Culture & Language
Why study Italian Language and Italian Culture?
According to international surveys and studies, the first languages which are the most studied in the world are English, Spanish, Chinese, and, quite surprisingly, Italian, more than German or French. Why people like to study these languages? While the first 3 are for business or economic reasons, what makes people study Italian is mostly for pleasure and cultural interests. Italian is considered by most of people and linguists as the most musical language in the world, due to its vocalising sounds. It is the language of the Opera, of the Catholic Church (together with Latin), of music, literature, arts, and of one of the most fascinating, friendly, cheeky peoples in the world. And if you love food, beauty, arts, nature, slow lifestyle, Italy is the place and Italian is the language for you!
Italy is shaped like a boot and endearingly labelled by Italians as “Lo Stivale”, which means “the boot”, or “il Bel Paese”, “the beautiful country”. It is a large country in Southern Europe, spanning an area of about 300,000 sq.km. and bordered by France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and the Mediterranean Sea. Within the borders of Italy, there are two other smaller states: the Vatican and San Marino, each with their own coinage and postal system. The city of Campione d’Italia, located in Switzerland, is also part of Italy.
The capital of Italy is Rome (from 1870), which is home to many famous monuments including the Colosseum, St. Angel Castle, St. Peter’s Square and Basilica, and the Vatican. Rome itself is a millenary city (753 B.C.), but all of Italy oozes with history, arts and culture. More than two million people live in Rome and more than one million in Milan, the commercial and economic capital of Italy. Italy was unified as a kingdom on 17th March 1861 and became a republic in 1946.
Italy was populated, had relations with and was occupied by many peoples in its history. Therefore, you can find influences from Magna Grecia (ancient Greek colonies in the South and Centre: the city of Ancona literally means “Elbow”, and Naples, “New City”), the Romans, the Arabs (the city of Marsala in Sicily means “harbour” in Arabic), Spain (some Veneto dialects reproduce the Spanish cadence; Neapolitan slang reports many Spanish words), France (North West), and Austrian (North East). You may also observe such influences in certain behaviours and language rules, like the Courtesy form.
Many Italian cities are famous –due to Roman antiquities or Renaissance- and are visited by millions of tourists every year: Venice with its lagoon, St. Mark’s square, basilica and campanile, the enchanting lanes and canals which you can go through in a romantic gondola; Florence with the Uffizi museum, the Pitti Palace and the Signoria Square with the Old Palace; Naples with the Royal Theatre St. Carlo, the Egg Castle and the Mount Vesuvius (a volcano) and the two beautiful islands of Sardinia and Sicily. Many regions are also characteristic for their beauty and cities, e.g. Tuscany (including Siena, Pisa and San Gimignano). There are also many archipelagos, like the Tuscan archipelago (with Elba Island), the Aeolian Islands, the Aegadian Islands, the Pelagie Islands, and the Maddalena archipelago. Italy really showcases a variety of landscapes: from the Alps to the lakes, from waterfalls to plains, from beautiful urban sceneries in the hills to marvellous beaches.
Italy is known for its delectable cuisine (like pizza, pane, pasta, panettone, pandoro, salads, tiramisu’, gelato….), sport and football, cars (let us think of Fiat, Maserati, Lamborghini and Ferrari), fashion (aren’t Gucci, Prada, Valentino, Armani some of the most famous brands in the world?) and wines (such as spumante and Chianti, Cabernet and Barbera).
Italians are also famous for their original gestures, which are a meaningful language in themselves and usually needs proper translation!
Italian as a language is a Neoromance or Neolatin (like French, Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian they all come from) Indoeuropean language, developed from the Latin of the late Roman Empire. The standard Italian was developed in the 13th and 14th century in Florence (Alighieri’s “Divina Commedia“ is in Italian), during the period of the Art-Reinassance, when Italy, for at least 3 centuries, became the centre of commerce, finance (Venice, Genoa and Florence), arts and culture in Europe. It is spoken in Italy and its surroundings area (Albania, Croatia, Slovenia, Switzerland, South of France, Malta, San Marino, the Vatican), in former colonies of Italy (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Libya) and countries of Italian emigration (like USA, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Germany and Brazil) by more than 90 million people. There are large communities of Italians living in the “little Italies” around the world in megalopolises like New York (Brooklyn, literally “Broccoli”, from Italian word) and other cities.
Italian is not only a business language, but also the language of choice in artistic and cultural exchanges: classical music, art history theory and operadic peformances. Its sweet sounding vowels also lent itself to frequent usage by European composers (e.g. Mozart) and most of the European intellectuals had to travel to Italy and Rome at least once in their lives to perform their educational level (e.g. Goethe). The Alphabet is the Roman (Latin) alphabet from which belong all of the Western European alphabets, and contains only 21 letters. J, K, W, X and Y are used in foreign words only.
This is why, given its roots, Italian is the perfect language to discover European history.
The secret to learning a language successfully is entering into the spirit of the language, which entails binding the language to the environment in which it is spoken, taking into account its culture, history, lifestyle, way of thinking and traditions. In a way, a language is the living “entity“ of the people who speak it. Since not many foreign languages are spoken in Italy, the best way to get ready for a trip to Italy is to get well equipped with a linguistic baggage. Without much further ado, let’s start learning this beautiful, millenary and musical language together!
Fabrizio Righi is highly committed with the Italian institutions, community and its events, and with his Singaporean community and its institutions: this is a value added for those who want to learn Italian, or know more about the people and the culture. FABItalia Lifestyle offers a wide range of activities, from the Language courses, to cultural seminars, to indoor/outdoor events, cineforum, tete-a-tete tables, Italian Aperitivo, Facebook Groups, meet-up with Italians, and many more. The wide proposal of activities allows the students to expose themselves as much as possible to the language and achieve the complete skills of understanding, reading, writing, speaking, and listening.