Sorry! Search is currently unavailable while the database is being updated, it will be back in 5 mins!

Education and Educazione: Friends or Not?

English speakers think of school when they hear the word “education.” But educazione in Italian usually means something a bit different. Check out what Italian words correspond to the English “education.” Istruzione is a common one. This sounds like “instruction,” so we can understand it well enough, although we usually think of instruction as in “instructions” for how to do something. Titolo di studio is another one. This is about what diplomas or degrees you have. Formazione is another. This refers to what one has been trained in. Gli studi corresponds to “studies,” and refers to the schools one has attended, and what someone has majored in, but English speakers can easily forget that educazione is more about upbringing, and teaching one’s children (or pets) to behave, than about going to school.


Here are some reminders from Yabla videos.


If you’ve been following La Tempesta, you know that Paolo, a Venetian unemployed wealthy factory-owner’s son has suddenly taken on, against his will, responsibility for his brother’s adopted son, an orphan from Russia. They are both having a rough time of it. The following comment (from this week’s new video) is from a meeting with the school principal after the kid got in a fight. They are not talking about book learning here.


Ma prima di metterlo in classe con i bambini normali,

But before putting him in a class with normal children,

bisognerebbe educarlo.

one should teach him some manners.

Captions 10-11, La Tempesta - film

 Play Caption


In the following example, we’re talking about a dog. For Caterina, the dog is part of the family so she talks about him as if he were a person (with bad manners).


Sempre in giro a ficcanasare questo cagnazzo...

Always snooping around this old dog...

Lo devi scusare Malvina, è un gran maleducato...

You have to excuse him Malvina, he's really ill-mannered...

Captions 49-50, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva

 Play Caption


In the following example, Manara has called his boss in the middle of the night for something he thought was molto importante and urgente. His boss didn’t appreciate it per niente (at all)!


Non si azzardi più a chiamarmi a quest'ora, maleducato!

Don't you dare call me again at this hour, how rude!

Caption 69, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP5 - Il Raggio Verde

 Play Caption


In actual fact, his boss uses maleducato as a noun, as is common in Italian. Indeed, it’s a common insult to somebody who is not being polite. It implies that the person was brought up badly—maleducato—and therefore has no manners. The adjective “rude” in English gives the idea. “Disrespectful” could have worked, too.



Male (evil, badly) is often used as a prefix, lending its "badness" to other words. It’s often truncated to mal. Male is both a noun and an adverb. Technically the adjective form is malo, as in: ha reagito in malo modo (he reacted in a bad way). But colloquially, people do say non è male to mean something’s not bad, even though male isn’t an adjective. A correct way to describe something as "not bad," would be with malvagio (wicked). These days, malvagio is usually used in the negative, to say “not bad,” in talking about something you’re eating or drinking, for example:

Non è malvagio questo vino (this wine isn't bad = it's drinkable).


Or a movie you’ve seen: 

Quel film non era malvagio (that movie wasn't so bad).

Maledire (to curse someone, to wish someone ill)
Maldestro (maladroit, clumsy)


There are plenty more words with mal where these come from. Take out your dizionario!


You May Also Like