As one of the Romance languages, Italian bares striking similarities to the Tuscan language, the Venetian language, French, Latin, and Galician, just to name a few. According to the most recent statistics, Italian is the third most widely spoken first language in the European Union. Experts estimate that 65 million people speak Italian as their native language, and 14 million EU citizens speak Italian as a second language. Combined, the total number of Italian speakers is estimated to be around 80 million.
Geographically, the use of the Italian language is limited mostly to Italia and some part of Africa. There are also smaller groups of Italian speakers in France, Germany, and Switzerland, but these are seldom larger than half a million. Italia had great influence over Africa during the Italian colonial period, and the Somali Republic and Libya still recognize the Italian language as one of the several languages of official communication.
The horrors of the Second World War led to a little over million Italians fleeting from their home country to the United States, where they established thriving Italian communities, mostly on the East Coast.
Characteristics of the Italian Language
For a language that is mostly spoken in a single country, Italian is quite regionally varied. Italian dialects can be recognized by the openness of vowels, the length of the consonants, and various informal words.
The writing system of the Italian languages consists of 21 letters, and we may thank Italian for the prefix extra or ex. Italian recognizes two genders and numerous contractions of prepositions with subsequent articles. People who learn Italian as their second language often struggle with the 27 pronouns of the Italian language or with the plethora of irregularly conjugated verbs.
Reasons to Learn the Italian Language
However, as intricate as Italian may be, the mastery of this language is very rewarding. Italian culture is rich and has something to offer to anyone. At one point in history, Latin was replaced by Italian as the lingua franca, and we have countless important historic documents and scientific material written in Italian from that era.
Famous composers such as Mozart and Luciano Pavarotti composed their masterpieces in Italian, and knowing the language is the key that allows you to appreciate their music and art. There’s also Italian cinema, spearheaded by such classics as Tornatore or Pasolini.