Still on the fence about learning Italian?
Looking for reasons to dive into it?
If Valentino, Versace and Armani aren’t enough to push you over the edge, we’ve got nine other reasons why you should be learning Italian today.
But first, let’s see why you should be learning a new language (or any language) at all.
Why Should You Learn a New Language?
We’re going to discuss lots of benefits of learning Italian, but the biggest benefit of learning a new language can’t even be seen by the naked eye. (Well, you can if you get an MRI scan.)
I’m talking about the benefits learning a second language has on the brain. Researchers from Dartmouth have shown that the brains of bilinguals have more engaged and enhanced neural connections than monolinguals. Many people used to believe that knowing a second or a third language was detrimental because the rapid switch between languages excessively burdens our noggin. As it turns out, our brain can easily handle multiple languages without any problems.
In fact, multiple languages serve as “exercise” for the brain, and studies have shown that learning a new language can lead to elevated mental capabilities. It can, for example, improve memory. A study tested the working memories of monolingual and bilingual children by giving them memory tasks. They found that bilinguals outperformed their peers on all counts.
A foreign language can even have a positive impact on academic achievement. Believe it or not, it can improve your math scores. A group of third–grade students was given 30-minute Spanish lessons three times a week for one semester. They were then given a standardized test called the Metropolitan Achievement Test. The researchers found that the experimental group scored significantly higher in mathematics and language than those who didn’t receive language training.
In addition, it’s also been found that learning a foreign language improves decision-making and multitasking skills. And if that’s not enough, language-learning has been seen to delay the onset of dementia. So a skill you acquired years ago can dole out benefits even later in life.
These are just some of the amazing benefits of learning a new language in general. But how about Italian? Out of the many languages that one can pick up, why Italian?
That’s what we talk about next.
La Dolce Vita: 9 Seductive Reasons Why You Should Learn Italian Today
1. You’ll get the most out of your trip to Italy
When you land on Italian soil, you’ll immediately understand why people are so passionate about Italy. Italy has some of the most beautiful corners on earth, the most breathtaking vistas. It could make living somewhere else seem drab.
Take, for example, the Amalfi coast, Sorrento, Positano and Sicily. These are all places you should definitely put on your bucket list!
You’ll get more out of your travel experience if you can speak even just a little Italian. It’ll open doors and make native speakers warm up to you. You can get a more authentic experience if you’re able to brave the markets and negotiate with the vendors in their language.
Or how about taking full advantage of the Italian tradition of passeggiata? You know, the ritual of aimlessly walking the streets, gelato in hand—looking at people, being seen? You’ll get so much from the experience when you know Italian.
You’ll understand what the storefronts say, you’ll be able to follow traffic signs and you’ll get a chuckle at what those Italian teenagers write on those walls (and what the tour guides wouldn’t translate). Speaking Italian just makes this experience that much sweeter.
2. Know your way around an Italian menu
What does food have to do with learning the language? Think about it—how much better would your dining experience be if you actually understood what “alla” (in the style of) or “bresaola” (cured beef) meant?
Italian food, or those with Italian origins, from pasta to pizza, are all around, not just in Italian restaurants or specialty stores. The world has a love affair with Italian food and people have adopted it as their own.
It’s a fair bet that your week won’t end without you eating some Italian food. (And yes, that includes that Starbucks “venti” (twenty) cappuccino you guzzle every day.)
Because Italian has taken over the world’s taste buds, knowing the language means you know exactly what you’re putting in your mouth. For example, “panna cotta” is literally cooked cream, the pasta “cannelloni” means large tubes and “espresso” is pressed out.
Seriously, if food is the only reason for you to learn Italian, then every bite-sized lesson will still be worth it.
3. Really experience movies and music
The first two big reasons for learning Italian have something to do with the culture of the people using the language. They both have something to do with living “the good life” or “La Dolce Vita.” (Incidentally, that’s also the title of one of the most acclaimed films of all time.)
And speaking of films, there’s a host of films from the likes of Italian directors, like Fellini, Antonioni and Visconti—whose visual aesthetics have influenced Italian cinema today. The unique stories they tell can only be fully appreciated in the Italian language.
If those directors don’t convince you of the benefits of hearing films in the original language, then you need to go watch films like “I Cento Passi” (“One Hundred Steps”) or “La Grande Bellezza” (“The Great Beauty”) and you’ll understand why Italy bags the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film more than any other country.
And while we’re talking about great cultural contributions, we might as well bring up Italian music. Learning the language opens up a whole category of songs and lyrics that can only move you like Italian can. Did you know that Mozart, the venerated German composer, even wrote many of his operas in Italian?
Taken together—movies, music, place and food—you might just be tempted to learn Italian. But talking of temptations, this next one might just push you over the edge.
4. The Italian language will open up your chances for friendship or amore
They say Italians are some of the most wonderful people in the world. They’re kind, funny and friendly. Sometimes it’s hard for that to shine through if you’re having trouble understanding each other.
Learning the language gives you the ability to create and nurture relationships with native speakers. Talking of life-changing, your life will change when you gain one as a close friend or as a life partner. But you couldn’t even begin to do that if you don’t learn the language.
If you’re interested in learning Italian while also making friends, try out the Tandem app, which is available for Android and iOS devices. It’s a language exchange app that helps you look for Italian native speakers who want to learn English. They’ll help you polish your Italian, and you’ll help them sort out their English. It’s a win-win!
But you want to kick it up another notch? Why not go to Italy on a language exchange program? The World Internships & Cultural Exchange Networks (WICEN) offers a three-month total immersion experience.
It’s an Italian language exchange program where you teach English to your host family while at the same time attending language classes. Find more information about the program here.
