The Italian Job

Posted on Thu 24 Jan 2013 @ 8.05pm UTC

IT’S NOT OFTEN that I visit non-English-language websites, mainly because of a couple of personally embarrassing factors:—

  1. why dont shit workMy French, German and Italian have become pathetic, to say the least.
  2. I’ve forgotten all my Lebanese Arabic (since Lebanese consider French to be a native tongue for them).
  3. I’ve never properly picked up Farsi anyway because my Iranian ex-girlfriends have admirable features, so that doesn’t count.
  4. My Chinese is non-existent, though I can speak it fluently, but who the hell wants to read a blog in spoken Chinese???
  5. I have precious little personal time left from work to traipse around foreign-language sites.
  6. I tend to watch or listen to French, German, Italian or Arabic stuff on TV anyway because it doesn’t hurt the eyes so much as reading does (I wear underwear bifocals).
  7. My life is one long emergency, so I try to be a couch potato whenever I can.
  8. Or ride my motorbike with some bird whenever I have time off (or fall off).
  9. So there.

asia map travelnotesdotorg

I don’t think many Asians (that is, Asians in Asia) would go for European-language sites too often either, mainly because of several highly forgivable factors:—

  1. The only European language that nearly all Asians know today is English. The francophones, hispanophones, germanophones and Nederlandse sprekers in Asia are dead and gone from old age or wars, or dirty underwear, or gone insane from high rents.
  2. English is the only standard foreign-language school subject in practically all Asian countries — East Timor being the combo-breaker and still uses Portuguese as the main medium of instruction.
  3. Little or no popular pressure inside or outside of these Asian governments to introduce other European languages into the general school curriculum — the Philippines came close, but no cigar.
  4. Unlike Africa and Latin America, many Asian countries have a history of having been UK possessions, so there’s little or no institutional pressure to teach or learn other European languages.
  5. The generally shoddy, dragged-out way English has been taught (and still is being taught) to schoolchildren in most Asian countries means that many people have come to believe they are in no fit condition to handle another European language — never mind how funny and adorable the accent might be for that European language.
  6. Pre-eminence of the USA in the commercial life of many Asian countries means that English has generally supplanted rather than augment the language focus of some ‘Eurospeak’ Asian places (Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Macau, Saipan, Vietnam, and the territories of Daman, Diu, Goa and Pondicherry in India) or some ex-European possessions (e.g. Fort-Bayard a.k.a. Kouang-Tchéou-Wan or Tsamkong, present-day Zhanjiang 湛江 in Guangdong province of China).

[You’re digressing. — Editor]


keys painted grey

ONCE in a blue moon, though, I run across some interesting Italian-language websites.

One of them was super interesting by an Italian speaker in Beirut — but she’s married already so never mind.

Rarer still is to come across disclaimers in Italian sites.

To many Italians (if not most), it just goes without saying (or ‘makes sense’ in London-speak) that anything said or written is just one opinion in a sea of many. Whether one particular opinion has enough ‘stroke’ over others boils down to whether one person’s opinion (or opinions, plural, as is usually the case) is better or worse (integrated vs. loose), more colourful or colourless (or more off-colour), or simply better worded than somebody else’s. Nothing personal, but yours is just anothurrr opeenyunn. *Snorg*

One sito italiano that piqued my interest belongs to The Hon. Mr Justice Walter Vannini, an honorary judge and professor of sociology in Milan.

If you’ve never seen an Italian personal website and blog (and I think many of our readers haven’t), then Mr Justice Vannini’s site is a good one to start with. Naturally, everything’s in Italian.

Primo, below are free translations in English, with punctuation regularised to English style. Some of the harder passages have been done via Google Translate (which is pretty good for most European languages).

Secondo, the disclaimer feels more Milanese than general Italian style, give or take.

Terzo, all links have been REDACTED in the translations.

Quarto, words most appealing to me are in red fount.

Quinto, I wouldn’t mind having the same message and disclaimer myself. It just ‘makes sense,’ as many a Londoner would say.

Sesto, this blog isn’t always about harping on about the motherfathering bad state of English in the Far East. You presume, and got it wrong.



gettone telefonico

Calling in is equally a matter of calling out

IT’S so terribly Italian to use a double welcome:—

Welcome, welcome.

