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Italian is one of the Romance languages, having a common Latin ancestry with French, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian. Looking at the Latin word for sun (solis), one can see the language similarities with soleil (French), sol (Spanish/Portuguese), soare (Romanian), and sole (Italian).

Italian is spoken by approximately 61.5 million people worldwide [1] and by 15% of the citizens of the European Union (fourth most commonly used after English, German and French) [2]. Inside the EU, Italian is an official language of Italy and Slovenia (regionally), but it is also used officially in Croatia (regionally), San Marino, Switzerland, and Vatican State [1]. In Canada, Italian is the mother tongue of 469 485 people, with 1.27 million identifying themselves as Italian [3].

Useful Expressions:

Hello
Ciao
Goodbye
Arrivederci
How are you?
Come sta? (informal)/Come va? (informal)
Excuse me/I’m sorry
Mi scusi/Mi dispiace
Do you speak English?
Parla inglese?
Yes/no
Si/no
Thank you
Grazie
My name is…
Mi chiamo…
I’m from Canada.
Sono canadese.
I’m lost. Where is the nearest telephone/train station/hospital?
Mi sono perso/a. Dove posso trovare un telefono qui vicino/una stazione ferroviaria qui vicina/ un ospedale qui vicino?
How much does it cost?
Quanto costa?

Language Resources:

Learn Italian online with BBC
Garzanti Linguistica free online Italian and English-Italian dictionaries
Dentro l’Italiano Online – Interactive Lessons for Beginners, Intermediates and Advanced

Culture in italiano:

  • Looking to build your Italian film collection? Visit 1worldfilms.com for an extensive list and summaries of Italian classics (see The Bicycle Thief) and more recent films such as Life is Beautiful, Il Postino (The Postman) , or La Scorta (The Escort). Check out Rogers Video to see which foreign videos and DVDs are available to rent locally.
  • Wondering what music’s on the Italian charts? Stop by mtv.it (in Italian!) to see videos from Italian stars like Zero Assoluto, Anna Tatangelo, and Dolcenera.
  • Italian food is so much more than East Side Mario’s. Check out New Italian Recipes for recipes and a pasta dictionary (all in English).

[1] Source: Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com/.
[2] Source: Eurobarometer: Europeans and Languages, Statistical Office of the European Communities in Luxembourg – September 2005.
[3]Source: Statistics Canada, 2001 Census: Population by mother tongue, by province and territory, and Population by selected ethnic origins, by province and territory.