The Top 5 Reasons To Learn Italian

Want to learn a foreign language, but can’t decide which one? Here’s why Italian might be the best choice.
A beautiful seen from the canals of Venice, which might be one your reasons to learn Italian

Committing to learning a language is a tough decision. While language learning is an eye-opening and fun experience, it’s also work. Picking the right language is important to get you through those days when you’re struggling with verb conjugations and pronunciation. If you’re still deciding on which to go with, check out our top five reasons to learn Italian.

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Reason 1: You Can Start Speaking On Day One

Some languages are just easier for English speakers to learn than others, and Italian has a few advantages in this regard. As a native English speaker, there’ll be many words in the Italian language which are already familiar to you. Approximately 30 percent of words in the English language are of Latin origin, and the Italian language remains the most closely associated with Latin. This is, of course, an argument that can be used for the other Romance languages too, but Italian trumps them due to the easy pronunciation. You may struggle to roll the “r” and mimic perfectly the beautiful musicality of the language, but you won’t lose your tongue to the Spanish lisp, and you won’t have to solve the mystery of the disappearing consonants that the French language presents. The phonetics of the language can be readily understood from the written word, which is a huge advantage for the beginner. Furthermore, the Italian verb tenses correspond pretty well with the English tense system.

Reason 2: You’ll Be Better Able To Understand Your Own Language

When you learn a foreign language, you inevitably learn an incredible amount about your own language. This is true regardless of the language, but Italian and other Romance languages carry one particular benefit: they teach you about the nature of “register” in the English language. Many of the words that English shares with Italian sound rather…grandiose, even if they are relatively common in Italian. Beautiful adjectives like cospicuo (conspicuous), tremendo (tremendous), orrendo (horrendous), innocuo (innocuous), mellifluo (mellifluous), and mendaci (mendacious) pop up here and there, and will likely both spice up your English vocabulary and supplement your Italian. You’ll notice yourself delineating the Germanic and Latin roots of the English language and gaining a greater command of register and self-expression. As many such words are very similar in other Romance languages, Italia also sets you up very well to embark on these once you’re soddisfatto (satisfied) with your level.

Reason 3: You’ll Better Understand What You’re Eating

Let’s be honest, one of the most common reasons to learn Italian is to explore the food. Fortunately, Italian food and the Italian language go hand in hand. In many European countries, much of the advertising is in English. The English language used to convey the notion of modern and cool in much the same way English speakers employ the French language to promote perfumes as classy and the German language to present tech as reliable. An inability to understand English in these countries connotes an inability to understand your immediate environment, and the same goes for us English speakers in Italian restaurants. This is probably not the most serious issue, to be fair; you know what you’re going to get if you order a spaghetti bolognese. But did you know that the arrabiata of the spaghetti arrabbiata literally means angry, and that the primavera of your pasta primavera means spring? Plus, when you eat farfalle (the ribbon-shaped pasta), you’re eating butterflies. Pretty much every visit to an Italian restaurant can become a language class. In no time at all you’ll be asking for one panino, instead of one panini (which is like asking for “one sandwiches”), and two cappuccini instead of two cappuccinos.

Reason 4: You Can Explore Nonverbal Language

Nonverbal communication is important to all of us, especially when there are inconsistencies between attitudes communicated verbally and posturally. We anglophones are sensitive to these discrepancies — think of the resilient grandmother whose teeth are chattering while she bravely announces that she’s perfectly warm — but we don’t actively use our body to communicate anything as much as Italians do. The Italian language possesses a veritable dictionary of the unspoken. Learning how to gesture like a true Italian will be an important part of learning the language as a whole. This can be a pretty novel project for English learners of Italian, and it opens the door to reason number 5.

Reason 5: You’ll Discover A New Side Of Yourself

Many language learners attest to having slightly different personalities in different languages. Distinct intonations, accents and gestures are inextricably linked to language. While the languages of, say, northern Europe, are imbued with a relative stoicism and reserve, the southern European languages are commonly associated with extreme self-expression. Getting used to these cultural differences requires an adjustment to the way one naturally behaves in the social setting. This may sound a little intimidating, but don’t worry! You’ll notice a gradual, organic change as you become more proficient, and you may even find yourself incorporating dramatic gestures into your English too.

Bonus Reason: You Might Have It In Your Blood

Just over 5 percent of Americans claim Italian heritage. Do you? If yes, you might consider reconnecting with your roots. And there’s possibly nothing more satisfying than learning the language of your ancestors. Even if heritage doesn’t make sense as one of your reasons to learn Italian, there are countless other aspects of the world to explore in Italy. Just think where that language could take you — Italy has more UNESCO sites than any other country in the world and 60 percent of the world’s art treasures. Whether you travel for food, culture, history or just to relax on the beach, Italy has something for you. If there were any country that you simply must visit, Italy might be it.

Header Photo by Dan Novac on Unsplash

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