Ciaooo, this post is for you if speaking Italian is something you had in mind for a while. 🍕 Hehe, who wouldn’t? There is a gazillion of good reasons. 😎
Italian is a gateway to immense working, business and leisure opportunities. 🇮🇹
It’s a pleasant, easy-going language, though we should not underestimate the challenge either: many of those setting out to learn Italian get shipwrecked, which is a great pity. Wrong tools, bad mindset, failure to tame the quirks of the language, you name it.
Do yourself a favour and avoid wasting time and money adopting learning strategies that are proven fruitless. Even in the best-case scenario, learning Italian is still challenging but I guarantee you it is also immensely satisfying. 😃
Now, if you are after immediate, fresh suggestions about how to learn Italian from scratch, go read this: Learning Italian: How to Go from Zero to B1
This post is a funny yet solid guide about why YOU should consider learning Italian. If you are a hasty fellow, though, please use the index here below to get straight where you need the most.
Let’s start, or rather, iniziamo.
Where is Italian spoken?
The Italian language is, spoiler alert, spoken in Italy and its surroundings. But also inside: you know those two little specs, at about the centre of the country? One is the Republic of San Marino 🇸🇲, the other is Vatican City. 🇻🇦
I know, I know: they told the official language of the Holy See is Latin, but… listen to me: it’s Italian what you’ll hear everywhere in the tiny city-state.
It is also spoken in Switzerland, Slovenia, Austria, Croatia, Albania, Montenegro, France and Malta; then, Italian communities are everywhere in the vast world: limiting the estimates to reasonable fluency, there are about 70 million speakers of Italian worldwide.
On top of that, it has to be said that in certain fields Italian is the unofficial lingua franca by popular acclamation (thunderous applause). More on this later on.
What language is it?
It is not that mysterious: it shares with English the same alphabet, though with a minor prevalence of letters such as W, X, Y. Compared to English, it is more phonetic (brutally said, an Italian ghoti wouldn’t exist), though the absence of diacritics makes pronunciation challenging sometimes.
For example, take the word pesca: with no pronunciation and no context, I wouldn’t know if it refers to fishery 🎣, in which case is [ˈpeska], or peach 🍑, in which case is [ˈpɛska].
In Italian, there is no weird word cluster rendering readability impossible without the aid of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), aka the transcription with the funny letters in square brackets I have used above for pesca.
Nonetheless, you do have a few other issues: double consonants, genders, numbers, formality/informality, irregular verbs being a few of them. But again, if you study well (more on this on other posts) there is nothing to worry about.
Where does the language come from
As any romance language, it comes from Latin: the similarities are patent, though if you expect to understand Latin as a byproduct of your Italian learning endeavour, you are fooling yourself. Same if you think you have a head start with Italian because you had two years of Latin in high school. 😓
We Italians understand very little Latin unless we commit to learning it for a few years.
The classic legacy parades before your eyes as you travel across Italy, speak with people and visit our landmarks. 🏛️ We are conscious of that, but Latin is like a box of which we have lost the key.
An insane percentage of the Italian population uses its dialect or local language as the main means of communication, resorting to standard Italian as a lingua franca with people outside their immediate circle of everydayness. 🗣️
Italian proper is the standardized version of the late Florentine language, which was just the evolution Latin experienced in the Tuscan city.
Most of the time, those we laymen Italians call dialects are in reality scions of the Latin language of old. The journalist Beppe Severgnini famously said:
(…) Tuscan is the dialect that won the national prize, thanks to the attacking team it had (Dante, Petrarca, Boccaccio). That’s why Tuscans, regardless of their social class or their education, speak Italian so wonderfully (even though exaggerating with “sicché”).
The farther you go from Tuscany, the less easy it gets to understand such dialect/languages. If the area has been subjugated by a foreign power, even more.
Thus, it will take years to understand Neapolitan and Friulian; conversely, Marchigiano and Roman will have little secrets after a few weeks, provided you are fluent in Italian. 👍
Why do I tell you this?
