Italians and Their Love for Smartphones

By- Claudia Quesito

It is a well-known fact that Italians in general can be quite chatty: smartphones are everywhere in Italy. Cell phone translates to telefono cellulare, but cellulare (sometimes even shortened to cell) is much more common. Italians used to call their phone telefonino (“small phone”), but that term sounds now a little outdated, since smartphones are not necessarily small. When in doubt, just call it smartphone (and expect to hear that with the accent on the last syllable) or simply telefono.

Like elsewhere in Europe, the #1 app to chat, send texts, pictures, voice messages and videos is WhatsApp: Italians use it extensively. WhatsApp groups are common and sometimes feared due to the uncontrollable number of messages that can accumulate in no time (as mentioned, Italians can be quite chatty!) There are, of course, traditional texts, called SMS (to be read esse-emme-esse) or messaggi. Occasionally you still hear messaggini—“little messages”—from back when texts had a limited amount of characters, and maybe because of that past, they are not as popular anymore.

Italians answer the phone saying Pronto?, which translates as “Ready?” but with the prevalence of caller ID you might instead hear Eccomi! (Here I am!), Ciao!, or whatever is appropriate, given the caller. It is always polite to start a phone call by asking Puoi parlare? (“Can you talk?”), Può parlare? (the formal version), or È un buon momento per parlare? (“Is it a good time for you to talk?”). Other expressions that might come handy while using your phone: Chi parla? (“Who is speaking?”); Non sento niente (“I can’t hear anything”); Sento male (“I have a bad reception”); Puoi ripetere? (Can you repeat, please?); or Può ripetere? if you are addressing someone formally; Ora non posso parlare (“I cannot talk right now”); È caduta la linea (“The connection failed”).Finally, it is worth mentioning the good old landline: it is called telefono fisso, or telefono di casa.

Although less and less used to make phone calls, the landline is still present in many households, often combined with an Internet subscription. And it is still a common way to talk to your grandparents, although you would be surprised to see how many nonni video-chat or send videos with their smartphones!

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