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Australia - Learn to speak Italian - Audio CD - Learning Italian is easy

Learning to Speak the Italian Language

 

About the Italian Language

Italian is a Romance language spoken by about 60 million people in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, the Vatican City, Malta and Eritrea. There are also Italian speakers in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Canada, the USA and the UK.

Unlike most other Romance languages, Italian has retained the contrast between short and long consonants which existed in Latin. As in most Romance languages, stress is distinctive. Of the Romance languages, Italian is considered to be one of the closest resembling Latin in terms of vocabulary, though Romanian most closely preserves the noun declension system of Classical Latin, and Spanish the verb conjugation system , while Sardinian is the most conservative in terms of phonology.

Italian first started to appear in written documents during the 10th century in the form of notes and short texts inserted into Latin documents such as lawsuits and poetry. For a long time there was no standard written or spoken language in Italy and writers tended to write in their own regional dialects. In northern Italy, which was often ruled by the French, French and Occitan were used as literary languages.

During the 13th century such writers as Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), Petrach and Boccaccio were influential in popularising their own dialect of Italian - the Tuscan of Florence (la lingua Fiorentina) - as a standard literary language. By the 14th century the Tuscan dialect was being used in political and cultural circles throughout Italy, though Latin remained the pre-eminent literary language until the 16th century.

The first grammar of Italian with the Latin title Regule lingue florentine (Rules of the Florentine language) was produced by Leon Battista Alberti (1404-72) and published in 1495.

During the 15th and 16th centuries both Latin and Italian were used for technical and scientific texts. The Italian used was full of Latin words and over time Latin was used less and less as Italian became increasingly popular.

Today the Tuscan dialect is known as Italian (Italiano) and is the offical language of Italy. It is the main language of literature and the media. Each region of Italy also has its own dialect, some of which are so distinct from standard Italian that they are mutually unintelligible. The Sicilian dialect for example, is sometimes regarded as a separate language and has a literary tradition older than Italian itself.

The history of the Italian language is long, but the modern standard of the language was largely shaped by relatively recent events. The earliest surviving texts which can definitely be called Italian (or more accurately, vernacular, as opposed to its predecessor Vulgar Latin) are legal formulae from the region of Benevento dating from 960-963. What would come to be thought of as Italian was first formalized in the first years of the 14th century through the works of Dante Alighieri, who mixed southern Italian languages, especially Sicilian, with his native Tuscan in his epic poems known collectively as the Commedia, to which Giovanni Boccaccio later affixed the title Divina. Dante's much-loved works were read throughout Italy and his written dialect became the "canonical standard" that all educated Italians could understand. Dante is still credited with standardizing the Italian language and, thus, the dialect of Tuscany became the basis for what would become the official language of Italy.

Italy has always had a distinctive dialect for each city since the cities were until recently thought of as city-states. The latter now has considerable variety, however. As Tuscan-derived Italian came to be used throughout the nation, features of local speech were naturally adopted, producing various versions of Regional Italian. The most characteristic differences, for instance, between Roman Italian and Milanese Italian are the gemination of initial consonants and the pronunciation of stressed "e", and of "s" in some cases (e.g. va bene "all right": is pronounced by a Roman, by a Milanese; a casa "at home": Roman , Milanese ).

In contrast to the dialects of northern Italy, southern Italian dialects were largely untouched by the Franco-Occitan influences introduced to Italy, mainly by bards from France, during the Middle Ages. Even in the case of Northern Italian dialects, however, scholars are careful not to overstate the effects of outsiders on the natural indigenous developments of the languages. (See La Spezia-Rimini Line.)