You may wonder: are there Italian who only speak dialect? Nope, not anymore. Compulsory public schools and state-owned TV unified linguistically the country. 📺
The matter of fluency, though, is a different one: some people may be more acquainted to speak with locals in their dialect, hence using Italian rarely. That happens in certain areas, especially among older generations. 👵
This is relevant to know, as these speeches affect the Italian spoken there: accent, loanwords, idioms.
In Italy, the linguistic variety you can find even in a single county is all but negligible: we’ve been a conglomerate of hundreds of small homelands and, on top of that, the orography of the peninsula favoured the divergence of vernacular speeches. ⛰️
The popular intellectual Indro Montanelli expressed his pessimism about holding together a country that calls the same item uccello (bird) in the north and pesce (fish) in the south. What was he talking about? Hint: it has to do with the masculine reproductory apparatus. 😶
Dialects aren’t the only forces shaping the Italian language: foreign words abound, English especially. 🇬🇧 All in all, rest assured: by mastering standard Italian, you will go everywhere.
A few numbers about the Italian language
➡️ 65 million: the total amount of native speakers.
➡️ 4 million: speakers of Italian as L2 (second language).
➡️ 1.710.000: the amount of followers Pope Francis had on Twitter in 2014, one year after his election. In 2021, and only in his Italian account, look how many he has 😲
➡️ 73: percentage of Italian declaring to speak only or mostly Italian. 19% say to speak both Italian and dialect. In truth, I believe dialects are more widely spoken: considering the social stigma attached to them, the ones polled have likely preferred to omit the fact.
➡️ 1.200.000: Americans fluent in Italian.
➡️ 960 AD: year of the first written evidence of vernacular Italian. It’s the so-called Placito cassinese: property register of a few Benedectine monasteries in central Italy. ⛪
➡️ 35: the languages listed by Ethnologue in Italy. A good part of these would be what the man in the street would call dialects.
➡️ 6 million: the number of speakers of Neapolitan, Italy’s main language besides Italian.
➡️ 307.000: native Italian speakers living in the Canton of Ticino, southern Switzerland.
➡️ 33.000: native Italian speakers in the Republic of San Marino.
➡️ 1321 AD: the year in which Dante’s Divine Comedy was published, a text which turned to be fundamental in the elevation of the Florentine parlance to standard Italian.
➡️ 1585 AD: the year of the foundation of the well-known Accademia della Crusca (lit. Academy of Bran), a public entity studying and regulating, somehow, the Italian language.
➡️ 2,5: percentage of the population who spoke Italian when the peninsula was made the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.
Fun fact: most of those who unified the country had French as native tongue, despite being fluent in Piedmontese and Italian too.
➡️ 6: the Nobel literature prizes who wrote in Italian. Carducci, Deledda, Pirandello, Quasimodo, Montale, Fo.
Reeds In The Wind, by Grazia Deledda: she was a force of nature. Awarded with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1926, it’s her best-known work and, in my opinion, her best work.
Kind of challenging in Italian if you’re not an advanced speaker, but this translation to English does a terrific job.
FAQ about speaking Italian
Q: How is the cluck of hens, in Italian?
A: Coccodé. The rooster, chicchirichi. 🐓
Q: A few words I should learn ASAP?
A: A lot! Let’s start by these:
Che schifo! = That’s gross!
Mamma mia! = Oh my!
Parli inglese? = Do you speak English?
Scordatelo = Forget about it.
Last but not least… Cin cin! = Cheers! 🥂
Q: Any word impossible to translate?
A: Al dente is a concept I always struggle to convey in other languages. It always ends up being explained as “not entirely cooked” but it’s imprecise, as it would imply that something went wrong during cooking. 🍝 It’s a bit of a mess.
Q: Do all Italian men have gelled hair?
A: Ehm not me, especially because I have little hair left. The majority of my fellas, uhm, I don’t think so either, whether they have a lion’s mane or are as bald as a knee.
Q: Should I learn your body language?
