The Italian alphabet
The Italian alphabet is composed of 21 letters. The extra 5 letters are used to write words of foreign origins and are the following:
J (i lunga), K (cappa), W (doppio/a V) X (ics) Y ipsilon
For instance: Jolly, Kiwi, Whisky, Xenofobia and Yogurt
A B C D E F G H I L M N O P Q R ST U V Z is the official alphabet which we learned at school by heart. For the right pronunciation please click on this link which will take you to an audio I prepared personally.
Where is Italian spoken?
Italian (italiano) is part of the Romance languages and descends from the Latin of the Roman Empire. The Italian language is officially spoken in Italy of course, in parts of Switzerland and numerous Italian speakers are also present in Malta, San Marino (a tiny independent state inside the Italian territory), Croatia, Slovenia and France in particular in Corse (Corsica).
In addition, Italian is the second most spoken language in Argentina, whilst is no longer popular in Libya and Eritrea ex Italian colonies.
The role of Italian in the European Union
Italian plays a prominent role in the European community being one of the official languages of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and one of the working languages of the Council of Europe. It is also the fourth most spoken language in European Union with 69 million of native speakers, but the total number of speakers around the globe reaches 90 million.
The Italian language is used as lingua franca in the Catholic hierarchy and it is the official language of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
The influence of Italian in other languages
From music terminology to food, design, literature, architecture, science and fashion, Italian has a strong impact on other languages. Who has never heard of ciao, pizza, spaghetti, cappuccino, propaganda, fiasco, barista, bruschetta, al dente?
Even if you are not into Opera, you surely heard of maestro, orchestra, solo, piano or you probably sang at cappella in the shower.
Other words have a different spelling but they are easy to understand like cattedrale (Cathedral) and teatro (theatre) for instance.
Other Italian words are called false friends as they do not have the same meaning when used in English for example confetti in Italian means sugar almonds and are commonly given to family and friends for special occasions such as marriage or first communion.
Other false friends are: camera which means room but in some regions can also indicate the bedroom. It can be camera d’albergo too (hotel room). The English camera translates in Italian in macchina fotografica!
Then we have a really common one; peperoni which in Italian means peppers not the hot salami on top of a pizza, instead we say salamino piccante.
Is Italian language hard to learn?
Contrary to general believes Italian is an easy language to learn due to the fact it mainly follows set grammatical rules. It might seem a lot to take in grammar wise, but once you get the grasp of it, you will be sure to navigate smoothly into the magic of the Italian language. Another advantage is you read every word as it is written, so it is vital you learn the alphabet pronunciation.
The latter is crystal clear with every vowel enunciated and the sing-song intonation makes easier to identify sounds. In addition, vocabulary is alike other languages derived from Latin. Besides the linguistic side of things, it is essential to take into consideration other factors which are not related to language but they contribute to second language attainment in adults.
First of all, studies have demonstrated there is a language aptitude that is language intelligence, which can be higher in certain individuals than others. For instance, this is the case for actors, who are able to recreate different accents easily. However, do not despair, most of us have a medium ability and we need to put effort into learning a second language. In addition, the second strongest factor is motivation, if you are motivated you will surely succeed.
Italian Food etiquette
There is so much to say about this topic; however, for the purpose of this post we will keep this section short and concise.
- Rule N° 1: when in Italy do as the Romans do, no cappuccino with your pasta, pizza or main course nor after the meal, just get a macchiato (espresso with a tiny bit of milk) if you don’t resist without the milk flavour or just an espresso. If you are asked whether you want a ristretto that means it is less than the usual espresso and it is usually stronger. And of course do not forget if you ask for a latte in Italy you will get a glass of milk accompanied by weird glance, ask for caffe’ latte instead.
- Rule N° 2: do you have Italian guests for dinner and want to show off your culinary skills? If you go for carbonara please do not use cream which seems to be the most discussed topic among Italians abroad facebook groups. Don’t ever think about splitting the spaghetti in half and make sure you get al dente texture. Overcooked pasta is the worst that can happen.
- Rule N° 3: when you hear about Italians having a food culture it is not a stereotype but the truth. We are very proud of our cuisine and we can talk about food even when eating. Hence, never decline a dinner invitation and make sure you try a bit of everything otherwise the host will regard you as impolite. In addition, if you get invited to an Italian wedding, ensure you have some Gaviscon with you. There is a buffet whilst waiting for the bride and groom to arrive at the wedding reception and an afternoon of starters, mains, second mains, sides, fruits and cake which will protract your stay till evening.
- Rule N° 4: usually cheese such as parmigiano does not go with fish, maybe you read about the Italian restaurateur who insulted a guest who insisted having parmesan on his fish main in London. In reality, some people use it in small quantity but generally speaking it doesn’t belong to the Italian food etiquette.
How to address to someone informally and formally
In Italian we have two different ways to say you, that is “tu” and “Lei.”
We use “tu” when we are friends with the person we are speaking to or they are the same age as us outside a working context or any formal environment. For example if you ask for the time on the street to a person younger than you use the tu if not you need to use Lei. This indicates a form or respect and politeness towards someone older than us.
In a working environment we need to use Lei unless the person we are talking to asks to darci del tu (address each other with tu).Same, greeting s can also be divided into formal and informal.
- Informal: Ciao! Salve!
- Formal: Buongiorno, Buonasera, Buonanotte, Arrivederci
*Ciao is used for hello and bye
*You can use buongiorno, buonasera e buonanotte also informally.
*Buona notte is only used when the night has finished and you go to sleep.
Do you want to know how to say have a good night?
Simple: Buona Serata!
Click here to listen to the right pronunciation
Fun facts: superstition
Italians might say they do not believe in superstition but many won’t carry on walking ahead if a black cat crosses their path. This superstition is common in many countries.
One which doesn’t exist in the UK where I have been living for long time is opening an umbrella in an indoor space such as at home or a shop is bad luck. Does it exist in your country? I am very curious
- A popular one is the mirror superstition, break it and you face seven years of misfortune.
- Spill salt and be afraid of years of tragedies unless you pick up some and you flicker it behind your shoulders.
- Never put a hat on a bed, it is said reminding the last rites of the priest when someone is about to die.
- Never walk under a ladder; it is thought this tradition derives from the first Christian teachings which believe the triangular shape of the ladder symbolised the Holy Trinity.
- At the big dinner organised on New Year’s Eve, lentils are always served as they represent financial abundance and are usually eaten after midnight.
- To wish good luck, Italians do not use the literal translation buona fortuna, but rather in bocca al lupo literally meaning in the the wolf’s mouth. The answer is crepi, shall the wolf die. It is extremely important you do not wish buona fortuna to someone who is going to sit an exam, they will probably hit you ha-ha.
- Last, are you dreaming of getting married? Pay attention when someone is swiping the floor, if you accidentally feel the broom on your feet you are never going to get married!
That is all for now folks, have you enjoyed it? You can still carryon learning with my free lesson,click here to download!