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Speaking the LanguageBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
Italy - Speaking the Language
Speaking English in Italy
English is an uncommon tongue in Italy. In fact, a majority of Italians speak poor English or none at all, so visitors are advised to bring a translator or dictionary of some sort. Tourists may be able to get by without knowing the language, but a businessperson in Italy needs a translator.
In business and casual life, body language and gestures are prioritized. An Italian will get in your personal space! In Italy, it is considered rude to step away from someone or disengage by breaking eye contact. Show interest by leaning forward and being genuine, and do not shy away when you are touched or stood close to! The ability to maintain eye contact and stay in another person’s space is a real assessment of character.
An English speaker may not be able to get by in Italy without knowing at least the basics of the local language. Although 29 percent of Italy speaks English, many who speak it are influent and inexperienced. Even if an Italian learns English, very few resources allow them to speak the language. Most English speakers will be found in tourist organizations; as for business places, English may not be as common.
Keep at least a few phrases handy when you fist visit Italy, and try your best to learn the language while you are there. Neither adults nor children have a grasp of English, and you can be considered rude if you walk up to someone and immediately start speaking it.
If you plan on living and working in Italy, then understanding even the basic words is recommended. Understanding the basics is the real challenge; you never know when someone might need something from you! Also, words relevant to the place of work are recommended as well: “write”, “copy”, “draw”, etc. Certain phrases are a priority, especially formalities for the workplace. Keeping things formal around your superiors is temporary; Italians do not prioritize formalities.
As for more casual settings, English is almost never present. Unless you plan to live near places with many tourists around, you may never encounter an English-speaking Italian. English is not integrated into television or movies; instead, a majority of movies are translated into Italian. In general, subtitles are unavailable, with the exception of certain forms of media.
Hundreds of English language schools adorn the Italian landscape, but their competence is the real question. There are plenty of adult courses as well as courses for children. Yet, the real question lies in their effectiveness. In high schools, learning foreign languages is difficult; there are reports of poor teacher quality alongside little student motivation to learn other languages. The same attitude seems to survive throughout life, meaning that people from birth to old age have little knowledge of the English language. For this reason, it is important for a person in Italy to learn the language and not rely on other people’s understanding of their own language.
Much like English language schools, hundreds of schools for non-native speakers occupy Italy. Quite a few high quality schools are capable of teaching non-Italian speakers the native language. Some of these schools include Alghero in Sardinia, the Academy of Linguistics in Bologna, and the Center of Linguistics in Pasolini. Many people say that the easiest way to learn Italian is to go to Italy, and its education does seem to be top notch.
English Speaking Jobs
English speaking jobs in Italy are few and far between, but the competition is not dense. Some of the main jobs for English speakers in Italy include teachers, tour guides, and hotel hosts. The country’s demand for English speakers is quite high, considering the alleged lack of English experience in Italian high schools. However, knowing English in the regular workplace is not considered an advantage, unless you are in a position that requires travel or communication with other English speakers.
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