A: I would recommend you to become at least conversational in it. We do express ourselves through it: ignoring body language when talking in Italian would be like speaking Chinese without tones. 🙈
Nevertheless, relax: we can communicate by phone without major issues and in official language qualifications you are not graded according to your gestures. 😉 If you feel like learning it for real (and laugh your spleen out in the process), I suggest you this book:
Speak Italian: The Fine Art of the Gesture, by Bruno Munari: When I saw it for the first time, I was outraged. “Let’s see what stereotypes they are going to show this time”, I thought to myself.
Soon after having got home with the book, I realized that… Munari was right: if you learn half of the gestures explained here, you are eligible for an Italian C3 language diploma. 😂
Q: If I move to anywhere in Italy, will I have to learn the local dialect?
A: Have to is too strong a statement. As previously hinted, many dialects are spoken in many areas: it’s the language of affection 💑 and everyday exchanges, but rest assured they all speak Italian.
Q: Where should I go to learn the best Italian?
A: Tuscany is said to be the best place, for reasons I explained above. Decades ago it was probably the case, especially because all speeches in central Italy are closer to standard Italian than those from the north, the south and the islands. Nowadays, however, any place would do.
Q: Do Italians blaspheme?
A: Yes, though not as heavily as in other countries I visited. The most heinous one, like those against deities, represent an administrative infraction and you may well be fined for that. I’m not kidding.
It used to be a felony up until two decades ago, now not anymore but it still is punishable by law. Football players know a thing or two about it. Nevertheless, it is definitely considered of bad taste: don’t even try to play the fool.
Q: OK, not as heavy: what about curse words?
A: Italians use them: the most innocent populate TV, cinema 🎦 and people’s daily life. If I were you, I’d learn them for self-defence. Trying to use them, even to be funny, tends to backfire. 🤐
Q: How long it will take me to acquire fluency?
R: It’s a false, darn false problem. Start learning it now and do not concern yourself with anything but knowing today more than you knew yesterday. Fluency will come if you persist.
Q: Is Swiss Italian different from Italy’s Italian?
R: A tiny bit, but as I said, also Milan’s speech is different from Bari’s. There are variations, just like those you see between different areas of the United Kingdom, none of which hinders mutual comprehension.
23 Reasons to speak Italian
#1 Earn our sympathy
If you pronounce pizza and Versace the proper way, we would get emotional.
In Italy, people go the extra mile to establish a connection, no matter the language barrier: if you want to reach Italians’ hearts though, it is essential to speak Italian.
The boot-shaped country treasures beauty of every kind: let me mention a few examples.
❇️ Nature? The Dolomites, the coves of Apulia, the forests of Maremma, the vineyards of Piedmont, the lakes of the north, the volcanoes of the south. 🌋
❇️ Archaeology? Pompeii, Aquileia, Veio, Selinunte.
❇️ Middle Age? Assisi, Soncino, Erice, Siena.
❇️ Renaissance? Urbino, Florence, Mantova, Ferrara. 🏰
❇️ Gastronomy? Oil and wine tastings are great, but how about a vinegar tasting, or learning how to make homemade pasta?
❇️ Wellness? The hay baths in South Tyrol, the abundant thermal baths throughout the Apennine mountain range, seeking solace to a monastery to disconnect from civilisation.
❇️ Shopping? There are huge malls for buying clothes, shoes and accessories: Made in Italy is worth going to the Belpaese with empty luggage and filled wallet.
There are plenty of options for teenagers, families and seniors.
Riccione is there if you’re after nightlife, or you can sip a cocktail along the Navigli in Milan 🍹 if you fancy the jet-set; otherwise, why not explore the hills of Umbria, combed by olive groves, or otherwise snorkel along Costa Smeralda in Sardinia?
You can chill in an agriturismo in Abruzzi switching from the table to the rolling chair to the nearby woods before getting back to the tavola. 🍽️
Do it however you want, but stop every now and again and connect with the locals, to realize how different but similar we all are. 💬
Haven’t I convinced you yet?
Well well, let’s see: why do you believe they shot the film Under the Tuscan sun rather than Under the Bavarian clouds? There must be a reason. 😂 (sorry, Germans).
And once in Italy, you have to enjoy it to the fullest.
