Italian is the official language of Italy and one of the four official languages in Switzerland. You’ll find Italian speakers in Malta, Vatican State, San Marino, Croatia, Slovenia and France (especially in Corsica). Italian is also the second most spoken language in Argentina. It has however seen a decline in the African countries of Eritrea and Libya, which used to be Italian colonies
The historic influence of Italian culture in terms of music, food, architecture, design, literature and science is very prominent in other languages
Have you ever said ciao?
Have you eaten al fresco, ordered a pizza, spaghetti, broccoli or a cappuccino?
Fiasco and propaganda are also of Italian origin. Even if you’re not an opera fan, you might be familiar with maestro, orchestra, piano and solo. You might even sing a cappella in your shower!
With Italian, si legge come si scrive, it’s read as it’s written so, helpfully, it looks similar to how it sounds. Pronunciation is clear with every vowel distinctly enunciated and the sing-song intonation makes sounds easier to identify. Vocabulary is similar to other languages of Latin origin.
Nouns can be masculine or feminine and, as a result, adjectives need to agree with them. There are six endings for each verb tense. Although certain aspects of the language can seem tricky at first, grasp some simple rules and you’ll be able to communicate in a variety of situations
Eppur si muove
And yet it moves
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
These were the words whispered, or so the story goes, by the philosopher and scientist after being found guilty of grave heresy by the Inquisition. He was accused of suggesting that the Earth, then considered the centre of God’s universe, moved around the Sun.
Ogni nostra cognizione principia dai sentimenti
All our knowledge has its origins in perception
Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519)
It’s a curious fact that Da Vinci wrote his notes in mirror writing, from right to left, leaving a lot of puzzled experts wondering why. Two of the most common theories are that he wanted to keep his work secret and that as he was left-handed he didn’t want to smudge the ink.
Italians are very proud of their food and will entertain you endlessly on the countless varieties of local culinary specialities. Declining a dinner invitation, or indeed a second course, could be considered impolite. If in doubt, try to savour a little of everything and be sure to let your host know just how tasty it all is: È buonissimo!