitomised by Manuel in Fawlty Towers but a new international ranking confirms their place near the wrong end of the rankings.

This year, even Italy has overtaken Spain in the  English Proficiency Index (EPI) from global language training company Education First (EF) ranked the Netherlands top out of 100 countries which don't have English as a national language, based on test results taken by natives in each country.

Spain’s score of 537 points placed in the “moderate competency” group of countries ranked at 34 in the world and behind all other countries in the European Union.

Last year, Spain was just ahead of Italy for its English language competency but it has now dropped behind as Italy climbed three places in the rankings.

In Europe as a whole, those performing worse were Belarus, Russia, Albania, Ukraine Georgia, Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan.

But there are reasons to be positive. In the last nine years, since the first study of this kind was conducted, Spain has risen up through the ranks from a “low” 24 out of 34 countries to a “moderate” 34 out of 100.

Not surprisingly the Netherlands held the number one position with a proficiency score of 652, followed by Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway.

Neighbouring Portugal ranked at number 7 of the list.

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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

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.

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