#3 Italian gastronomy is insane
I mean: Italian food in Italy: Italoamerican, Italoargentinian or whatever variation you may find around is another matter: aren’t they good? They likely are, but tasting the real Italian at least for once in your life you must.
Old World Italian: Recipes and Secrets from Our Travels in Italy by Mimi Thorisson is among the very few books I’d recommend you to get acquainted with real Italian food:
Anecdotes, histories and recipes: there is culinary life in this tome. And I love zucchini flowers, like those on the cover.
Cannelloni buried under four centimetres of bechamel sauce 😱, or pasta carbonara with whipped cream 😱😱 are grotesque inventions worthy of Mordor.
There are dozens of Italian cuisines and speaking Italian will allow you to get you off the beaten path, to get to the family-run trattorie: bagna cauda, cassata, malloreddus, the puzzone cheese (stinky) of Moena, to name a few.
The liturgy around food isn’t less simple. If slow food started here, it’s for a reason. 🐌 And as taste buds are gateways to the heart, let’s proceed to the next excellent reason for learning Italian.
#4 Speaking Italian is compulsory… if the love of your life is Italian
Got an Italian partner? Oh boy, you have already messed up 😂 and now you are bound to learn Italian.
Well, in fairness, she/he may speak English, but in any case, you would need Italian to speak with their friends, relatives, former schoolmates.
Maybe your in-laws would learn English to show empathy, but it will be difficult to drag the whole clan along. However, if you analyze it from another stance, you have won the lottery. 🏆 For two reasons.
First: a partner is both an excellent excuse and an even better aid to learning a language. ❤ Second: Italy is a multifaceted country, riddled with contradictions, so one of us can help you decipher the mystery.
If you have no Italian lover yet, this audiobook will do:
La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair With Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language, by Dianne Hales: I myself am Italian and after having listened to this audiobook I love my mother tongue even more 😀
Few understand Italy and Italians. One of the factors in this equation is the next.
#5 Speaking Italian outside of Italy isn’t that widespread
According to a famous urban legend, Italian is the fourth most studied language on earth: as much as I would like it to be true, it is not.
The misconception sparked by the publication of some stats, quite airy, that one newspaper published. 📰 As it is now the norm in contemporary journalism, few check facts and sources anymore –> the other media just republished what that first rag printed.
It’s not the fourth: globally, it could be between 8th and 12th and a long way behind the preceding languages. On the other hand, I don’t understand this race to be the most studied language.
Another way of looking at the matter is that, if few learn it, less competition and more opportunities there will be for those who speak Italian, and this pushes me towards the following reason.
#6 Italian is spoken in business
Italy exchanges huge amounts of goods and capital with any English-speaking country. Have you ever visited ANY trade fair? Fashion, high tech, food and spirits, combustibles, industrial equipment, automotive, household appliances.
An insane amount of companies are incorporated in the UK, have branches or receive substantial investments from Italy; the same is true the other way round.
English isn’t the strongest selling point of the Italian skilled workforce, which makes speaking Italian quite a necessity in many cases. It’s not just a nice-looking plus to add to a CV.
The need for broader English literacy in Italy brings me to the following point.
#7 Teaching English in Italy
Are you a translator or an interpreter? Do you have an education in literature or humanities? Haven’t you ever thought about learning enough Italian to move to Italy and teach English? 👩🏫
We may love Italian food and dolce vita, but we are equally fond of, well, the rest of the world.
We have an infatuation for Britishness, in English are the songs we sang the most in our teenage years, we are aware the language is the gateway to anything in life beyond our borders.
On another note, Italy is a place now economically mature, but alas, its labour market is afflicted by chronic ailments such as unemployment, the mismatch between skills offered and those in demand: languages are thus seen as means to foster employability. 👨💻
If you have never dived into this, there’s a book I recommend:
Teaching English as a Foreign Language for Dummies by Michelle Maxom: this book is so not going to turn you into a skilful teacher of English. What does it do then?
Well, I find it a good litmus test for people who think about it. Two possible outcomes:
1. “It’s not for me”: good to know, you can focus on another career.
