Every month this year, we have been turning our focus towards one of the core languages we love to teach – looking at the language’s potential for business, considering a few facts and figures to put its global prospects in context, plus sharing some tips to help you get started. This month we take a look at Italian, the language of Italy – one of the major European economies and the heart of the ancient Roman Empire.
Italy has a population of 60 million people, and most native Italians speak Italian as their first language. Combining the significant number of Europeans who speak Italian as a second language, as well as small communities in the wider world, it is thought that around 85 million people speak Italian around the world. With its significance in European industry, including its origins in Latin (a language that you may assume is essentially dead, but which in fact permeates modern legalese, science and culture), Italian may be a surprise front runner when you are deciding which language you would like to learn.
Learning Italian: Business Prospects and Opportunities
Italian may not be one of the biggest players on the market, but it is the ultimate boutique destination in Europe – and it is this small-business economy that may be a key contributor to its position as the 8th largest economy in the world. Italy is famous for producing fine ceramic tiles, high-end fashion and footwear, decadent jewellery, and delicious foods and beverages.
Industry in its so-called ‘industrial triangle’ in the north-west of Italy (between Milan, Genoa and Turin) is driven by high-quality engineering and manufacturing in sectors ranging from aerospace to naval production. Iron and steel production is also big business in Italy, which feeds the automobile sector and other manufacturing industries.
The fallout from Brexit will continue to challenge relationships between the UK and European countries, but this also presents an opportunity for the UK to boost trade with such highly skilled artisans. Being able to connect to manufacturers that offer bespoke as well as more run-of-the-mill product options and specifications could help you to specialise your business.
Italian is not just a language of Italy; it is also a popular language in Malta, Albania, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Croatia, as well as a ‘de facto’ language in Switzerland and San Marino. You can also find significant Italian communities in the United States, Canada, Argentina and Brazil.
Another major industry in Italy is the tourist industry, which inevitably is having a harder time than usual right now as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Italy was also the first European country to suffer the immense impact of the pandemic, which would have been devastating for Italy’s people and its economy. But the economic outlook has improved immensely in recent weeks, and the pandemic may even provide Italy with the chance to reset its economy after a period of stagnation and a history of underground trading (effectively, illegal or unregulated trading). As the world emerges from the pandemic, there is every reason to expect that tourism will boom once again – Italy has the world’s largest number of UNESCO world heritage sites and cities such as Rome, Pisa, Florence, Venice and Milan draw tourists from all around the world.
Did You Know? A Few Facts about Italian
Italian may an appealing language to learn if, your business operates within the tourism industry, or perhaps your business relies on unique, high-quality goods made from exceptional materials and crafted by skilled artisans – which is Italy’s manufacturing industry’s unique selling point. Whatever the reasons for your interest, here are some useful facts to know about Italian.
- Italian is not the only language of importance in Italy. Regional dialects are just as important as the ‘modern Italian’ language; in fact, before the First World War, regional dialects were the language of choice, which made the nation a vibrant and diverse language landscape. The world wars combined with a rise in literacy made a common language increasingly important, and so the lingua franca became what we know as Italian today – but each region still has a dialect that is often used almost as much as Italian itself!
- Italian is a romance language, all of which are derived from Latin, which means that if you make good progress with Italian you also have a strong chance of picking up fellow romance languages Spanish, French, Portuguese and Romanian.
- Italian is regarded as the 6th most important language for the UK’s business future, according to the British Council. All four of the main romance languages appear on this important list, which operates as an indicator of the languages the UK needs to be skilled in for success.
- Italian may not have the geographical range of languages with colonial histories, such as Spanish, English and French, but it is a language tied to one of the most influential periods of Western history – the rise and fall of the Roman Empire – through Latin. Italian is the closest of the romance languages to Latin.
Click here for more facts and figures about Italy’s language and culture.
Tips to Help You Get Started
Learning any new language can feel like a challenge, but we hope that learning Italian feels like an achievable goal: it uses the Latin alphabet, for one – plus, if you already speak one of the romance languages, you have an enormous head start! Here are a few tips to help you develop your Italian language skills.
- Learning a language is a big commitment, so keep your motivation for learning at the front of your mind. If you are learning to increase your opportunities at work or to add an extra in-demand skill to your CV, then remember this when the going gets tough so you can keep your goal in sight.
- Italy is a fairly short flight or train journey away, so when the pandemic is finally easing, it may be a good time to visit this incredibly beautiful country and practise your Italian. If you need convincing, the latest James Bond film No Time to Die showcases the visual delights on offer via scenes filmed in Matera, southern Italy.
- If you want to listen to Italian in action, consider listening to (or going to) an opera. Many of the most famous operas are in Italian and have toured all over the world, including Turandot and La Bohéme by Giacomo Puccini.
- Listen and learn, and read and learn – but also remember to speak and learn. A language class may be the ideal place to start – or perhaps you have a friend or colleague who you can share the journey with? A conversational learning environment can see your learning progress in leaps and bounds.
If you would like to find out more about learning Italian to help you grow your tourism or manufacturing business (among many other possibilities), contact us today. We can work with you to develop a bespoke language-learning plan for your business, as well as provide cross-cultural training to help you connect with your global colleagues, whether virtually or in person. All our courses can be taught live online.