Hey dear fellow language learner, so you’d love to learn Business Italian, the Italian used in professional environments? 🧰
Let me give you in this post the keys to succeed.
It’s a great thing, to learn the business language once you are already quite fluent in Italian.
There is a bunch of reasons for doing so: first and foremost, Italians are not proficient English speakers. Or proficient in other languages, for what matters; not even the cultural elite of the country. It’s an old problem with deep roots.
To make business in Italy and/or with Italians, to master Italian and business Italian in particular comes extremely helpful.
Secondly, you can be quite fluent in Italian – and there are many who do. But it might not be enough.
Let me walk you through the reasons to learn business Italian and how to do that.
Why is important to learn Business Italian
To neglect business Italian, if you have working dealings with Italy, is a mistake.
The moment you tip your toes in a business environment, you realize that having a grasp of general Italian is definitely not enough:
- You don’t want to be, in a meeting, the only one who does not understand what’s being decided;
- you know business is increasingly challenging. Most employees do not spend the necessary amount of time to train new hires, as in the good old days were doing;
- you want to secure your job and possibly increase your salary, and that comes only with the added value you can bring to your position.
That’s for when you work in Italy, or work for a foreign branch of an Italian company. But you may have other dealings with the Italian-speaking business dimension:
- Selling to Italians;
- purchasing from Italians;
- collaborating with Italian Chambers of Commerce;
- showcasing your products and services in a trade fair in the Belpaese;
- getting a job in Italy;
- applying for a job in an Italy-based international organization (Apimondia, Unicri, FAO, UNHCR, WFP, among others).
If you want to sell to Italians, well, who doesn’t love to hear the sound of his own language? It’s a no-brainer for a salesperson.
But if you’re the client and you source services or materials from Italy, a solid comprehension of business Italian can be incredibly beneficial too.
If you took part in negotiations in your life, you know what I mean.
Italy, despite Italians 🤭, it’s quite a prosperous country. It’s world’s seventh economy, Europe’s forth behind Germany, France and UK.
It’s a synonym for fashion, design, industrial equipments, cars, luxury, food and cultural heritage. Italy’s exports reach the four corners of the world. I bet a lot of stuff sold in your country comes from mine.
- It is Austria’s 2nd market, with 7.9B GBP, as well as its 2nd supplier, with 8B GBP.
- It is France’s 3rd market, with 30.8B GBP, as well as its 2nd supplier, with 37.2B GBP.
- It is Germany’s 4th market, with 56B GBP, as well as its 3rd supplier, with 45.3B GBP.
From the UK, Italy imports goods and services for 9.8B GBP; to UK, it exports an overall value of 19.3B GBP.
So, if I had at least an intermediate level of Italian, I’d certainly learn some business Italian. It is just the same for speakers of foreign languages when learning English.
It’s hard to find equities, P&L statements, blue chips, tariff rollbacks, Pension Schemes Act and fix term saving accounts in general English materials.
And when it’s about money, we all want to understand very well what’s at stake.
The recipe for learning business Italian the proper way is a combination of self-teaching and study with a qualified tutor. Let me tell you how to do it.
Resources to learn Business Italian
There’s some material, written in English or German or French. In any case, in my opinion as of an intermediate level you should already deal with monolingual textbooks such as this:
This is quite an informative book.
I like it because it skip those useless parts so common in such textbooks, such as pieces of the Civil Code or labour legislation without neither translation nor interpretation.
In here you can find fragments of business press, letter templates, resumes and comprehension exercises: it’s a blessing for whoever teaches Italian to foreign students. The best to start with business Italian.
To have a pile of email templates, commercial documents and phrases ready for business writing, this is the best you can get on the market:
Italian/English Business Correspondence, published by Routledge. It’s the first of two books concerning Italian, from the excellent series Languages for Business. The second book is great too, but for the needs of most of us, perhaps this first one is good enough.
This is also very recommendable:
Il libro dell’economia, published by Gribaudo: it has been conceived to for native Italian speakers not savvy in economics, so its focus isn’t a didactic one, but it’s recommendable nevertheless.
In a nutshell, it gives you some concepts, clear-cut lexicon and phrases to get acquainted with the subject, in Italian.
It’s very graphic, concise and it is very helpful if you have at least a B1 in Italian.
Italy’s Financial Times is Il Sole 24 Ore: as you can see, a part of what they publish is available to anyone, subscribers and general public.
Owned by the Italian industrials’ federation, just as the FT it is not an easy red: anything like this requires a grasp of Italian law, finance, economics and current affairs.
The same media group of Il Sole 24 Ore manages a radio channel, also very informative. They have all sorts of programs, all of them very good to improve your Italian.
Nevertheless, if you are merely focused on business Italian, you may want to start from Due di Denari and Focus Economia.
A good collection of business Italian and domestic economy is the website of the consumer association Altroconsumo: contracts, telecom, consumer credit, cryptocurrencies, utilities, etc.
I’d tell you to have a look also at the ABI website, that is, the Italian Banking Association.
It’s as pleasant to navigate as a bite from a Tyrannosaur, but there’s a thorough glossary that can be of help, when deciphering complex texts.
The website of Poste Italiane has also to be one you dive in every now and then. If you have already been in Italy, you’ll know that they have all sorts of services beyond mail: insurance, banking, saving, investments, pensions, donation to charities, etc.
Prospectuses and fliers published by Poste Italiane are good sources of information, many of them available in multiple languages so that you can compare one version with the other.
The Wikipedia page about Incoterms in Italian is also enough to get the ABC of logistics in Italian.
