Do you know something about the dialects in Italy? Italian dialects are local languages that can be completely different among them if we move along the peninsula. In Italy, there are so many dialects. These languages are part of our story, and every single place has its dialect. Dialects are independent languages, and they coexist with Italian, the official language of Italy.
The idea of this article came from a long conversation with my students about this topic. Through these conversations, I realized how Italian dialects are interesting to them, and this is the reason why I decided to write an article with the most popular questions they asked me.
Italy is not a big country, but it is characterized by big differences, which become increasingly evident if we move along the peninsula. Traditions, customs and not least, the dialects change from area to area and are specific to every single place.
Despite the existence of Italian as an official language, just as scholars of the Accademia Della Crusca say, dialect and Italian are not competitors or enemies but coexist perfectly.
Many times I happened to talk about Italian dialects with my students, and here you can read the most popular questions they asked me.
How many dialects are there in Italy?
In Italy, there is an infinite number of dialects, which are real languages, which stand alongside Italian, and we use them independently.
These local languages vary from region to region, from province to province and even from city to city. In fact, each place has its own dialect with specific characteristics, and the differences between these languages increase the further away you go. Let’s give a practical example: if a Neapolitan and a Turinese wanted to talk to each other using not Italian but their dialects, they will not understand anything; the same thing would happen for a person from Bari and another from Venezia, and so on.
On the other hand, the closer the cities are to each other, the easier it will be to understand one another, even using dialect. But pay attention!
As we know, every rule has its exception. Near the place where I live, there are villages whose dialect is Franco-Provencial. Or at less than an hour’s drive, there is another place where they speak Albanian. Obviously, if I want to talk to them using dialect, the conversation would be impossible despite the geographical proximity.
Do you study dialects at school?
Generally, in Italy, dialects are not studied at school even if I know that the locals, in some places, organize courses.
The dialect is a language in all respects that doesn’t have written grammatical rules, and you can not study in books. Instead, it is handed down orally, and we learn it from an early age in a very natural way by listening to parents and other adults.
When my students asked me this, I was a bit perplexed, because, for me, it would be crazy to hypothesize a dialect course at school. I will briefly explain the reason by using my case. I attended high school in a different city from the one in which I lived; like me, many of my classmates came from the province. Why would I had to spend time and energy studying a practically useless language that had nothing to do with my origins? I think mine is a more than fair question, and that makes you understand all my skepticism about this type of school course.
Can I learn dialect?
I could answer in two different ways: yes and no.
Let’s start with yes. Yes, because nothing is impossible. But you should consider that this will be a much more difficult undertaking than learning Italian or any other official language, basically because in most cases there are no resources available to practice.
I still want to be positive and do not eliminate this chance at all. Let me explain: if you decide to move to Italy and stay here for a long time, you will get in touch with the locals, you will become familiar with them and, sooner or later, someone will talk to you using only the dialect.
This process will be gradual and natural, and you will learn the new language like children, by listening and repeating.
And now the answer no. No, because as I said earlier, the dialect is of little use. It can be used only with those who know each other, and with whom you are already familiar. Furthermore, if you move even just a few kilometers or you want to talk to strangers, it is not a good option to use it, because another place has a different dialect and because it is not so polite.
Many people say that the dialect is culture, and I agree with this statement. The dialect is something to guard and to protect because it is the history and culture of every place, and it represents our roots. But in Italy, alongside all these local languages, we also have a wonderful official language, the unifier tool of our beautiful country.
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