2. “I like this”: excellent! You can go this path and become an English teacher. 😀
However, we Italians are not the only ones who would benefit from a handy language in our professional skillset. 😉
#8 Speak Italian increases your work appeal
A language on the CV always looks good. 💼 What better than Italian?
It’s far enough from English to make it a not-so-obvious choice for most native English speakers, and it’s sufficiently hype in the job market to make it a valuable arrow in your professional quiver.
It comes with a bonus point too: if Italian is the first romance language you learn, that means you will have gained a foundational knowledge of the romance family, a useful thing to have when approaching Spanish, Portuguese, French, Romanian, Catalan.
Plus, certain areas bristle with Italians: gastronomy, fashion, carmaking… if the only language you speak so far is your own, you could become way more employable with fluency in Italian.
Tourism is but an area where you could put your Italian to great use.
#9 Italians travel a lot
Italians are more ubiquitous than McDonald’s. 🍔
I have bumped into Italians in the most forgotten places on earth:
- lost in woods at dawn in someplace in Sweden,
- in ghost towns in the north of Spain,
- in grocery shops in hamlets perched on the Mazurys mountain range at -24ºC.
And I’m talking about places void of human presence: have you seen how many Italians roam the British isles, anywhere between Orkneys and Plymouth? 🛄
Anyone in Hospitality and Catering, in any corner of the known universe, could do with speaking Italian.
But the journey in the land of the Italian language has more to offer.
#10 Religious feelings
Italian is the de facto official language of the Roman Catholic Church. Yes, I know: it’s Latin, in theory, right? What can I say: like relationships, it’s complicated.
The Vatican is an extraordinarily polyglot state-organisation, as a premise of its ecumenical mission. It is possible to find Bibles and pastoral documents translated into languages that even learned linguists have never heard of.
Even so, the material printed in Italian, and the extent to which the language is used within the Church is unparalleled. ⛪
This is a part of the story. The other is the religious inclination of Italian outside the Vatican, very much reflected in the cultural heritage. Indeed, the entire peninsula is filled with churches, hermitages, temples, monuments, monasteries, diocesan museums. 🖼️
You can approach it as a believer or not: but as the relevance of Christianity is pivotal in the western world, to ignore it does not make sense, and speaking Italian helps immensely in making sense here.
#11 Learning Italian improves your understanding of your mother tongue
Someone smarter than me said that if you only know your language, you know no one: comparing your language with another leads to a deeper knowledge of your own, it goes without saying.
The expressive capability of a language is infinite: the farther you move away from your mother tongue, the more you get stupefied.
In this regard, Italian is your ideal sweet spot: distant enough from English to appreciate differences, close enough to it to make achieving fluency an attainable goal. More in detail:
- how verbal tenses work in both languages,
- the gendered view of the world,
- the thousand words for pasta, 🍝
- the origin of expressions such as una volta ogni morte di Papa, “once every Pope’s death”.
As Erri de Luca marvellously put it:
I am a writer in Italian and not Italian. My mother tongue is Neapolitan, but I chose to write in the Italian adopted by my father because I wanted to acquire that distance of a writer to his mother tongue.
#12 Read Italian books!
Reading doesn’t seem fashionable anymore: it’s a pity because reading Italian authors is an exclusive pleasure. You could start with a graded reader or the great childhood author Gianni Rodari.
Then, you can proceed to Italo Calvino and Cesare Pavese, moving up to the peaks of Giacomo Leopardi and Umberto Eco.
This is solid literature, which I can’t but recommend you to deep dive in; however, if you’re more of a relaxed reader, you will love Elena Ferrante or the lamented Giorgio Faletti, true genius of the genre.
All in all, if you’re thinking of stopping reading this article because speaking Italian isn’t your thing, get this book:
The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, its Regions and their Peoples, by David Gilmour: this is what I would recommend you to read if it were the only one you ever read in your life about Italy and those who inhabit it. I’m a fairly informed person and I ignored half of the things he mentions.
But reading is not the only way to enjoy the arts of Italy.
