Friday, May 14, 2004

Since my former colleague vanished at Easter, I have taken on some of her classes. Today I did the last of a few painful lessons at a local school with some teenagers that have fallen out of the education system, having been expelled from a couple of schools each. Anyway, after getting some teaching done – no mean feat with these kids – I decided to show them part of a film in English with Italian subtitles (DVDs are a blessing for the language learner), if for no other reason than to expose them to the sound of the language. This is a big problem for Italian learners, since they almost never hear the language spoken – their movies are almost all dubbed – and so can’t accustom their ear to English.

I chose Gangs Of New York and, whilst watching, I idly picked up the DVD box. On the back was all the usual stuff, including the film’s certificate. ‘T’, it said, “film per tutti”. For everybody? From, literally, the opening scene, it’s clear this is an ‘18’ film: blood, guts and sex. Yet here it gets a green – for all – certificate.

This reminded me of a few conversations I had a few months ago after seeing some teenagers drinking in a bar. The conversation usually went something like this:

Me: “What’s the drinking age in Italy?”

Student one: “Umm...”

Me (amazed): “You don’t know?”

Student one: “Hmm...” [to their friend:] “Tu sai?"

Student two: “No

Me (amazed and confused): “So you don’t know?”

Student one: “No. I don’t think there is one”

So apparantly anybody can drink anything anywhere. And anybody can watch violence on film. Yet drunk Italians are a rare site, and Verona is the safest place I’ve ever lived. There are morals in that; I’ll leave you to decide what they are.

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