At Naples base, volunteers step in to give Italians free English classes
March 8, 2008
NAPLES, Italy — Massimo Magurno has an excellent reason for studying English: “Because the world don’t speak Italian.”
Two evenings a week, Magurno and others fill classrooms at Fleet and Family Support Center on the U.S. Navy’s support site in Gricignano to tackle lessons in conversational English, which is taught free-of-charge by three volunteers from the base.
“It’s very necessary to speak English,” said Magurno, an officer with the Aversa district office of the carabinieri, Italy’s military police.
The students mostly are Italian police and carabinieri, but the class also includes civilians in administrative roles with local governments who often deal with Americans or foreigners who speak English.
Carmela Dell’Abersana, for example, works as the executive assistant to the mayor of Gricignano. With Americans living and working so close by, it’s imperative she learn the language, she said.
Italian officials who work with and around Americans clamored for such a service, and last September the base’s community liaison office set up the first class, said organizer Maria De Blasio, the base community liaison officer. Base commander Capt. Floyd Hehe tossed support behind the effort, but told De Blasio he couldn’t fund it.
“The command didn’t have money, so it had to be all voluntary work,” she said.
Costanza Chirico, who for years taught as a private tutor, jumped at the chance.
“We don’t always do things for the money,” said Chirico, who now works that the Information, Tours and Travel office at the support site. “We also live for what gives us satisfaction.”
The evening classes, taught in three-month sessions, don’t delve much into English grammar and finer language points, but allow students to become more familiar with spoken English, said volunteer Pasquale Franco.
Conversational English with a twist of law enforcement terms tossed in for flavor, that is. Like Thursday, when De Blasio dictated from a lesson plan the events of an automobile collision, introducing students to words like “scene,” “crash,” “license” and “officer.”
Late last year, word of the Navy’s free tutorial spread among local Italian law enforcement commanders. As a result, the program grew from a handful of students to now 30, divided into the two classes taught Tuesday and Thursday evenings, De Blasio said.
Francesco Lettieri, the son of Gricignano mayor Andrea Lettieri, said learning English helps him not only in his studies to become a lawyer, but also to communicate with American friends and acquaintances who live in town.
“And English is the [world’s] most important language now,” he said — in English.