You don’t have to travel to Italy to hear the beautiful language being spoken. Italian is considered a romantic language and is mainly spoken in Europe, specifically in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, and Vatican City and by many other minorities in other locations. Italian is also spoken by many immigrant communities around the world. A lot of the speakers of the Italian language are considered native bilinguals – in the sense that they speak both standardized Italian and regional dialects of the same language (which are sometimes classified as separate languages due to historical influences).
It may be a surprise to some to hear that Italian is spoken natively (as the first language) by 65 million people in Europe alone – that’s 13% of the entire population of Europe. Italian is also spoken as a second language by 14 million people in Europe alone; about 3% of Europe’s population. It is estimated that there are approximately 85 million speakers of the Italian language in the world (including countries such as Switzerland and Albania).
Switzerland prioritizes the Italian language as one of its four official languages – but the language is studied and taught in all schools (elementary, secondary and post-secondary) as a mother tongue (native language). Italian is also the official language in San Morino and Vatican City. In the United States, Italian is the fourth most taught language; third in Canada and fourth in the United Kingdom.
Not like most Romantic Languages
Many parts of the Italian language are derived diachronically from Latin – and unlike most other Romantic languages (French being another), native Italian retains the difference between long and short consonants. Among the other Romantic languages spoken around the world, Italian is the most lexically similar to Latin (89%), with French being a close 2% behind at 87% similarity to Latin. Italian is very closely related to two other Italo-Dalmatian languages – Sicilian and the now extinct Dalmatian. All three are considered part of the romantic languages spoken around the world.
With any language, there are many different dialects spoken depending on which region of the country you are in. Although the differences are subtle, they can be recognized via: the openness of vowels, the length of the consonants and even the influence of the local dialect. Many of the regional dialects can however be considered historical languages of their own – these include groups such as: Neapolitan, Sardinian, Ligurian, Piedmontese, Venetian and a few others.
The Italian language is so beautiful that it has a major influence around the world; it is taught in many schools internationally – in fact, Italian is considered to be ranked 4th or 5th amongst the most taught foreign languages in the world. In a report by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it was found that more than 200,000 students study Italian abroad each year.
So, if you’re interested in learning foreign languages, you might want to explore the beautiful Italian language, it may just be worth it to learn another romantic language – especially considering that Italian alphabet has only 21 letters, how hard can it be?