Italian is, unsurprisingly, the official language of Italy. But its import stretches well beyond the borders of that country. Italian is the official language of San Marino, and is the second language of Vatican City. It is also one of Switzerland’s official language. You will also hear Italian being spoken throughout Albania, Nice and Corsica. There are an estimated 70 million people around the world with Italian as their first language.
Even when limiting yourself to Italy, however, the number of dialects and local languages can be overwhelming. Looking only at the country’s major dialects, there are ten or more, including pugliese, toscano, and umbro.
Like all romance languages, Italian has its roots in Latin, making it a sister language to French, Spanish and Portuguese. Despite Italy having such a long history of dominance in the world, the Italian language as we now know it did not begin to proliferate until the 19th century. Prior to that time, people chose their local dialects over a unified language. Italy’s unification in 1861 had a great impact upon its culture, and with mandatory literacy education came the increased use of the “Italian” language.
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