The economic might and relative advanced development of Tuscany at the time (Late Middle Ages), gave its dialect weight, though Venetian remained widespread in medieval Italian commercial life. Also, the increasing cultural relevance of Florence during the periods of 'Umanesimo (Humanism)' and the Rinascimento (Renaissance) made its volgare (dialect), or rather a refined version of it, a standard in the arts. The re-discovery of Dante's De vulgari eloquentia and a renewed interest in linguistics in the 16th century sparked a debate which raged throughout Italy concerning which criteria should be chosen to establish a modern Italian standard to be used as much as a literary as a spoken language. Scholars were divided into three factions: the purists, headed by Pietro Bembo who in his Gli Asolani claimed that the language might only be based on the great literary classics (notably, Petrarch, and Boccaccio but not Dante as Bembo believed that the Divine Comedy was not dignified enough as it used elements from other dialects), Niccolò Machiavelli and other Florentines who preferred the version spoken by ordinary people in their own times, and the Courtesans like Baldassarre Castiglione and Gian Giorgio Trissino who insisted that each local vernacular must contribute to the new standard. Eventually Bembo's ideas prevailed, the result being the publication of the first Italian dictionary in 1612 and the foundation of the Accademia della Crusca in Florence (1582-3), the official legislative body of the Italian language.

Italian literature's first modern novel, I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), by Alessandro Manzoni further defined the standard by "rinsing" his Milanese 'in the waters of the Arno" (Florence's river), as he states in the Preface to his 1840 edition.

After unification a huge number of civil servants and soldiers recruited from all over the country introduced many more words and idioms from their home dialects ("ciao" is Venetian, "panettone" is Milanese etc.).

Italian is most closely related to the other two Italo-Dalmatian languages, Sicilian and the extinct Dalmatian. The three are part of the Italo-Western grouping of the Romance languages, which are a subgroup of the Italic branch of Indo-European.

The total speakers of Italian as maternal language are between 60 and 70 million. The speakers who use Italian as second or cultural language are estimated around 110-120 million .

Italian is the official language of Italy and San Marino, and one of the official languages of Switzerland, spoken mainly in Ticino and Grigioni cantons, a region referred to as Italian Switzerland. It is also the second official language in the Vatican City and in some areas of Istria in Slovenia and Croatia with an Italian minority. In Brazil, Italian is the second official language of Villa Velha and Santa Teresa, 2 towns in the Espirito Santo state. It is widely used and taught in Monaco and Malta. It is also widely understood in Corsica and Nice (areas that historically spoke Italian dialects before annexation to France), and Albania.

Italian is also spoken by some in former Italian colonies in Africa (Libya, Somalia and Eritrea). However, its use has sharply dropped off since the colonial period. In Eritrea Italian is widely understood . In fact, for fifty years, during the colonial period, Italian was the language of instruction, but as of 1997, there is only one Italian language school remaining, with 470 pupils. In Somalia Italian used to be a major language but due to the civil war and lack of education only the older generation still uses it.

Italian and Italian dialects are widely used by Italian immigrants and their descendants living throughout Western Europe (especially France (1 million , Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg), the United States, Canada, Australia, and Latin America (especially Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela).

The early texts, reflecting the spoken language of Italy, were written in regional dialects.The first Latinized text of obscure origin probably dates from the 8th century. Several documents from the 10th-11th centuries are more surely written in Italian. The first literary work dates to the late 12th century, and the first poetry written in a Sicilial dialect goes back to the 13th century.

Modern Italian is written using the standard 26-letter Latin alphabet.

  • The letters j, k, w, x and y are used only in foreign names and in borrowings such as taxi.
  • gl and ng are pronounced as palatal [l] and palatal [n], e.g., figlio "son" is pronounced as [filyo], and gnocchi "potato dumplings" is pronounced as [nyokk]i.
  • h is always silent
  • Italian uses the acute accent over the letter é, and a grave accentover any stressed vowel at the end of words, e.g., dignità, "dignity."
  • c is pronounced as ch before the vowels e and i, e.g., ciao "hello" is pronounced as [chao].

Italian is widely taught in many schools around the world, but rarely as the first non-native language of pupils; in fact, Italian generally is the fourth or fifth most taught second-language in the world.

In anglophone parts of Canada, Italian is, after French, the third most taught language. In the United States and the United Kingdom, Italian ranks fourth (after Spanish-French-German and French-German-Spanish respectively). Throughout the world, Italian is the fifth most taught non-native language, after English, French, Spanish, and German.