The site is mainly targetted for professional use. The blog, which is related to the site, functions more heterogeneously. With Internet Explorer, that may create problems for proper display. You are all right with Chrome, Firefox and Opera, but if you have trouble, do give me a courtesy warning.

Same but different

Same but different

Heterogeneously is one of those oddball adverbs much favoured by Italians — often midway in sense between variably (whose Italian equivalent suggests ‘fluctuating in a bad way’) and diversely (suggests ‘unlike’ or ‘dissimilar’ in Italian: diverso means ‘different’). Basically, the Italian is trying to say the same but different with heterogeneous.

Wilful but benign ambiguity (as opposed to one for hiding something) is an Italian trait — when Italians use big words, they use them as cues for the reader or listener to “skip this boring rubbish because it’s too hard to explain anyway.”

Big words for Italians aren’t meant for impressing (as the Englishman is wont to use them for); they’re for smoothing the transition to something else. Capsci?

By the way, heterogeneously is pronounced—

  • hett-TRAW-junn-yis-lee (RP British, 5 syllables: the only correct form in science)
  • het-er-uh-JEEN-yuhs-lee (non-RP British and General American, 6 syllables)
  • het-er-uh-JEE-NEE-uhs-lee (American, 7 syllables: IPA /ˌhɛt ər əˈdʒi ni əsli /)

Remember, British pronunciation of polysyllabic words is generally one syllable shorter than American. If you’re in science, you’ll know it’s correctly pronounced 5 syllables (i.e. British) even in American English. The 7-syllable version is substandard — yet most Asians pronounce it that way.


Italians tell you their worldview or attitudes towards difficulties:—

The blog continues to operate after [having had] 8 months of interruption and with much valuable material lost, unfortunately.

Italians don’t talk of ‘stoppage,’ ‘furlough,’ ‘offline’ or even ‘outtage’ as English speakers tend to do. It’s just an inturrupshunlike a phone call during heavy kinky sex; you answer it and then continue as before.


Italians love to explain the ‘mission’ at the outset so that you’re free to pick and choose, as like in a department store:—

The goals remain the same as [it has been] at the time:—

First. Having a flexible, cost-effective and ubiquitous tool where you can maintain a record of all the news, facts and reflections that interested me and that would be lost if I had not a place to keep track of them. In this sense, the blog is first and foremost a department store, only minimally ordered by categories and ‘tag’.

In other words, yer pays yer money, yer pick yer goods. But bear in mind the Italian standard operating procedure too:—

Non sprecare mio tempo se il prezzo à un crimine.

If the price is a crime, don’t waste my time.


English yakkers talk the big talk about curiosity, but it’s the Italians who value it:—

Second. Complement the functionality of the blog to the lessons, with the hope that it will stimulate dialogue, contributions and curious research.


Italians have the gift of wilful ambiguity, so they know how to be clear-cut as well:—

Third. To appropriate a form of communication now in wide use, and at timessay my opinion about things that concern me.

  • Admin or wv stands for Walter Vannini.
  • Because there are many Walter Vannini[s], in the footer of the blog I indicate the links of my homonyms, adding each time I discover new ones, especially if one of them and I are not the goal of your research.
  • Click here if you are interested in a brief information about me
  • For more details on this blog, the intellectual debts and programming, refer to the Disclaimer and the right to Copyright.
  • The template of the blog is The Clear Line Theme, customised with the help of various plugins and add-ons.
  • The name of the blog comes from the poem by Guillaume Apollinaire whose title is, in fact, IL PLEUT [‘It Rains’].

_______ & ______

  • And you can send a message. My address is: [REDACTED]
  • Or by using Skype: [REDACTED]
  • Or using the following template: [REDACTED]


(Updated to December 2011)

The original Italian full text is [here].

Now, isn’t that a nice-sounding welcome message with calm, cool and collected overtones?



two step

The website belongs to a legal professional, so we expect the first words to be precise up front and early:—

This site is private and personal to Walter Vannini.