#13 Italian cinema
If you love the big screen, Italy is your new home. Neorealism, of course: but also Benigni, Sorrentino, the Turkish Ozpetek – who by now is more Italian than a parmigiana di melanzane. 🍆
With higher fluency in the language, you can also tackle Marco Paolini, the films of the Fifties and Sixties, masterpieces like those of Nino Manfredi, Marcello Mastroianni, Vittorio Gassman and Totò.
Besides the fun, you’ll learn a lot: words and expressions that now belong to the mainstream language. Ma mi faccia il piacere!
#14 Speaking Italian for enjoying opera!
Does opera sound like wigged-singer whining for aristocrats to you? Well, it could be (too), but don’t let it take away the pleasure of enjoying a good opera in Italian.
If you are as clueless about opera as I was until recently, let me tell you a couple of the things I figured out.
It’s been a while since Claudio Monteverdi, born in 16th-century Spanish-ruled Italy, kicked off the operatic tradition with his recitative of Orfeo. 🎼 It was an Italian thing, back then.
That accounts for the musical and operatic jargon coming from Italian, whatever language you use: bel canto, aria, da capo, soprano, mezzo-soprano, alto, tenore, baritone, staccato, legato, meno mosso, allegro, etc.
Five centuries later, it is now possible to enjoy operas in all languages: however, the number of them in Italian exceeds that of the other languages.
But what is opera, essentially? It’s a performance of unamplified voices: themes can be mythological, historical but also contemporary. Opera is also responsible for the invention of the duet. 🎶 One fails to convey the essence of this art form through words, though: you really have to go see one.
If you have the chance, go to La Scala in Milan, the best opera house on the planet; otherwise, you can find quality offerings in plenty of other places, and of course, at your nearest opera house.
There are formal and expensive operas, but nowadays there are also cheaper ones where to go with a more relaxed attire. How is an opera tasted best? A couple of suggestions from a half-wit dude like me:
- Choose a few easy ones to start, like Rigoletto or Il Trovatore by Verdi.
- Prior to go, read the synopsis. 👓
- Get them online and listen to each act, libretto in hand, to follow the original Italian text.
- Eventually, go to the opera house. 🎭
I’ve tried to educate myself on several books, though the one I’d suggest reading as the first is this:
Opera, by Alan Riding and Leslie Dunton-Downer: this is your typical DK guide. What does that mean?
Explanations are simple, there is the right amount of text and lots of visuals. You lose some of the theory, but you gain much in terms of scenery.
You may end up liking it or not, but once in a lifetime, at least, you should try. On top of that, on Instagram, a selfie in an opera house is worth ten pictures sitting by the pool.
#16 Learning Italian as a way to keep your brain sharp
If Chinese is mental Crossfit, Italian is pilates. It is impossible to overstate the importance of continuing to stimulate the brain throughout life.
It’s one of the best strategies to postpone cognitive decay, something that will befall us all sooner or later. Italian is a most amusing language, which makes learning all the more entertaining. 🇮🇹
Showing a tricoloured middle finger to Alzheimer and its nasty relatives is priceless.
Italy is the epicentre of all textiles, garments and trends. If you are a fashion victim or you would work for Gucci, mastering Italian represents a distinct advantage. 👠
As Ron Frasch stated:
Style is more important to Italian men than it is to men of other countries. They’re raised from a young age to appreciate quality and design.
How did it all start? Well, the few things I know I got them from this book:
The Origins of Italian Fashion (1900-1945), by Sofia Gnoli: it’s so cool that even a mountain goat like myself, as far from fashion as I am from Proxima Centauri, has loved it.
#18 Speaking Italian to befriend Italians
The keys of Dolce Vita are in their hands.
Today’s Italy has been shaped by centuries of invasions, infightings, alliances and political betrayals, just as it has been moulded by its landscapes, harvests, the ice of the Alps and the warmth of the Mediterranean Sea. The brilliance of its merchants and the madness of its artists.
The difference between the you tourist and the you traveller is defined by your command of Italian. Take the time to speak with them, sipping an espresso in a coffee house ☕ or sitting in the shade with an elder.
Adopt millennials by offering them a spritz on a terrace.