In the European Union, Italian is spoken as a mother tongue by 13% of the population (64 million, mainly in Italy itself) and as a second language by 3% (14 million); among EU member states, it is most likely to be desired (and therefore learned) as a second language in Malta (61%), Croatia (14%), Slovenia (12%), Austria (11%), Romania (8%), France (6%), and Greece (6%).[22] It is also an important second language in Albania and Switzerland, which are not EU members or candidates.

From the late 19th to the mid 20th century, thousands of Italians settled in Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil, where they formed a very strong physical and cultural presence (see the Italian diaspora).

In some cases, colonies were established where variants of Italian dialects were used, and some continue to use a derived dialect. An example is Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, where Talian is used and in the town of Chipilo near Puebla, Mexico each continuing to use a derived form of Venetian dating back to the 19th century. Another example is Cocoliche, an Italian-Spanish pidgin once spoken in Argentina and especially in Buenos Aires, and Lunfardo.

Rioplatense Spanish, and particularly the speech of the city of Buenos Aires, has intonation patterns that resemble those of Italian dialects, due to the fact that Argentina had a constant, large influx of Italian settlers since the second half of the nineteenth century; initially primarily from Northern Italy then, since the beginning of the twentieth century, mostly from Southern Italy.

Starting in late medieval times, Italian language variants replaced Latin to become the primary commercial language for much of Europe and Mediterranean Sea (especially the Tuscan and Venetian variants). This became solidified during the Renaissance with the strength of Italian banking and the rise of humanism in the arts.

During the period of the Renaissance, Italy held artistic sway over the rest of Europe. All educated European gentlemen were expected to make the Grand Tour, visiting Italy to see its great historical monuments and works of art. It thus became expected that educated Europeans would learn at least some Italian; the English poet John Milton, for instance, wrote some of his early poetry in Italian. In England, Italian became the second most common modern language to be learned, after French (though the classical languages, Latin and Greek, came first). However, by the late eighteenth century, Italian tended to be replaced by German as the second modern language on the curriculum. Yet Italian loanwords continue to be used in most other European languages in matters of art and music.

Today, the Italian language continues to be used as a lingua franca in some environments, for example within the Catholic ecclesiastic hierarchy, Italian is known by a large part of members and is used in substitution of Latin in some official documents as well (the presence of Italian as the second official language in the Vatican City indicates not only use in the seat in Rome, but also in the whole world where an episcopal seat is present). Other examples can be found in the sports (football, motor race) and arts (music, opera, visual arts, design, fashion industry).

In Italy, all Romance languages spoken as the vernacular , other than standard Italian and other unrelated, non-Italian languages, are termed "Italian dialects". Many Italian dialects are, in fact, historical languages in their own right. These include recognized language groups such as Friulian, Neapolitan, Sardinian, Sicilian, Venetian, and others, and regional variants of these languages such as Calabrian. Though the division between dialect and language has been used by scholars (such as by Francesco Bruni) to distinguish between the languages that made up the Italian koine, and those which had very little or no part in it, such as Albanian, Greek, German, Ladin, and Occitan, which are still spoken by minorities.

Dialects are generally not used for general mass communication and are usually limited to native speakers in informal contexts. In the past, speaking in dialect was often deprecated as a sign of poor education. Younger generations, especially those under 35 , speak almost exclusively standard Italian in all situations, usually with local accents and idioms. Regional differences can be recognized by various factors: the openness of vowels, the length of the consonants, and influence of the local dialect (for example, annà replaces andare in the area of Rome for the infinitive "to go").

 

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19 June 2019 | 3:00 am

When in Lismore, do as the Italians do - Northern Star

When in Lismore, do as the Italians do  Northern StarTHE free family friendly fun day offers authentic Italian food and wine, active involvement in arts and leisure activities and entertainment.

19 June 2019 | 3:00 am

Edina woman works to save Italian villages, one cooking or language lesson at a time - Star Tribune

Edina woman works to save Italian villages, one cooking or language lesson at a time  Star TribuneMinneapolis nonprofit offers language and cooking classes in Italy to draw visitors.

10 June 2019 | 3:00 am

NJ Italian speakers are declining. This group is rewarding students who learn the language - NorthJersey.com

NJ Italian speakers are declining. This group is rewarding students who learn the language  NorthJersey.comAs the number of Italian speakers in New Jersey drops, a Bergen County group looks to honor students who excel in Italian studies.

