How Popular Is Italian?

Facts and Figures About the Italian Language

Italians are all over the world!
David Woolley

If you travel to Italy and don't speak Italian, it seems as if everyone is speaking...Italian! But in fact, there are several different languages spoken in Italy, as well as a number of dialects. Where is Italian spoken? How many Italian speakers are there? What other languages are spoken in Italy? What are the major dialects of Italian?

Most regions in Italy have their own accent, dialect, and sometimes their own language. The evolved over centuries and remained distinct from standard Italian for a variety of reasons. Modern day Italian is said to come from Dante and his Divine Comedy. He was a Florentine that wrote in the "language of the people" instead of the more academic Latin. For this reason, today, Florentines maintain that they speak the "true" Italian as they speak the version made popular by Dante himself. This was in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, and since then, Italian has evolved even further. Here are some statistics relating to modern day Italian language.

How Many Italian Speakers Are There?

Italian is classified as an Indo-European language. According to Ethnologue: Languages of Italy there are 55,000,000 speakers of Italian in Italy. These include individuals who are bilingual in Italian and regional varieties as well as those for whom Italian is a second language. There are an additional 6,500,000 speakers of Italian in other countries.

Where Is Italian Spoken?

Besides Italy, Italian is spoken in 30 other countries, including:

Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Egypt, Eritrea, France, Germany, Israel, Libya, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Paraguay, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uruguay, USA, Vatican State.

Italian is also recognized as an official language in Croatia, San Marino, Slovenia, and Switzerland.

What Are the Major Dialects of Italian?

There are dialects of Italian (regional varieties) and there are dialects of Italy (distinct local languages). To further muddy the Tiber, the phrase dialetti italiani is often used to describe both phenomena. The major dialects (regional varieties) of Italian include: toscano, abruzzese, pugliese, umbro, laziale, marchigiano centrale, cicolano-reatino-aquilano, and molisano.

What Other Languages Are Spoken in Italy?

There are several distinct local languages in Italy, including emiliano-romagnolo (emiliano, emilian, sammarinese), friulano (alternate names include furlan, frioulan, frioulian, priulian), ligure (lìguru), lombardo, napoletano (nnapulitano), piemontese (piemontéis), sardarese (a language of Central Sardinian also known as sard or logudorese), sardu (a language of Southern Sardinian also known as campidanese or campidese), siciliano (sicilianu), and veneto (venet). The interesting thing about these sublanguages is that an Italian may not even be able to understand them. Sometimes, they deviate so much from standard Italian that they are fully another language. Other times, they may have similarities to modern Italian but the pronunciation and alphabet is slightly different.


mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Filippo, Michael San. "How Popular Is Italian?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Filippo, Michael San. (2020, August 26). How Popular Is Italian? Retrieved from Filippo, Michael San. "How Popular Is Italian?" ThoughtCo. (accessed March 29, 2023).