Of course, there’s a lot more to learn, but this is to get the gist of business Italian.
Suggestions to learn Business Italian
#1 First of all, get to a B1
Before to go technical, I’d suggest anyone to achieve an intermediate Italian at least: agricultural, engineering, health, physics, legal or, as in our case, business. Before, it’d be hard.
However, there is no need to wait for a C2 either. You improve your Italian also by dealing with business Italian.
#2 Train your Writing and Speaking
Writing business emails and quotes, calling to ask for prices or get info about delivery conditions, negotiating volumes and batches: these are skills that require study and practice.
A good way of doing that is to analyse the communications you receive from Italy, if you have the chance, and make reverse-engineering. I’ve been doing this for ages.
Dare to throw yourself into a phone call in Italian.
Start from little things: an order confirmation, for example: the Skype conferences with the CEO of Pirelli SpA will come, don’t despair. ☎️
Business Italian is, on the other hand, a bit different from layman Italian: syntax, lexical collocations, formality, etc.
Once you gained some knowledge of your own, the best you can do is to hire a private tutor, someone correcting your writing and polishing your speaking.
I among others, tutor students in Italian. People of all ages and origins, online and offline, since a long time.
With a professional tutor, you can learn in months what you’d otherwise learn in many years.
#3 Watch out the language register
In Italy, there’s perhaps more formality than other places like the Anglo-Saxon countries: we are quite formal to whoever we do not know, seems older and with a higher social status than us.
As usual, in case of doubt: be cautious. Better to be too formal than the opposite, as the risk of making a fool of yourself is always there.
#4 Keep yourself updated
In order to widen your broad language mastery, you should not only read books in Italian but also specialized press.
Filiera or franco a bordo are concepts in use already for some time, but studi di settore and other recent terms and idioms… You need to be kept abreast with the latest developments.
#5 Make good use of spare minutes here and there
Queueing at the supermarket, commuting to work, lonely coffee breaks while remote working: if you feel like putting spare moments to use, there is a light-weight but effective tool I would recommend: the App Learn Italian Vocabulary,
It provides a broader knowledge of the Italian language through its lexicon: you have the business part but also everything else. Unlike other Apps that I do not find useful, this is recreational but informative at the same time.
Resources to become a ninja of the business Italian
In certain cases, there’s the need for a higher level. What cases? For example, the following:
1. Earning a Master’s Degree at the Bocconi Univerisity in Milan, at the Luiss Guido Carli University in Rome or at the Ca’ Foscari in Venice;
2. Understanding a contract written in Italian, before to sign it; 🔍
3. Being given Italy as an Area Manager, aware that every Euro you can yield for your company depends on your expertise in Italian and professional jargon involved;
4. Specializing in the niche of business Italian as a translator, interpreter, proofreader or content creator;
5. You work in real estate… pretty much anywhere in the world. Indonesia, Spain, Scotland, Kenya.
You may think you are not strictly required to master business Italian, but… knowing how to talk with Italians makes a difference between getting a sale 🏠 or retiring empty-handed. 😔
Lease agreements, mortgages, regulations related to the purchase and sale of properties, etc. In English they still make sense, but an Italian handles these concepts more:
Multiproprietà, caparra, Imu, dichiarazione dei redditi, visura catastale, aliquota TASI, locazione passiva, surroga del mutuo, fabbricato rurale, interessi passivi.
Would you be able to offer your properties to an Italian using these terms? You need to specifically dig into business Italian because otherwise you’ll never going to find this language anywhere else.
6. You are going to do an Erasmus project in Italy, in a faculty of Economics, Accountancy or Business Administration. If any of these possibilities is of your concern, you have to get this dictionary:
New Economics & Business. Dizionario Enciclopedico Economico e Commerciale Inglese-Italiano, Italiano-Inglese, by Hoepli.
If you want to become an outstanding communicator, this is a dictionary you have to own. No matter where you are on your career ladder or in life, using this tome will make whatever you compose and translate more effective.
It will save you hours and hours looking for answers on Proz and other translation-related websites. Bless them. 🙌
Then I’d possibly also grab these books below:
Il libro del business, published by Gribaudo: a wealth of jargon and language information for anyone who aims to move within the Italian-speaking business world. In a company, you’ll know what they are talking about.
Steering gently towards finance, here’s what you should study:
Finalmente ho capito la finanza, by Maurizio de Pra: thanks to this book, even a dumb dude like me could understand what are ETFs, subprimes and other devilish concepts. It delivers valuable, sensible notions to have competent conversations about finance, be corporate, investment or personal.
With these materials, some time and the help of a private tutor, you will be able to broaden your Italian knowledge and get ready to seize new amazing professional opportunities.
And you will invited to that complaining party that is Italian social life. 😂
In these few paragraphs, I hope I have made some clarity about how to gain fast and efficiently a decent business Italian.
It does open many doors. The students who have learnt it with me have confirmed that:
- the communication with their Italian counterparts have significantly become more fluid,
- sales in Italy have risen, 💰💰💰
- the number of formal complaints has decreased.
Sure! What else did you expect?
You are not yet at a B1? Never mind, read here: Learning Italian: How to Go from Zero to B1
Would you like to become a certified Italianist? 📛 This post will make your mouth water: Speaking Italian: The Beauty of Italy’s language
And of course, if you’re looking for a language tutor in order to improve your business Italian, contact me: I’ve been teaching Italian for ages.
With a good language tutor, you can learn in few months as much Italian as in many years on your own.
If you liked this post, would you mind to share? 📲It took a while to wrap up all the information on the matter.
Thank you very much & see you around 😉
Your personal Italianist,