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The Top 5 Reasons To Learn Italian

Want to finally learn a foreign language, but can't decide which one? Besides the obvious benefits that learning any language brings, here are our top 5 reasons to learn Italian.

Reason 1: You’ll be able to start speaking from day one

As a native English speaker, there’ll be many words in the Italian language which are familiar to you. Approximately 30% of words in the English language are of Latin origin, and the Italian language remains the most closely associated with the language of the Romans. 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 quite closely to the English tense system.

Reason 2: Understand your own language, and set yourself up for more

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. You’ll notice that many of the words that English shares with Italian sound rather… flamboyant, 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 spice up your English vocabulary as well as 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, Italian sets you up very well to embark on these once you’re soddisfatto (satisfied) with your level.

Reason 3: Understand what you’re eating

In many European countries, much of the advertising is in English. It’s used to convey the notion of modern and cool in much the same way we 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 the ubiquitous Italian restaurants. This is not a serious issue — 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? And 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 (like asking for one sandwiches), and two cappuccini instead of two cappuccinos.


Reason 4: Explore the world of the non-verbal

Non-verbal 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, really — but we don’t actively, consciously use our body to communicate anything as much as Italians do. The Italian language possesses a veritable dictionary of the unspoken. This is a truly fascinating and novel aspect for English learners of Italian, and opens the door to reason number 5…

Reason 5: Discover a new side to yourself

Many language learners attest to having slightly different personalities in different languages. Distinct intonations, accents and gestures are inextricably linked to language, and while the languages of, for example, northern Europe, are imbued with a relative stoicism and reserve, the southern European languages are commonly associated with flamboyant self-expression. Accommodating to this 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 such gestures into your English too!

Bonus reason 6: It might be in your blood

6% of Americans claim Italian heritage. Do you? If you are interested in reconnecting to your roots, nothing is more satisfying than learning the language of your ancestors. Even without Italian heritage, it’s easy to find an affinity for the language, and just think where that language could take you — Italy has more UNESCO sites than any other country in the world and 60% of the world’s art treasures. If there were any country that you simply must visit, Italy would be it.

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