The Italian language is known around the world for its beauty, but why not deviate a bit from the beaten track and focus more on Italian culture for a while?
Learning a new language doesn’t just have to be about reciting greetings, the Italian alphabet and doing countless listening comprehension and Italian grammar exercises – watch some Italian films, enjoy the literature of Italy, and, of course, try some Italian cuisine!
As a learner of Italian as a second language, the way you learn to speak the language as you move from basic Italian to conversational Italian language skills and eventually becoming fluent in speaking Italian, is completely up to you.
Starting with Italian conversation as a basis can be a good start if you're looking for some cultural immersion to learn more about Italy and its fascinating past whilst you pick up new words along the way.
Italian culture is one of the richest and most active in the world, so let’s dive in!
Starting with the world-famous cuisine of Italy, which is probably the reason why you already know a few Italian words and phrases.
Is Pasta Even Italian?
‘Should we eat at an Italian restaurant?’
‘Do you fancy a pizza?’
Here are two phrases which are asked across the UK and the rest of the world – it’s fair to say Italian cuisine has conquered the world.
For a lot of cuisines on every continent, Italian food often sets a convivial and colourful mood for a meal.
Pizza is often shared between friends at informal gatherings and times of celebration, and its nature makes for a cheerful atmosphere.
This is maybe the reason why Italian gastronomy has become a part of our eating habits over time, especially when we’re looking for a sociable meal.
For many of us (students in particular), pasta is a go-to base for a lot of dishes.
This inexpensive yet nourishing foodstuff can be served with different meats and sauces, meaning pasta is the queen of the food kingdom!
For many people from all parts of the world, pasta is one of the great symbols of Italian cuisine, however, it seems that this amazing food may not actually be from the Italian peninsula.
There is a legend that holds Marco Polo responsible for importing pasta into Italy in the 13th century following his travels to China!
So, are the Chinese the true inventors of this recipe?
Unfortunately for our friends in the Far-East, the answer is no.
This is just an urban myth that has managed to stay in the collective memory of the Italian people.
There is, in fact, evidence to suggest that the Greeks and Romans were the first creators of pasta, as they cooked lasagne-sized ribbons which resembled the noodles we know today.
And if that doesn’t quite cut it for you, there is a tomb in Rome which is dated at 300 B.C. and represents a pasta roller and cutter.
Italian cuisine is heavily inspired by Roman dishes, although not completely.
Find a tutor through Italian lessons London or a city near you to answer all your questions about pasta dishes - in Italian, of course!
How Italian Food Conquered the World
If we had to choose the 4 great cuisines of the world, there would certainly be some debate.
The reason it may cause some argument is that taste is a subjective matter. Some people prefer spicy food, whereas others like lighter or sweet flavours.
Still, in terms of ‘adoption’, there is no doubt that Italian, French, Chinese and Japanese cuisines are among the most widespread in the world today with restaurants on every continent. Italy, France, China and Japan are 4 countries that have made food an art in its own right.
And let’s not forget Middle-Eastern, Spanish and even American cuisine to a lesser degree.
Among all of these countries, it still seems that Italia is at the forefront of the cooking world as the most widely enjoyed.
All you have to do is think of the amount of pasta, pizza and even cheese that is eaten every day.
This may seem like a bit of an assumption but in January 2015, France TV Info broadcast a report precisely about the tasty food that comes from Italy.
And here’s the crazy part:
almost 14 billion pasta dishes are consumed and eaten every year worldwide. 14 billion!
The French media also claims that the famous pasta carbonara, that many of us strive to cook with cream instead of eggs cleverly mixed with pasta, is probably the most regularly cooked recipe in the world.
Italian Terminology and Recipes Used in English
When it comes to discussing gastronomy as well as music, cinema and art history, Italian as a romance language has become adopted across the globe – and sometimes we don’t even realise we’re using Italian words!
By listening to music and learning basic music theory, you’ll be using Italian words to describe what’s going on. These may include forte, piano, crescendo, adagio, allegro, meno mosso, the list goes on.
You may not even realise it, but you might also be familiar with Italian painters such as Raphaël, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.
You’ve probably also tried some traditional Italian recipes which are known all over the world, such as lasagne, cannelloni, and gelato.
Your knowledge of Italian culture, vocabulary and expressions often goes a lot further than this.
Italian may not be your native language, but you could have already mastered some aspects before you even have your first lesson!
Along with pasta, pizza dishes are also a strong symbol of Italy and its language and culture.
Trying it at a restaurant with your friends, ordering it from the takeaway when you don’t want to cook or maybe even having a slice before a sporting event, ‘pizza’ is one of the most commonly-used Italian words in the world.
The basic recipe has its origins in the Italian city of Naples in the south of the country.
Today, there are all kinds of pizza with varying sizes and toppings, but the original dimensions of the base were 35 cm in diameter with a depth of 2 cm for the crust.
Let’s have a look at something a bit lighter.
When we think of preparing or ordering a carpaccio, one immediately thinks of something fresh where we can savour for the delicacy of each slice we eat with a little olive oil and ‘parmigiano’.
Carpaccio has spread around the world as more and more people make it a part of their diets. Today, carpaccio represents thinly-sliced meat served on a plate.
Despite the worldly successes of gorgonzola and parmesan, mozzarella is a real best-seller when it comes to Italian cheeses.
Tomato and mozzarella is a match made in heaven in terms of taste and freshness, which explains the reason why it is such a popular pizza topping.
For those who regularly eat this kind of cheese without knowing much about it, it may interest you to know that it is made from buffalo milk.
- Veal Milanese
This is yet another typical Italian dish.
Veal alla Milanese is made from breaded veal escalopes which are covered with parmesan cheese and browned in a frying pan.
This recipe has been adopted and adapted by many people around the world and the ‘alla Milanese’ part of its name is now used to describe any dish cooked in this way with parmesan.
Like veal Milanese, pizza and pasta, risotto is a perfectly Italian dish which is used by many as a basis for their own recipes.
The rice is fried in oil or butter before being cooked in a broth.
After this, you can add whatever you like to the recipe! This could include mushrooms, meat, fish, cheese or veg.
If you’ve ever taken a trip to Italy, you must have sampled some of the local lasagne.
Lasagne, just like pizza and pasta, always appears on the menus of Italian restaurants as a highly-popular and incredibly symbolic export of Italy.
Today, you can easily find all kinds of lasagne such as beef, chicken, salmon and vegetable lasagne.
Learning to speak Italian isn’t just about mastering the Italian verbs in all of their tenses and learning how to perfect your Italian pronunciation – achieving proficiency in Italian is also about the culture, which includes its wonderful cuisine.
Of course, engaging in Italian culture and occasionally learning a bit of Italian vocabulary and reciting grammar rules won’t be enough to reach fluency in your Italian speaking.
The best way to learn Italian is by taking a pro-active approach to your learning by looking for online Italian course, taking an Italian language course at a local language school, looking for private Italian tutoring, signing up for an Italian classes near me in the evenings, studying Italian at university or even looking for free Italian lessons are all things that will keep your language active and equip you with the language skills you need to fluently communicate in Italian.
Did you know that speaking Italian is a real asset in the fashion industry?