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How Many People Speak Italian, And Where Is It Spoken?

Did you know Italian is spoken in more than 30 countries around the world? Read on to learn more about the Italian language.
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How Many People Speak Italian, And Where Is It Spoken?

A Brief History Of The Italian Language

Italian, like Spanish, French, Romanian and Portuguese, is a Romance language rooted in Vulgar (“Common”) Latin. The first documents that were written in some form of Italian popped up in the 10th century, but Standard Italian didn’t begin developing until the 13th and 14th centuries. It began as a dialect in Tuscany or Florence, and it gained in popularity possibly either because of Tuscany’s central location, the importance of Florence as a key city of commerce, or the similarities between the Tuscan dialect and Latin. In fact, Italian is the Romance language that most closely resembles Latin.

During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Tuscan dialect of the 14th century was codified as classical Italian. The local dialects still reigned supreme until the unification of Italy in 1861, when the modern form of Tuscan became the official language.

Where In The World Is Italian Spoken?

Italian is the official language of Italy, San Marino, Switzerland and Vatican City. It’s also the official language of some parts of Croatia and Slovenia. There is a relatively sizeable number of Italian speakers in Albania, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, Malta, Egypt, Eritrea, France, Germany, Israel, Libya, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Paraguay, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, the United States and Venezuela.

How Many People In The World Speak Italian?

Approximately 63 million people in the world speak Italian as their first language. An additional 3 million speak Italian as a second language. Various sources differ slightly, but Italian is around the 20th most-spoken language in the world.

How Many People In The U.S. Speak Italian?

Large numbers of Italians immigrated to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, about 709,000 people in the country speak Italian at home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The most recent data available (from 2013) found that Italian was the fifth most-studied foreign language in the United States. New York and New Jersey are the states with the largest number of native Italian speakers, with around 294,000 and 116,000 speakers, respectively.

How Many People In Europe Speak Italian?

Unsurprisingly, Italy is home to the most Italian speakers in the world — nearly 58 million of them. The language is popular in other parts of Europe, as well. For instance, Italian is the official national language of San Marino (25,000 speakers), Switzerland (666,000) and Vatican City, along with some local areas of Croatia and Slovenia that have also made it their official language. Significant contingents of Italian speakers also reside in Albania, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Malta, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Romania and the United Kingdom. It’s difficult to find exact numbers for all of Europe, but there are approximately 64 million native Italian speakers in the European Union.

How Many People In South America And Central America Speak Italian?

South and Central America have more Italian speakers than you might imagine. The most live in Argentina, which has 1.5 million speakers, making Italian the second most-spoken language in the country, after Spanish. Italian is also the second most-spoken language in Venezuela, which is home to about 200,000 speakers. Brazil has a pocket of Italian speakers — about 50,000 — based primarily in the city of São Paulo. There are also Italian-speaking minority groups in Paraguay, Costa Rica and Ecuador, and Italian has influenced the Spanish dialect spoken in Argentina and Uruguay.

How Many People In Africa Speak Italian?

There are at least some Italian speakers, or at least people who understand the language, in Africa. They are found primarily in the former colonies of Italian Libya (now just Libya) and Italian East Africa (now part of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia). Descendants of the colonizers still speak Italian in these areas, and Italian is used in some forms of commerce. Exact numbers of speakers in these countries are not readily available.

Why Learn Italian?

First of all, Italian is relatively simple to pick up. In fact, it made our list of easiest languages for English-speakers to learn! English and Italian share plenty of cognates, and a number of Italian words have already broken into our vocabulary by way of the delicious and ubiquitous cuisine.

And don’t forget the incredible travel opportunities. Italy is a beautiful country, and knowing the language would make a trip there even more memorable.

Still not convinced? Check out more reasons to learn Italian here.

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