Meet us! If you like us, you could stay, which means…
#19 Live and work in Italy
If you have already been there, you may have noticed it: languages aren’t what Italians are best at. We’ve been improving, granted, but the mission isn’t yet accomplished.
If you would like to live in Italy, it could be hell if you don’t speak Italian. Working is plain impossible. 😓 There is a positive element to this: no matter what happens, people will stick to Italian. 😀 it’s fantastic for language learners.
If you have lived in Scandinavia and tried to learn the language, for example, you know what I’m talking about: at the slightest misstep, you’re done. They will switch to English forever (darn bastards). 😂
In Italy… it does not happen.
#20 Speaking Italian is the best anti-introversion therapy
Well, introversion is not inherently bad: I had the privilege of being the president of the Club of Introverts for ages. Having said that, we should not glorify it either.
Opening oneself up to others is like solar radiation: in the right measure, it is beneficial for everyone. 🌞 So, why not learning and practise Italian as a way to foster your sociability, if you tend to fall on the too-shy side?
Have you ever noticed how your whole being transmongrels into someone else when speaking another language? Like it were you but… a different you? I guarantee you: even polar bears can break the ice if talking Italian.
I remember Lars, a lad from Umeå. 🇸🇪 I met him years ago: he wanted to learn Italian because, as an industrial designer, he was interested in Italian avant-garde.
After a semester of self-teaching and one of intensive practice in Italy, the last time we met each other he needed 15 m² around to express himself properly, so good had become both his oral and gestural Italian. 🤭 What a change.
The first time we met, when uttering Italian he had the body language of a… baobab tree.
#21 Speaking Italian to help us save the subjunctive
Subjunctive, just like certain animal species and common sense, has been dying off: the indicative mode has been killing him but the murderous hand is the Italians’.
Every time someone says Speriamo che smette di piovere instead of Speriamo che smetta di piovere, an Italian language fairy dies. 😩
Would you please help us?
As a language learner, you are going to have an awesome advantage over most Italians: fresh studies. In Italy, sadly, the analfabetismo di ritorno, that is, educated adults sliding back into illiteracy, is endemic. 😷
#22 Italian music
Beniamino Gigli, Enrico Caruso, Pavarotti… but also Negramaro, Franco Battiato, Riccardo Cocciante. Old glories and current glories. 🎵 Music is a means and a goal, when learning Italian.
If you would like to explore Italy’s glories of music, allow me to introduce you to Mina:
Studio Uno: she’s the queen of Italian pop. Period. This is a CD worth listening to over and over. There are a hundred singers and bands worth knowing, but to get initiated Mina is OK.
You can listen to her streaking voice on Music Unlimited too:
#23 The fatal charm of Italy
The expression above is Luigi Barzini Jr’s, the renowned journalist. Sorry for my lack of humbleness here, but he was dead right: any earthling with affection towards arts and splendour should speak Italian and spend some time in Italy.
We are a major clustermess in many areas of life, but there is something we excel and that is creating ravishing beauty.
It is so since when we had the Greeks on the south, Celts on the north 🕈 Etruscans in the centre and Romans hadn’t even built a hut yet. This country is a freaking mine of aesthetic gold. 🤩
- Those who end up in the hospital in Florence struck by the Stendhal syndrome.
- The hordes who leave everything behind to move, Sting-like, to mansions among vineyards and oak woods.
- The Asians filling our conservatories. The Slavs flocking to Saint Nicholas in Bari. ⛪
- The nordic painters that, nowadays as of old, come down here to bathe their canvas in light.
Can they be all wrong? Nah. Forget that it’s the country with the most UNESCO-listed heritage sites: just around the corner, where the UN agency never bothered to pass by, you come across something that takes your breath away.
I hope you enjoyed this post in which I did nothing but promoting my mother tongue. I’m outright partial about the Italian language, however, you know I am dead right in many points I’ve touched.
Now, if with this sermon I convinced you that learning Italian is among the best thing that can happen to you, here you have a few tools to further on:
More on learning Italian will come, but for now, that’s all, my dear Italophile. Stick around and un abbraccio 😉
Your personal Italianist,