7 June 2019 | 3:00 am

Ten of the most common Italian mistakes you should avoid - The Local Italy

Ten of the most common Italian mistakes you should avoid  The Local ItalyEven the most competent of Italian speakers will occasionally slip up, and the majority of native speakers will be forgiving as long as you're making the effort.

1 June 2019 | 3:00 am

Italian word of the day: 'Cucciolo' - The Local Italy

Italian word of the day: 'Cucciolo'  The Local ItalyOne of the first ways my boyfriend encouraged me to learn Italian was with a set of 'Cuccioli' flashcards, rightly suspecting that I'd be more inclined to study if ...

30 May 2019 | 3:00 am

Western Australian schools welcome Italian language assistants — Italianmedia - Il Globo

Western Australian schools welcome Italian language assistants — Italianmedia  Il GloboA group of language assistants from Italy recently arrived in Western Australia, ready to support Italian teachers in public and private schools mainly located in ...

23 May 2019 | 3:00 am

Introduction week for new Italian language assistants in Melbourne — Italianmedia - Il Globo

Introduction week for new Italian language assistants in Melbourne — Italianmedia  Il GloboAnna Rita Tamponi, Director of Education and Culture at the Italian Embassy in Canberra, met the new cohort of language assistants during their training in ...

17 May 2019 | 3:00 am

Italian word of the day: 'Cattivo' - The Local Italy

Italian word of the day: 'Cattivo'  The Local ItalyBad, naughty, or something worse? Let's take a closer look at how we should be using this tricky adjective.

15 May 2019 | 3:00 am

Ten Italian words stolen into English and reinvented - The Local Italy

Ten Italian words stolen into English and reinvented  The Local ItalySome Italian words seem familiar to English speakers. But use them with caution, because they might not mean what you think.

7 May 2019 | 3:00 am

Inaugural Italian Education Awards announced with potential prizes for both teachers and students — Italianmedia - Il Globo

Inaugural Italian Education Awards announced with potential prizes for both teachers and students — Italianmedia  Il Globo'Il Gruppo dell'Amicizia in memoria di Enrica Inglese' has proudly announced its inaugural education awards, with lucrative prizes available for both teachers ...

2 May 2019 | 3:00 am

Italian word of the day: 'Sussurrare' - The Local Italy

Italian word of the day: 'Sussurrare'  The Local ItalyWhisper it, but this could be one of the most beautiful words in the Italian language.

29 April 2019 | 3:00 am

Language training network in Trento, Italy, offers 670 hours of lessons to migrants - InfoMigrants

Language training network in Trento, Italy, offers 670 hours of lessons to migrants  InfoMigrantsEighteen associations from the north-eastern Italian town of Trento have launched a network that coordinates Italian courses for foreigners. Their goal: To ...

26 April 2019 | 3:00 am

UD spromers perform in local Marino play | The University News - University of Dallas University News

UD spromers perform in local Marino play | The University News  University of Dallas University NewsFor over forty years, the University of Dallas Rome program has coexisted with local Italians, but the two communities have rarely mingled. This spring semester ...

24 April 2019 | 3:00 am

A state-by-state guide to Italian organisations in Australia — Italianmedia - Il Globo

A state-by-state guide to Italian organisations in Australia — Italianmedia  Il GloboFor many years, in some cases more than half a century, some key Australian not-for-profit organisations have done their best to promote Italian language and ...

17 April 2019 | 3:00 am

UK schools are turning to foreign governments to fund languages - The Guardian

UK schools are turning to foreign governments to fund languages  The GuardianSome primaries would be unable to afford specialist language teaching without the money they receive from overseas schemes.

9 April 2019 | 3:00 am

New Italian professor begins time at Yale with focus on endings - Yale News

New Italian professor begins time at Yale with focus on endings  Yale NewsNewly named the Andrew Downey Orrick Professor of Italian, Jane Tylus is an expert on medieval and early modern literature — and on the art of taking leave.

