Our country might not be huge, but our desire to share Italian culture is great.
On October 22, the third edition of the Joint Action for the Italian language in the World, organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, University and Scientific Research, the Accademia della Crusca and the Embassy of the Helvetic Confederation to Italy, took place in Rome, at Villa Madama.
Italian is the fourth most studied language in the world
Enzo Moavero Milanesi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, opened the event by stating that “Italian is the fourth most studied language in the world, after English, Spanish and Chinese”. In the preface to the 2018 report entitled “Italian in the changing world” (L’Italiano nel mondo che cambia), he explains that more than two million people abroad decide every year to learn Italian for various reasons. Some need to study it for work; many others learn it for the desire and the pleasure of knowing a language that gives access to a cultural heritage extremely rich in literature, history and art. Moreover, Italian seems to be — right after English — the most trending language in marketing, as it is often associated with high-quality products.
Therefore, Italian is a language spoken not only in Italy (which is not the only country that has it as official language) but worldwide, and the number of schools and students around the world seems to be growing every year. This is why a series of institutions is working to enhance the quality of learning and preserve the beauty of our language, to keep up with the inevitable changes it is facing.
The Italian language abroad
The action of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MAECI) in relation to the Italian language is twofold: it periodically collects the data necessary to assess the use of our language around the world and it is also committed to safeguarding Italian by carrying out a series of initiatives, such as the organization of cultural events and language courses abroad. This is put into practice through the consulates and the 83 Italian Cultural Institutes scattered around the world acting as cultural mediators every day.
Our language is also studied by thousands of students at school: there are indeed many bilingual and international schools where Italian is a language of instruction.
Besides, our culture, history, art and literature are main subjects in several universities: higher education is thus extremely important for the circulation of ideas and knowledge, not to mention scholars. As a matter of fact, many students each year decide to move and study abroad thanks to a series of exchanges. In the latest statistics on Erasmus+ published by the European Commission, Italy appears as the fifth most chosen destination in Europe: under this particular agreement, its universities received 22.785 foreign students in the 2015/2016 academic year.
Another important institution in the field of the Italian language and culture is the Dante Alighieri Society. Founded in 1889, its aim is to “promote and spread the Italian language and culture throughout the world, reviving the spiritual ties of compatriots abroad with their homeland and nurturing among foreigners a love of the Italian civilization”. It carries out its projects through its 401 branches in 80 countries, schools and language courses.
Italian language schools in Italy and the certifications of Italian
The Dante Alighieri society has schools in Bologna, Florence, Milan, Turin, Rome, but there are also many other private schools specialized in the teaching of Italian as a foreign language, some of which are part of an association called A.S.I.L.S. (the Association of Schools of Italian as a Second Language).
Most of these private schools offer intensive and immersive courses: the students can choose to come for two weeks, a month or more to study Italian every day and, at the same time, to discover our country by traveling around, visiting and experiencing the Italian way of life.
These “cultural holidays” are a real business and an important source of income, especially for the smallest towns, which wouldn’t otherwise be flooded by such a number of visitors.
Moreover, in these schools it is usually possible to attend a preparation course to take the certification. The four main certifications of Italian — the CILS (Certification of Italian as a Foreign Language, designed by the University for Foreigners of Siena), the CELI (Certificate of knowledge of the Italian Language, issued by the University for Foreigners of Perugia), the IT (prepared by the University of Roma 3) and the PLIDA (Dante Alighieri Italian Language Project, designed by the Dante Alighieri Society) — united in 2013 under the association named CLIQ (Quality Certification of the Italian Language) to work together in order to create a single certification to test the knowledge of non-native speakers.
Had you realized before how much widespread and studied our language was? Our country might not be huge, but our desire to share Italian culture is great.