Italy: Disappearing Dialects and Monolingual Mindsets

LangWork is back to sketch a language-related picture of Italy.

A person walking up a narrow urban street

Multilingualism is nothing new to Italy, which became one state only in 1861. As borders shape linguistic landscapes, unified Italy became home to a population that spoke many regional dialects. Owing to intense migration within the country, and the introduction of compulsory education in the post-war period, the use of regional dialects has declined over time. This pertains specifically to more public contexts, but almost 2/3 of Italians still speaks dialects at home.


Dspite the history of linguistically diversity, a monolingual mindset seems to dominate in the modern-day Italian society. While state policies support specific linguistic minorities (namely Albanian, Catalan, Croatian, French, Franco-provençal, Friulian, German, Greek, Ladin, Occitan, Slovene, and Sardinian), other groups (Arabic or Chinese speakers) cannot count on such support, despite being significantly large minorities.


There are also issues with supporting migrant communities in learning the Italian language. Teachers interviewed by LangWork report that existing courses are rarely enough to help learners achieve the A2 level, and language certification is required to permanent residence permit, among other things. Language learning programs lack structure, investment, and highly qualified teaching staff (compliant with the 'European Language Teacher Profile'). Meanwhile, at 22 per cent of population, the knowledge of foreign languages in Italy was below the European average (Eurobarometer 2012). Against this backdrop, many Italians report negative attitudes towards migrants.


Nevertheless, there are also examples of successful language programs in Italy. The research project Con parole mie was completed in 2016-2018 in 2 primary school classes with high percentage of migrant pupils. It was based on the collaboration with parents involved in afternoon joint activities to discuss and present the mornings’ school topics with insights and facilitation methodologies. The result on children was positive both in terms of integration and school performance.


The link to full report will be published soon.

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