If you’re already passionate about the Italian language and culture, or if you need Italian for professional reasons, you probably don’t need more reasons to study it.
However, the Italian case is very peculiar among languages and deserves further thought, being the 4th or 5th most studied language in the world, depending on the source you read.
When you think about it, this is very odd: Italian is mostly spoken only in Italy, a country that is not particularly big and is home to a population of roughly 60 million, not small of course, but also not very significant on a global scale.
Besides English, an obvious first choice, one might think that only languages such as Spanish, Chinese, French or Arabic are learnt en-masse globally, since they allow to communicate with people across various countries and continents.
We, of course, do not question the importance to study these languages. However, the millions of people who study Italian across the world cannot be wrong. There are indeed many good reasons to learn Italian, and we summarized the main ones in this article. Let’s get started!
#1 Italian is actually spoken more widely than you think
Besides Italy (and the microstates of the Vatican and San Marino), Italian is the official language of several regions of Switzerland, Slovenia, and Croatia. Due to their geographic location, and for historical reasons, Italian is also often used or understood in Malta, Monaco, Corsica, Albania and South-East France.
But if this still doesn’t sound enough, consider that the Italian diaspora is second only to the Chinese one, counting roughly 80 million people across the globe!
Italians started to massively emigrate in the late 1800s, especially to the Americas, and today numerous people in several countries can claim an Italian heritage. This doesn’t mean, of course, that they all speak Italian as a first language, but it still shows the deeply rooted presence of the Italian culture worldwide.
The largest Italian diaspora is in Argentina, where at least 20 million Argentines have Italian roots, making Italian descendants the largest ethnic group in the country. Apart from European countries such as Germany, France and Great Britain, there are large communities of Italian descendants in countries like the USA, Brazil, Australia, and Canada. The Italian heritage of these communities has not vanished, often mixing with the local culture.
This sometimes creates paradoxical situations, where small communities abroad preserved their original Italian regional dialect, while the same dialect almost disappeared in Italy!
#2 The Italian culture has a huge global influence
This is indeed the reason that pushes most people to learn Italian. Let’s see this in more detail.
First of all, Italian is historically the language of music and art. We only need to consider words such as “adagio”, “fresco”, “piano” to understand that we couldn’t fully appreciate most of Western artistic production (at least until the 1900s) without having some knowledge of Italian.
And of course, there is no Italy without its food. Italian restaurants are arguably the most common worldwide, and I challenge you to find someone who has never heard the word cappuccino. Almost anywhere you go, you can eat a plate of pasta or a slice of pizza (although sometimes with questionable variations on the original recipe: pineapple, I’m looking at you). We aren’t here to discuss what the best cuisine is, but the Italian one is indeed one of the most (if not the most) popular globally.
But the influence of the Italian culture worldwide goes beyond that. Let’s think about fashion (Gucci, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana), cars (Ferrari, Lamborghini), modern music (with Maneskin the most recent entry), sports (although it would be good to finally qualify to a World Cup).
Anywhere you go, Italy is there, in some form or another.
#3 Italy is a unique country to visit
To just state that Italy is beautiful would be banal and obvious. But let’s for a moment look at why visiting Italy can be a unique experience.
Beginning with geography, nowhere in Europe (and rarely in the world) can you experience so many different climates and environments in such a small area. From the splendid beaches of the Mediterranean to the alpine glaciers, Italy has something to offer to anyone. Suffice to say that Italy is the only country in Europe with recorded temperatures of both +45° and -45°!
But what really makes Italy unique are its internal cultural differences. The image of Italy abroad is very simplified, and tourists often make the mistake of thinking that people gesticulate a lot in the north or that you can order a risotto alla milanese in the south. There’s nothing more untrue!
For most of its history, Italy has been politically divided and occupied by foreign nations. Because of this, not only from North to South or from region to region, but even from town to town there are differences in dialect, accent, cuisine, architecture, and mentality.
And speaking of history, Italy has nothing to be envious of: with the ancient Greek and the Roman ruins, the Medieval castles and towns, the Renaissance frescoes, the Baroque and Neoclassical buildings, you can’t move without stepping on an ancient stone. Just consider that Italy is the first country in the world per number of UNESCO heritage sites, 58!
Let’s just think about all you can do in Italy. From skiing on the Dolomites while tasting the local Tirolean cuisine to eating a pizza in Amalfi and make your Instagram friends envious with the stunning views; from renting a car in Tuscany and getting lost in the hills of Chianti to visiting the ancient Greek temples in Agrigento and learning some Sicilian. A whole life wouldn’t be enough to enjoy all the possibilities.
And of course, you need to know at least some Italian. Not because Italians don’t speak English (they increasingly do), but mostly because language and culture are so intertwined that you couldn’t fully enjoy the latter without the former.
#4 There are great advantages in living in Italy
Despite having seen better days, Italy is still the 3rd economy in the Eurozone and the 8th largest in the world. This means that there are always good opportunities for those who want to move to Italy to work. The expat community in Italy is very active and growing, with people coming from all over the world to work in the most various fields.
Italy also offers great opportunities to international students. Let’s not forget that the first university in the world opened in Bologna, and the same university today is still among the highest ranked in the country. Student life in cities with an ancient academic tradition like Bologna, Pisa or Venice is exciting and inspiring, and can certainly change one’s life.
And finally, Italy is often chosen as a retirement place, mostly by elderly people from Western Europe and North America. Indeed, moving to a place with a pleasant climate, great sceneries, tasty food, and friendly people is not a bad plan at all. Just ask the thousands of people who made this life choice in one of the many Facebook expat groups, and you’ll be convinced.
If you decided to start learning Italian, check out Italmente’s online courses!