5 April 2019 | 3:00 am

12 of the most useful Italian words you need to know - The Local Italy

12 of the most useful Italian words you need to know  The Local ItalyWhen searching for the most useful Italian words to learn, you might come across lists of nouns like gatto (cat), cane (dog), casa (house), and so on. These are ...

4 April 2019 | 3:00 am

NSW Community Languages Directory finds public libraries with Italian resources — Italianmedia - Il Globo

NSW Community Languages Directory finds public libraries with Italian resources — Italianmedia  Il GloboState Library NSW's Community Languages Directory will help you locate community language materials held in NSW public libraries.

2 April 2019 | 3:00 am

Italian Minister Pans Hit Song by an Immigrant's Son - The New York Times

Italian Minister Pans Hit Song by an Immigrant's Son  The New York TimesInterior Minister Matteo Salvini of the anti-immigrant League party was not a fan of the Italian-language rap tune with a Middle Eastern flavor that won a song ...

31 March 2019 | 3:00 am

Italian word of the day: 'Scialla' - The Local Italy

Italian word of the day: 'Scialla'  The Local ItalyHearing this word – pronounced "shal-la" – you'd be forgiven for wondering if the Italians around you were speaking their own language. It sounds distinctly like ...

28 March 2019 | 3:00 am

Italian language teacher scholarships established following community charity lunch — Italianmedia - Il Globo

Italian language teacher scholarships established following community charity lunch — Italianmedia  Il GloboThe annual Italian-Australian Community Charity Lunch hosted by the Father Atanasio Gonelli Charitable Fund raised 000 this year, with a commitment to ...

7 March 2019 | 3:00 am

'Mum cooks, Dad works': Italian school textbook triggers outrage - The Local Italy

'Mum cooks, Dad works': Italian school textbook triggers outrage  The Local ItalyMum cooks and irons while dad works or reads, according to a textbook being used in Italian schools.

26 February 2019 | 3:00 am

Galen Catholic College's Franco Cudini dedicates more than 40 years to the promotion of Italian — Italianmedia - Il Globo

Galen Catholic College's Franco Cudini dedicates more than 40 years to the promotion of Italian — Italianmedia  Il GloboFranco Cudini has dedicated more than four decades to the promotion of the Italian language in Victoria.

26 February 2019 | 3:00 am

Full plate: Millikin's Italian language classes more than grammar, vocabulary - Herald & Review

Full plate: Millikin's Italian language classes more than grammar, vocabulary  Herald & ReviewDECATUR — Francesca Tescione's classes in Italian at Millikin University have a little different flavor than the usual language classes.

23 February 2019 | 3:00 am

Twice the passion, twice the talent: Benkhauser twins among VCE Top Scorers in Italian — Italianmedia - Il Globo

Twice the passion, twice the talent: Benkhauser twins among VCE Top Scorers in Italian — Italianmedia  Il GloboHeidi and Lara Benkhauser ended Year 12 on a high note, sitting among the top scorers for VCE Italian in 2018.

18 February 2019 | 3:00 am

CO.AS.IT. announces new Sydney CBD location — Italianmedia - Il Globo

CO.AS.IT. announces new Sydney CBD location — Italianmedia  Il GloboThis month, CO.AS.IT. will launch a new location in Sydney CBD, having assumed operation of the Italian Language School which was previously operated by ...

12 February 2019 | 3:00 am

Let's make Italian the language of the future — Italianmedia - Il Globo

Let's make Italian the language of the future — Italianmedia  Il GloboAustralia is home to the highest number of students of Italian in the world.

12 February 2019 | 3:00 am

High-Conflict Issues: Italian Intransitive Verbs - Italics Magazine

High-Conflict Issues: Italian Intransitive Verbs  Italics MagazineYes, you heard me right: in the past few days, people have made a fuss on the Internet about the use of some Italian intransitive verbs.

6 February 2019 | 3:00 am

Learning Italian: more than a language - The Florentine

Learning Italian: more than a language  The FlorentineWhat better place to pay attention to the nuances of language and its impact on how we see the world around us than the birthplace of Dante Alighieri, the father ...

