Federico Fellini, famed Italian director, once said that ‘a different language is a different vision of life’. What vision of life does his native language, Italian, offer and why should more of us be learning this Romance language? We’ve put together our Top 11 reasons to learn Italian and hope this will inspire you to give our Italian course a go.
- 61 million people have Italian as their first language. This figure put Italian at No. 20 in Ethnologue’s 2005 list of the world’s top 30 languages. While not the most widely spoken of languages, its spread across the world is significant and means that Italian speakers are never far away. It is official in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City and Istria (in Slovenia and Croatia), and used to have official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa. It is also spoken in huge expatriate communities in the Americas as well as in small pockets in Crimea, France, Montenegro and Tunisia.
- Easy to learn if you know other Romance languages like Spanish and French. If you’re already proficient in a Romance language, like French or Spanish, you’ll find it easy to get going with Italian. All Romance Languages have evolved from Vulgar Latin, meaning that there are lots of grammar and vocab similarities between them. Italian is very similar to Latin so if you have already studied Latin, then you shouldn’t find learning Italian too difficult at all. In fact, there is just a 12% divergence between Latin and Italian, making Italian the second closest language to Latin out of all the Romance languages spoken today.
- Going on holiday. Italy is an amazingly popular tourist destination – 6 million of us went there in 2014 – and Rome and Milan are two of the most popular cities in the world, with Milan sitting at No. 24 in Euromonitor’s ranking and Rome at No. 14. If you have some Italian under your belt before setting off, you’ll be able to enjoy using it while you’re out there.
- Stand out from the crowd. Only 2% of the UK’s adult population feel they speak Italian well enough to hold a conversation and only 5,136 students from across the UK took Italian GCSE in 2013, as opposed to 177,000 taking French.
- Get ahead professionally. 76% of business owners don’t know any Italian yet Italy is an important training partner. British Chambers, who published this data, fear that a shortage of language skills in the UK undermines export performance and with Italy exporting products worth 22.4 billion euros to the UK in 2015 and the UK importing 10.5 billion euros of goods from Italy, this is certainly something worth thinking about, especially considering how few people in the UK speak Italian (see No.4).
- Official in the EU and other European institutions. Italian is one of the EU’s 24 official languages. It is the second most widely spoken mother tongue in the EU, with 13% of Europeans having Italian as their first language and 3% with Italian as an additional language. It is also one of the official languages of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, along with English, French, German, Russian and Spanish. And it is one of the working languages of the Council of Europe.
- Go to an Italian opera. Opera is a major part of Italian culture and a cornerstone of the country’s national identity. One of its most important exports, Italian opera is sung all over the world. Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida, an opera in four acts, has been sung more than 1,100 times by the Metropolitan Opera in New York. La Traviata, another opera by Verdi, is also extremely popular, having first been performed in 1853 at the La Fenice opera house in Venice. The Metropolitan Opera have performed La Traviata just under a thousand times since 1883.
- Read Dante’s Divina Commedia in Italian. Read Dante’s masterful epic poem in the language it was written in. Completed in 1320, La Divina Commedia is widely considered to be one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written. Tuscan writer Dante Alghiere wrote La Divina Commedia in his native Florentine dialect and so many read his poems that it was this dialect that became the basis for the official Italian language.
- A language for the future. In the British Council’s Languages for the Future report, Italian was named as one of the ten languages most vital to the UK over the next 20 years based on economic, geopolitical, cultural and educational factors.
- Italy has the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 51 properties in Italy are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. The first one, ‘Rock Drawings in Valcamonica’, was added to UNESCO’s list at the 3rd Session of the world Heritage Committee in Cairo and Luxor, Egypt, 1979.
- Watch Federico Fellini’s films in their original language. Two of Fellini’s films make Time Out’s Top 10 foreign language films, La Dolce Vita (1960) and 8 ½ (1963). La Dolce Vita follows Marcello Rubini, a journalist who writes for gossip magazines, over the course of seven days and night in Rome. One of the characters in the film, Paparazzo, is the inspiration behind the use of the term paparazzi to describe intrusive journalists. 8 ½ is another of his most widely acclaimed films and won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1963.
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