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Studying Italian around the world: what, who and why

Why people like to study Italian?

Art, culture, music, food and wine: is all Italy and Italian language can offer? Why the language of a small like this is that important in the world, to be one the most widely taught languages in the world?

If you are interested in knowing more, please find below the results of surveys carried out on its students by the Italian language School Torre di Babele.

Torre di Babele’s observations and results are confirmed and corroborated by data from Italiano 2000 De Mauro et al. and by the Annuario Statistico MAE (MAE Yearbook) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

They show that the interest for the Italian language is not only growing, but also related to different reasons from the historical and cultural ones.

A few details about the Italian language and Italian courses

The Statistical Yearbook of the Foreign Ministry, in its latest version dated 2012, shows how the previous two years the Italian Institutes of Culture - historical and strategic tool for spreading the Italian language in the world - have organized 7,335 courses of Italian in the world for 71,207 subscribers, increasing of 12.8% and 0.6%, respectively, in comparison to 2010.

That numbers are growing up if thinking that the Italian law 151/73 allowed both emigrated young people of Italian origin and descendants of emigrated Italian workers to receive an Italian language training. That means that many of them have chosen to learn the Bella Lingua, with courses provided by Italian Cultural Institutes, universities, language schools, training centers and chambers of commerce, state or private schools.

Obviously, the fragmentary nature of these institutions does not facilitate the measurement of the Italian speakers in the world, but reliably datas of Italiano 2000 estimate that Italian is the fourth / fifth most studied language in the world.

Among other things, the project called Language Rich Europe - Trends in policies and practices for multilingualism in Europe (Ed. Guus Extra, Kutlay Yağmur, Cambridge University Press, 2012), shows how the Italian is in fifth place among the twenty most widespread languages in newspapers in 24 European capitals - after English, German, French and Russian.

The same data show how Italian is the fifth among the most popular languages for business in the 24 European countries involved in the project / research and in the eighth place among the twenty languages more present in the public services.

Who speaks Italian

Ethnologue, which lists more than 6,700 languages spoken in about 228 countries worldwide, shows that Italian is de facto the first language spoken not only in Italy, but also in the Republic of San Marino, in the Vatican State and in Switzerland.

Also the region of Istria in Croatia and Slovenia recognize it as an official language, while in Somalia, Italian is officially recognized as a second language.

Italian is also widely spoken in Argentina, as well as in many parts of Europe, in the Balkans and in the Middle East.

From an estimate made by AIRE – Anagrafe Italiana Residenti all’Estero (Register of Italian living abroad) – in 2012 were 4,208,977 the Italian emigrants to maintain the use of the Italian language, also involving other indigenous peoples.

Why do you study Italian?

Based on the research of the Torre di Babele, a language school to learn Italian in Rome, the main reason to learn Italian is still the fact that Italian is the language of one of the Countries with the wider artistic and cultural heritage in the world.

Then the Italian learned for entertainment in the free time follows: some appreciate the musicality (17.5%), others will to learn to speak with the locals once on holiday (18%), others because the Italian is the language of good eating/drinking (16%).

Later, a smaller percentage of people identify the knowledge of Italian with of one of the terms related to design and fashion (10%) or to the fact that one of the ancestors is Italian (5.7%).

Although reported from a single Language School, the scenario outlined reflect the one highlighted by Italiano 2000 that had shown that, together with the "traditional" motivations pushing to learn Italian for reasons related to culture and tradition, Italian is learnt as a first choice for leisure (32.8%), but also for reasons related to work (in 22% of cases).

Reasons that affect about 8% of the people examined are linked to the personal sphere: there, prevails the one linked to having an Italian partner, closely followed by having ancestors of Italian origin.

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