The text, audio, images, graphics solutions, any content and codes used in this site, whether linked to my person, may be used freely, but within the limits of the Creative Commons referred to herein:


darth escherYou’ve got to hand it to the Italians to explain the reasons for self-learning and self-reflection in a few short words (that is, if they really wanted to):—

The site and blog — which form an integral part [together] — are instruments of work, study or reflection on the reality that surrounds us [and] available to interested parties. The vocation is essentially didactic and professional.


For Italians, CONTEXT and COMMON SENSE are everything — as the Italian adage goes, Qual è il vantaggio della conoscenza, se non si usa il buon senso con esso? (What good is knowledge if you use no common sense with it?):—

In the blog there are also opinions about the events of context and that which concerns me: for example, the economy, politics, history and the record [chronologies], areas in which I have no special skills other than what I think [is] common sense, with all the vast limitations that this entails. But the wars, racism and outrages or a sense of justice, peaceful co-existence with the living and the environment are often made daily controversial, but in respect of the silence, while being able to speak, would be corrivi [?] of wrongdoing or not participate in the life of society, in the profound sense that, for example, our Constitution calls.


If context means some kind of lesson in Life, Mr Justice Vannini explains it well:—

Both our website and blog are updated as needed or [for] occasion. There is no preset rate in this activity. For technical reasons, the blog allows easy updates, so the lessons or what you are in this space pertains to the referent currency or text of the things [being] mentioned.


Instead of the highly impersonal and snotty “unless indicated otherwise” of the English, the Italians provide the human touch:—

Unless explained differently, educational materials and professional productions are original. The audio files are published recordings of conferences or courses or training modules that I made personally. Naturally, in the case of speakers different from me, the copyright belongs to the persons indicated. But if the materials are present on the site, the authors have agreed to their publication.

In the dying words of Bobby Fischer, the greatest chess champion ever lived:—

“Nothing is more healing than the human touch.”


We can skip the below, which is basically his CV:—

In general, all instructional materials published here are derived from activities carried out during the last twenty years, mainly in the following areas:—

  • regional courses for professional educators of the Municipal Regional School for Social Workers in Via D’Annunzio 17, Milan. Tel: 02.58101075
  • training courses for professionals and other Social Health operators of the Municipal Regional School for Social Workers in Via D’Annunzio 17, Milan.
  • Bachelor of Professional Education at the University of Milan, School of Medicine / City of Milan, Via D’Annunzio 17, Milan.
  • During graduate school, the Faculty of Arts and Science training — two-year specialization — the University of Ferrara, Via Savonarola, Ferrara.
  • Speeches made ​​at conferences (e.g. Rotary Milan “to work with the prison”), “roundtables (for example, Group of the Transgression of Milan S. Vittore “interview on punishment”) or lectures as host of colleagues (in the case of on war material used to make a lesson in the communication science course, Gaia Fusai Professor, University of Modena), or in training for volunteers in prison.
  • Courses [on the] European Social Fund, the Lombardy Region, Municipality of Milan.
  • Learning courses for employees and officials of the Municipality of Milan, Financing Province of Milan.

In these places vocational training must then be added to the material from other experiences: the long, bright reflections of fun with Sergio Cusani, Gaia Fusai and Pino Tripodi that led to the establishment of the Bank of Solidarity srl; professional activity in juvenile and adult prisons; the experience of [being] honorary judge in the Juvenile Court of Milan; some volunteer activities with the Boy Scouts of Milan; with Free; with schools and the public on security issues and victims; and with much material collected in


Four short paragraphs and Mr Justice Vannini explains the reasons for his website:—

The reason why materials related to educational activities carried out by the city of Milan are [being] published in a private site requires perhaps a specification [specified explanation].

Originally, it was to make a virtue of necessity: [for the] ESF courses, twice won and financed within the educational project, we were bound [obliged] to make teaching modules with the use of online resources for distance learning and in any case through the use of remote resources.

As the city of Milan, the owner of the winning project, had not be able to accomplish what [had been] necessary in a timely [manner] and [that] years of work were at risk of being compromised, the solution was to create a private site. This site was created in 2004 out of that requirement.

In all cases, the publication of the materials respond to educational requirements, personal or professional, and — anyway — the pleasure of making available to students and interested others the resources — relationships too — in an essentially free form [that is], I hope, easy to acquire.

‘Interested others’ (incidentally also an authentic English expression) in the sense of those other people who are interested in something at hand.


