The languages of Italy: Regional dialects & Dante Alighieri – Part 2
Thu Jul 2015
Is there anything that identifies a local more than their accent? This is as true in Italy as it is in England. Depending on where you go, you will find that locals may well speak a different language in addition to Standard Italian, and their spoken Italian might have very strong regional influences.
Those who decide to study some Italian before travelling to the country might arrive and feel like their efforts were all in vain. If this happens to you, don’t worry, just know that an accountant from Milan on holiday in Naples feels exactly the same way as you.
Dialects are proper regional languages and they can differ from Italian to a great extent. Then, of course, the historical local language influences the regional pronunciation of Italian, even when the speaker does not know the dialect. You should be reassured to know that Italians themselves feel a bit lost when they land on the other side of the country.
Does this mean that communication is going to be impossible unless you master, Sicilian, Neapolitan, Venetian, Piedmontese or Ligurian? Of course not! First of all, almost every person will at least understand Italian, but might reply in their dialect, or with a very thick accent. However, bear in mind that the risk of finding people who don’t understand bona fide Italian exists only in remote areas.
As a general rule, in bigger cities and more developed areas dialects are rarely used and people stick to Italian for communication. Dialects are abundant in rural and remote areas like mountains or islands.
In Italy, it is very difficult to ‘speak like a local’ unless you are, in fact, a local. There often are linguistic differences between towns or villages in the same region! Don’t be put off by this: it’s fun to learn some regional words and compare them to mainstream Italian. The more Italian regions you will visit, the more differences you will notice. Surprisingly, you will also notice how, in spite of all the dialects, you will actually be able to communicate, be it in English, Italian or a local dialect, with the help of smiles and gestures