5. It’s one of the easier languages to learn
Just how easy is it to learn Italian? Well, according to the Foreign Service Institute, the US government’s premier language training institution, Italian is considered a Category 1 language on their “Language Difficulty Ranking.”
What this means is that according to the FSI, a native English speaker on average only requires around 23-24 weeks or 575-600 hours of language training before reaching general proficiency in Italian. (If you think that’s long, just think of the Category 4 languages like Croatian which requires 1100 hours.)
What makes it easier for English speakers to learn Italian? Italian shares some of the same sounds as English and both have Latin roots. So if you’re an English speaker, learning Italian would be like hitting the ground running since you already know a lot of Italian words.
For example, there are lots of cognates between Italian and English, like agente, finale, impossibile, diligente and melodia.
Another reason Italian is considered an easy language to learn is because of the close kinship between spelling and pronunciation. There’s a strong correlation between how you spell a word and how you pronounce it. There’s not an abundance of silent letters, missing sounds and spellings that have got nothing to do with how the word is spoken.
6. Italian gives you a leg up on your career
An additional language will look good on your resume and increase your premium as a worker. If you were a business owner and looking at two resumes, you’ll probably naturally gravitate towards the bilingual candidate, even if the job doesn’t involve speaking in a foreign tongue.
There’s also that halo effect where the person who speaks an extra language seems more traveled, more experienced and more in-tune with the world.
In a survey by the National Foreign Language Center of 2100 HR departments, a whopping 93% of employers admitted looking with favor on those who speak another language. According to the study, companies value “employees who are able to work eﬀectively with customers, clients and businesses from a range of diﬀerent countries and cultures.”
So that bodes well for anybody who knows a foreign language or two. But as a career move, why pick Italian?
Italy is the third largest economy in the Eurozone and eighth largest in the world. Economic size is important because it reflects opportunities in the marketplace.
That said, you might not even have to move to Italy to make use of your Italian language skills. A Worldwide Business Research Digital survey of 200 decision-makers revealed more and more US companies looking to expand to Europe, especially the e-commerce sector. And Italy, along with Germany and France, are targets for expansion.
7. Learning Italian leads to less prejudice
Cultural differences often lead to myths, misconceptions and stereotypes about members of other groups. Stereotypes about Italy and Italians persist, just like with any other culture.
Something very special happens when you study another language. You get into the thick of things and see beyond the stereotypes. You become much more than a passing tourist making snap judgments.
In the course of your study, you’ll be placed in situations where you can engage with native speakers. You’ll soon come to a not-so-startling realization—Italians are people too!
And like all other people, some of them are inherently rude, while some are nice. There are short, tall, chubby, thin, boring and funny people in all cultures.
Italian is a good starting point to analyze your own prejudices and biases. By studying the language, you won’t just become more open-minded to Italian-speaking folks, you’ll be that to all other cultures—even your own.
8. Italian leads to greater social media engagement
The social media world you’re inhabiting right now is but a slice of what’s really out there.
There’s Italian Facebook, Italian YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. They’re having animated chats and discussions all over the web in Italian. And you’re going to need to understand Italian internet slang and colloquial expressions because they’re expressing themselves in full slang abandon.
If you read “Che palle!” (keh PAL-leh), which literally means “What balls!”, don’t think an Italian is complimenting you on your boldness or bravery. They use this when they want to say, “What a pain!” For a more positive spin, they say, “Che figata” (keh fee-GAH-tah), which means “Cool!”
They’re Italians, expressing themselves in Italian. And you’ll never get to jump right in when you don’t understand a thing, staring at words and phrases so alien they might as well be a message from Pluto.
The language opens up a whole new world where you get to connect with native speakers, consume authentic material and engage with a wholly distinct culture online. It allows you to participate in that social media space where discussions, comments and content are in Italian.
A great resource for daily practice with authentic content is FluentU. Accessible via the website or app for iOS or Android, FluentU takes real-world videos, from news to movie trailers to inspiring talks, and turns them into language learning experiences.
With FluentU’s Italian program, you get interactive captions so you can learn new words easily and in context. Plus, FluentU remembers what you’ve learned and recommends personalized content, which is great for building on each day’s practice. What a great way to get a sneak peek into all that Italian social media has to offer!
9. Italian is a wonderful boost for your self-confidence
Who wouldn’t be more confident speaking Italian?
Italian is arguably one of the most beautiful languages in the world! It’s the voice of the greatest painters, poets and geniuses of history. It’s the language of Valentino, Versace and Ferrari. That alone makes up for the huge difference between you and the next guy on the train.
In all seriousness and modesty though, all the previous eight reasons we’ve talked about work in synergistic fashion, giving you an inherent boost in self-confidence.
Open a restaurant menu in that swanky Italian restaurant knowing exactly what it says? Confidence. Submit a resume knowing you have a leg up on the competition? Confidence. Being friends with cool and amazing native speakers? Confidence. Being a citizen of a whole different social media space? Confidence.
Admittedly, all these things can be had by learning some other language. In the final count, the poise and self-assurance that springs from knowing Italian is very much ethereal. One can’t quite put a finger on it. Yes, you can point to the language’s innate musicality or it’s effusive gestures or the beautiful turn of phrase that can make even the coldest of women swoon. But even that isn’t quite enough.
In the end, knowing Italian is like being in on a big secret that only the coolest cats in the world know.
I hope that intrigues you enough to dive in head first into the language.
Every minute of learning the Italian language and culture will definitely be worth it.
If you truly want to live the good life, and if you want to learn a language that will serve you well in the years ahead—Italian should be on the top of your list.
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