But the English still beat the Italians hands down on limitations:—

Of the writings, the artistic or intellectual interest is stated, yet usually for the purposes of comparison and exemplification and within the limits of accuracy, copyright and citing sources. But the construction and maintenance of the site as is [carefully done] is handcrafted [yet] inconstant: it has undesirable recourse to ambiguities and errors.

The English phraseology is better because of directness, in my opinion:—

To aid readers’ comparison and fair criticism, the author’s artistic or intellectual interest are indicated in the writings to the extent practicable under generally accepted citation and copyright practices. The author endeavours to be accurate; errors and omissions excepted.

Yes, indeed, the proverbial “E. & O.E.” from the world of commerce.


Note the use of “absolutely acceptable”:

In [that] case, every alert is absolutely acceptable, and the fix will be at the earliest possible [time].

English speakers are so negative — it’s always “absolutely unacceptable” — even “abs0effinglutely unbloodyacceptable” — hardly ever absolutely acceptable anything.


This is the bit where Italians can be stilted, longwinded and a little stultifying:—

The icons and images used are usually self-produced; sometimes taken from the Web, there is no evidence of copyright. If known, it will always be given to the author, publisher and the host site. For the remaining parts, they are a gift from the rightsholders.

Icons, business hallmarks, trademarks, names and logos identifying organisations and public or private institutions are quotations of activities performed, or references needed to understand their context or text. I do not mean in any way that this site can represent my will or other personal preferences. In case of potential ambiguity, the origin of the source is always indicated.

[104 words]

Try English style:—

Icons and images are self-produced, but some obtained from the Internet have indeterminate copyright status. Where known, attribution is always given to the author, publisher and host site of any third-party material used herein.

The author makes no representation for or endorsement of nor connection with any parties whose names, trademarks, logotypes or other insignia may appear in this site or as to those parties’ activities or merchandise that may be mentioned.

[71 words = 30% less to read]


This one is srsly good:—

On the site there are no hidden messages in the form of promotional activity or the professional business trends of third parties. Where this occurs, it is always in open form, by choice and always without consideration in return — as is, for example, the case of Atroconsumo, Emergency, Union Waldensian Churches, and so on. In other cases, you exercise the right of criticism and review to those brands and company names.

Look at the expression ‘in open form’ — this is also the preferred way in English, that is, to avoid using adverbial stuff such as “openly” and the like.

Remember the old schoolboy’s maxim (paraphrased):—

Good, clean, crisp English is nouns and verbs, and adjectives and adverbs are mostly the occasionally necessary warts that give sickening colour to the picture.



And Italians have a knack for talking ‘with meanings — here His Honour is telling you nicely to shave and shove it up your arse if you don’t agree:—

Similarly, texts [and] opinions of individuals or organisations are hosted and mentioned as interesting and have titles and sources indicated. Although presented or mentioned, opinions are not necessarily shared in content.

See what I mean? Lots better than the Englishman’s “opinions are those of the author.” We farkin’ know that already! Who else could they have been?


Although Italians aren’t particularly gemmed up on copyright matters, at least they put it in non-combative fashion:—

In particular, in the case of infrequent [occasional] reproduction of extended texts in any form represented, reproduction [may] take place if it is considered particularly advantageous in the context of learning and teaching for the purposes of illustration of the topics covered, and in any case, for non-commercial [use]: Article 70, paragraph I and III, L. 04.22.1941 No. 633.*

Names and other personal or sensitive data are so presented as to the explicit consent given by rightsholders under the terms required by law.


But His Honour’s closing words win the day, all the way:—

Cura e manutenzione sono amatoriali,  le imperfezioni non mancano.

Care and maintenance are amateur, imperfections abound.

The original Italian full text is here: [» Disclaimer IL PLEUT]




Sometimes it’s necessary to actually see how the europhone world do things, so that we may actually realise, understand and perhaps even appreciate how things are (or should be) done in English.

If our personal comfort zone language-wise is substantially in the anglophone Anglosphere, we won’t be too well positioned to think even inside the box, never mind outside it.


If you don’t find it challenging,
you’re not learning anything new.

— One Jewish prophet to another contemporaneous Jewish prophet


© Learn English or Starve, 2013. (B13027)

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