Unsurprisingly Italian is the primary language spoken in Italy. Italian is a romantic language which derives from vulgar or spoken Latin.
The main religion in Italy is Catholicism and because Latin is still the official liturgical language in the Catholic Church (and because of the ancient language’s strong links with modern Italian) Latin is taught in the majority of Italian higher secondary schools.
There are also substantial Italian speaking communities in the US, Australia, Argentina and Brazil as well as more than a few Italian speakers in Croatia, Slovenia, Switzerland and France. On the flip side, as a multicultural nation Italy is also home to communities which speak a number of other languages, like Albanian. The more widely spoken languages (Slovene, French and German etc) have even acquired special privileges in certain semi-autonomous/autonomous regions and in some cases are official languages taught in state schools.
There are several regional Italian dialects which dominated speech in the nation even after unification in the 1860’s. Of these the most commonly spoken include Sardo, Friulano and Ladin. However, Italiano standard is widely spoken across the country and is usually always used when speaking to foreigners. The spoken Italian language is commonly accompanied by expressive hand gestures!
Italian is considered a fairly straightforward language to learn but even if you find it tricky it is well worth persevering with as very little English is spoken in some areas.
If you plan on living and working in Italy then learning the language will hugely improve your career prospects and allow you to get much more out of the country socially. A willingness to try learning the language of your host nation can also make a big difference to how the locals perceive you!
How rapidly you are able to learn Italian depends on how much time you’re able to put into the endeavour. If you want to speak fluently constant practice and complete emersion in the language can really help.
Mingling with locals, participating in a language exchange, watching Italian television and practising with friends are all brilliant ways of using your spare time to absorb and learn. It’s also a good idea to speak your native language as little as possible, the more you have to rely on Italian to communicate the more quickly you will learn to speak it properly!
Constant practise is fantastic but some people find they can only learn languages with the support of formal instruction and teaching Italian is a big business in the nation.
Many Italian universities, colleges and private/international language schools offer lessons, but cost and time commitment can vary significantly so doing a bit of research can really pay off. Italian lessons can also be sought from cultural associations, clubs, town councils and international/foreign organisations.
Private one-on-one classes are often the best way to learn quickly, but these can be quite pricey. Newspapers, public notice boards and word of mouth recommendation are all ways of finding a suitable teacher.
In the end it’s entirely a matter of preference whether you decide to learn at a steady pace over a long period of time or engage in intensive classes.