Italian is the fifthmost-studied language in US schools and the eighth-most spoken language in the country, mostly thanks to the immigration waves occurred between 1880–1924, when over four million Italians reached the US. Today, around 700,000 Americans speak Italian. Here are seven fun facts about this popular and beloved language:
- Italian is spoken by more than eighty-five million people around the world. Most of them—around sixty million—reside in Italy, where Italian is the official language, although not the only one (see #2). Italian is also one of the official languages of the European Union, Switzerland, Vatican City, San Marino, and Malta.
- Italian is by far the most spoken language in Italy, but is not the only official language. Italy recognizes twelve so-called linguistic minorities, from Albanian and Catalan to Croatian and Greek; plus, dialects are widely spoken in many areas of Italy. And those are basically languages: In fact, most Italians are de facto
- Italian comes from Latin or, to be more precise, is one of the evolutions of the Latin language. More than 75% of the words used in current Italian have a Latin root. A good deal of words come from the Greek language, but Italian did not borrow a lot of words from German and Arabic, with some remarkable exceptions.
- The longest Italian word (not counting the ones from science and/or mathematics) is precipitevolissimevolmente. It features twenty-six letters and eleven syllables and is therefore an endecasillabo and means very rapidly.
- The Italian language loves to double its consonants. The only consonant that is virtually always by itself is “q.” One of the very few words containing a double “q” is soqquadro, which means mess and is learned by any Italian students at the elementary school precisely for this reason. In this same “one of the very few words” list there are: aiuole (flowerbeds), one of the very few wordsto have all five vowels; fegato (liver), stomaco (stomach), abaco (abacus) and uva (grapes), which do not have words that rhyme with them; assoggettammo (we enslaved), which sports four couplets of different double consonants.
- Contemporary Italian numbers around 470,000 terms, but the average Italian, in their everyday language, uses only a little more than 2,000 words. Which ones? Cosa, anno, uomo, giorno, and volta make up the top five.
- Compared to fellow Romance languages, Italian is more friendly with foreign words, especially English ones. Besides in the obvious tech/technical field, where English takes the lion’s share, Italians use English words even where there are Italian counterparts that mean the same thing. So, don’t be shy about sprinkling your Italian with some English here and there: Italians would love it!
By Claudia Quesito
Also read: Italian Expressions Of Love