The long-winded translation of ‘saccente’

If any of you has ever studied languages, there’s no appropriate translation for many words between many languages. Linguistics is not an exact science, of course. For example, ‘accountability’ in English has no proper translation in Italian or ‘buonismo’ in Italian has no effective translation in English, at least in the modern meaning of the word. One of those words I always found difficult to translate is the Italian adjective ‘saccente’ and, for your information, it’s a pejorative term too.

In my opinion it’s no coincidence that this word exists as an ‘only word’ in Italian whilst in English it could translate with ‘arrogant, pedantic, conceited know-it-all’. Despite the renown snobbery of some English people who could easily be described by such a word, that is nothing compared to the same level of ‘saccenza’ (the noun at the root of the adjective) displayed by many Italians. Unfortunately…. I guess it is the heritage left by those pompous Romans 2,000 years ago… (I’m neck-deep in studying Augustus’ Res Gestae… most presumptuous thing ever!!) and it seems it’s still ongoing nowadays.

Italians generally hold a grudge on anyone who’s definitively showing some kind of superiority in any field compared to them, whether that’s the truth or not. They regard their lifestyle and ‘their’ system as one of the best in the world (guess what.. like the Romans!), but this particular side of them doesn’t show when they are in Italy, it rears its ‘ugly’ head when they are abroad. No population all over Europe has anything better than in Italy and the worst thing I can do at the end of my day is reading online comments written in Italian and read all that crap about how cleaner, smarter and more beautiful all things are in Italy. I had promised I was going to stop doing it, but sometimes the temptation is strong, sorry my dear readers! Of course, it is an illusion. There are pros and cons in every situation as well as living in every country. There’s no perfect country to live in, there’s only a place you can call home, regardless of where that is. Unfortunately, this is not the message that many accept as truth, even if it’s the person ‘feeling at home’ who’s speaking/writing. I was reading comments on FB on one of my articles in Italian (not written for this website) and the general lack of humility and understanding was appalling. They’ve to tell you that what you’re feeling or experiencing can’t be possible and it is not the truth.

You’ve to know that Italian students have to study ten times more than anyone else in Europe. That doesn’t make any of them a lot smarter, of course, you are smart or you aren’t. However, many graduates still insist they are smarter or more prepared than others abroad. Needless to say, that is not true because quantity doesn’t equal quality most of the time. The quality of their learning process is very low and stiff, many students goes on repeating/parroting what they read in their ‘assigned’ books and usually they have no practical knowledge at all. The information is also politically manufactured most of the time and at present I’m in the middle of unlearning what I had learnt in my secondary school years (Thank God I didn’t complete it in Italy!!). Is this the rule for everybody? Of course not, many brilliant students detach themselves from such a method and bin it (only doing the ‘parroting’ thing at the exams but in the end they actively learnt something). For the others, a huge, general bitterness is felt when they find out what they had to stand for…nothing. Once confronted with a foreign method and process of learning they find themselves at a loss. In a few words, they don’t know how to justify they spent years learning a huge pile of crap and someone got there in half of the time… They’re looking for graduate jobs at 28 and the others at 22-23… And here the ‘saccenza’ and the need of justifying ‘useless study’ come back… “But I know more”, nope, they just read more: reading lots without learning doesn’t make anyone more skilled or smarter. In some cases it just makes them appear as losers (not my opinion here, just what I’ve heard locals say).


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