With Italian Americans constituting one of the earliest immigrant communities in the United States, the influence of Italian culture on American society has been felt in many areas, from politics to the arts.
Italian today ranks ninth among the non-English languages spoken in the U.S.A., with nearly 800,000 people using it at home. It has gradually risen to the status of the fifth most studied language in the country.
Among the foremost reasons so many of our students give for picking Italian is that, for English speakers, Italian is among the simplest foreign languages to grasp quickly.
Like French, Spanish, and Portuguese, Italian is a Romance language and is thus related to Latin. Indeed, of all the Romance languages, Italian is closest to Latin - from which almost sixty percent of English vocabulary comes.
Italian and English have many cognates (words in one language that have the same origin as a word in another). Aeroporto, attenzione, cattedrale, comunicazione, dottore, fantastico, importante, impossibile, incredibile, medicina, palazzi, sculture, terribile traffico…
Some students even suggest that learning Italian gives them a more intimate understanding of English.
Moreover, since almost all scientific and legal terminology comes from Latin, knowing Italian can bolster confidence in those areas.
Fiat's recent purchase of Chrysler and the return of Alfa Romeo to the United States has again reminded us that learning Italian enhances one's career prospects. Italy is a world leader in design, fashion, culinary art, tourism, manufacturing, engineering, and advanced technologies. Job opportunities in these areas are wide ranging for those who speak Italian and English.
Many find fun in the acrobatics of Italian gesture - a science in itself - and the tongue gymnastics involved in pronouncing Italian words. That said, it's worth noting that Italian is among the easiest languages to read, write, and pronounce. In the Italian alphabet, almost every sound corresponds to a letter. Si scrive come si legge e si parla.
Students who are artistically inclined are naturally attracted to what is one of the most musical languages in the world. UNESCO estimates that more than sixty percent of the entire world's art treasures are located in Italy.
Some want to be able to read Dante, Machiavelli, Boccaccio, Italo Calvino, and Umberto Eco in their original forms. Others look forward to a deeper appreciation of the operas of Verdi, Puccini, and Rossini - and of more recent interpretations by Luciano Pavarotti and Andrea Boccelli.
Both our Italian and our French students often cite films as a key motivating factor. Who can resist the promise of more authentically enjoying the directorial masterpieces of De Sica, Visconti, Rossellini, Fellini, and Antonioni?