24 January 2019 | 3:00 am

85 percent of bread sold in Italy is 'fresh and artisanal,' study says - The Local Italy

85 percent of bread sold in Italy is 'fresh and artisanal,' study says  The Local ItalyThis is an Italian language learner article. Test your vocabulary by trying to guess the Italian for the words highlighted in bold, then check the translations ...

22 January 2019 | 3:00 am

Italian Education - Il Globo

Italian Education  Il GloboIn classe is a new initiative of Il Globo & La Fiamma aiming to support and nurture the teaching of Italian across Australia. Each month Il Globo & La Fiamma ...

21 January 2019 | 2:03 am

Italian word of the day: 'Forza' - The Local Italy

Italian word of the day: 'Forza'  The Local ItalyLet's talk about the first word I heard this morning. “Forza, amore mio!” My husband stood over me in the early morning gloom, clutching his running shoes and a ...

16 January 2019 | 3:00 am

The Italian School of Rome - Wanted in Rome

The Italian School of Rome  Wanted in RomeThe Italian School of Rome is located in the historical city center of the “eternal city” a few steps away from its main monuments and tourist sites. Its centra...

14 January 2019 | 3:00 am

Italy allocates 647000 euros for Italian-language teaching - InfoMigrants

Italy allocates 647000 euros for Italian-language teaching  InfoMigrantsThe Italian government has approved 647000 euros in funding for a language program for migrants in Sardinia.

7 January 2019 | 3:00 am

Italian language in decline but it's up to us to keep it alive! — Italianmedia - Il Globo

Italian language in decline but it's up to us to keep it alive! — Italianmedia  Il GloboItalian language is the fifth most spoken language at home in Australia, excluding English.

13 December 2018 | 3:00 am

Italian representatives from across the nation meet in Brisbane — Italianmedia - Il Globo

Italian representatives from across the nation meet in Brisbane — Italianmedia  Il GloboOn Saturday, October 27, Inter Com.It.Es. – a meeting of all Com.It.Es. Presidents of Australia – took place at the Italian Language Centre, in Newmarket.

6 December 2018 | 3:00 am

Why Learning Italian Is Trending Hot - Italics Magazine

Why Learning Italian Is Trending Hot  Italics MagazineOur country might not be huge, but our desire to share Italian culture is great. That's why the number of schools and students of Italian grows every year.

23 November 2018 | 3:00 am

Awards, awards, awards: Students of Italian congratulated on their achievements — Italianmedia - Il Globo

Awards, awards, awards: Students of Italian congratulated on their achievements — Italianmedia  Il GloboOn Wednesday, November 14, CO.AS.IT. hosted the Italian Awards Night at the Italian Cultural Centre in Leichhardt.

21 November 2018 | 3:00 am

Vote for an Italian teacher in the 2018 Unsung Heroes Awards — Italianmedia - Il Globo

Vote for an Italian teacher in the 2018 Unsung Heroes Awards — Italianmedia  Il GloboAfter hundreds of teachers were nominated in the Unsung Heroes competition, conducted by EducationHQ and Australian Teacher Magazine, five worthy ...

21 November 2018 | 3:00 am

A scambio is the ideal way to learn Italian – but be careful how you say it - The Local Italy

A scambio is the ideal way to learn Italian – but be careful how you say it  The Local ItalyIf you want to learn Italian but textbooks don't do it for you, finding a language exchange partner could be the answer. American writer John Henderson, who ...

6 September 2018 | 3:00 am

Not Just Dante: Italian Speaking Countries In The World - Part One - Italics Magazine

Not Just Dante: Italian Speaking Countries In The World - Part One  Italics MagazineIn addition to being the fourth most widely taught foreign language, Italian is also an official language in several states.

28 August 2018 | 3:00 am

Italian language courses in Rome - Wanted in Rome

Italian language courses in Rome  Wanted in RomeTravelling to Italy to learn Italian is one of the best ways to get to know this wonderful country. Here is a list of courses and classes of Italian in Rome.

2 July 2018 | 3:00 am

How Italian became the language of love - BBC News

How Italian became the language of love  BBC NewsIt happened again the other day. I was walking down the street in my home city in the US when I heard it; a couple speaking Italian. I hurried to catch up with ...

22 June 2017 | 3:00 am

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