“You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” - Giuseppe Verdi
There are around 26,000 Brits living in Italy. With its food fashion, history, and art, it’s an appealing place to go. Whether they’re working, studying, or just discovering the country, they’ll need to speak some Italian.
Language learning is a rewarding experience and whether you’re going to Naples, Sienna, Bologna, Rome, Turin, Palermo, or Florence, you should ask yourself whether you speak enough Italian to get by.
In this article, we're going to look at just how good your Italian will need to be before you move there, whether or not you can move to Italy without speaking a word of the language, how studying Italian in Italy can improve your language skills, how to start a career in Italy, and how you can learn Italian just by living in the country.
The Level of Italian You’ll Need
Would you like to find work or study in Italy? Do you really need to speak Italian before you arrive? What level do you need to get by and speak with native speakers?
Whatever language you’re learning to speak, you can use the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) to gauge how well you speak it. The levels are (from lowest to highest) A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2.
But what do these levels mean?
There’s no such thing as A0. A1 is your where you start. If you don’t know anything about the language, you’re definitely an A1.
The levels increase from there. A C2 level is the highest level you can get. A lot of people think that just because you can have a conversation in Italian, you’re bilingual.
You’re only really bilingual if you speak both your mother tongue and your second language as well as one another. This is when you’re familiar with all the nuances of the Italian languages.
You should probably put your CEFR level in Italian on your CV, too.
The CEFR is based on skills such as reading, listening, speaking, and writing. For each level, you’ll need to prove your worth in each of these skills.
Some job offers come with a specific level. Similarly, universities expect a good level of Italian. Of course, the level you’ll need will depend on what you’re planning on doing in the country.
Can You Go to Italy without Speaking a Word of the Language?
Learning Italian isn’t the most complicated thing you’ll ever do. Fortunately for you, over half of English words have Latin origins, just like the Italian language itself.
If you’ve learnt any other Romance languages like Spanish, Portuguese, or French, it’ll help. While the pronunciation differs, Italian grammar has a similar structure to these languages and a lot of Italian vocabulary is related to or shared with these languages, too! That’s why you could actually go to Italy without knowing a single word.
That said, you should still make an effort before you go to learn some useful phrases and greetings so that you can be polite. Even though the level of English spoken in Italy is very good, they’ll appreciate the effort.
Once you’re there, you can always take Italian language courses if you’re serious about learning the language. You’ll learn much more quickly once you’re there.
Speaking Italian will help a lot when it comes to finding accommodation. In fact, if you don’t know the language, it’ll be difficult to get anything done, especially when looking for somewhere to live.
Speaking the language is also useful if you want to meet people or just ask for help. If you want to learn more Italian, you’ll probably not want to live with other English speakers.
In terms of work, it’ll be more complicated to find work if you don’t speak the language. You should focus on language classes if you require a certain level for a job.
One of the hardest things about learning Italian is the accent. It’s often much easier to understand Italian when you read than when you listen to it. This means you’ll have to make a concerted effort when listening.
The same goes for speaking. If you don’t correctly pronounce words, natives will have a hard time understanding you and the intonation is also important.
Study in Italy to Improve Your Italian
Learning Italian in the UK’s a good place to start, but it’s better learning Italian where it’s spoken. Each year, thousands of students decide to head to Italy in order to learn the country’s language.
Some students don’t know the first thing about Italian before they start an Italian course.
That said, many will learn some Italian before they go. You can learn Italian in schools and universities before you go to Italy. If you study foreign languages, you’ll also have a chance to get an intermediate level in the language before you go.
By going to Italy, you can put your knowledge of the language to the test in real everyday situations. Learning a language is also a way to learn more about a given culture. You’ll be shocked at just how much of the language you can learn when you immerse yourself in the culture.
Before you start looking at ways to study Italian in Italy, you should consider looking at different courses.
A lot of Italian universities offer level tests for foreign students. You can also get the CILS (Certification of Italian as a Foreign Language). There are four different levels. If you reach level two, you can attend universities without having to pass a level test.
Establishing Your Career in Italy
Not everyone goes to Italy for the same reasons. Some want to spend time learning about Italian culture whereas others want to establish a career there. The level of Italian you’ll need for a career won’t be the same as that for doing a summer job, for example.
If you want to spend a year in Italy to learn more about the country, a beginner’s level will suffice. On the other hand, if you plan to work for an Italian company, you’ll probably need a better level.
Some international business in Italy might take place in English, though. In this case, you can speak your mother tongue. However, in some situations, only Italian will be spoken.
While you may be able to start your career with a low level of Italian, you’ll probably want to improve as you go along.
With most employers wanting proof of your level in the language, passing Italian exams are pretty essential. Just like the TOEFL or Cambridge exams for English, these exams can be used to prove your level in the language.
Nothing will stop you from attending Italian lessons while you work.
Find out more about visas in Italy.
Learning Italian in Italy
Learning Italian in Italy is arguably the best way to learn the language. This means that you can go to Italy regardless of your level in Italian. Make sure you give yourself enough time to reach the level you need.
Beginners should consider getting language lessons for basic Italian so that they know how to speak to their landlord, people in supermarkets and local businesses, and to their employer, if they're working for an Italian company.
You could always learn Italian by spending time in language schools, doing intensive courses, etc.
Travelling to Italy is an opportunity to surround yourself with the language and culture and work on your vocabulary and speaking.
There are also Italian lessons in the UK that you can take before you go. In Italy, you’ll probably have to speak in Italian almost every day. Whether it’s to do your shopping, meet friends, or get on a bus, you’ll need to speak the language.
To get the most out of your new language, you may want to stay with a host family, get Italian flatmates, listen to Italian radio, or read newspapers. There are plenty of ways to improve your language skills.
Private tutors can help you to learn the basics of Italian or master the language before you head to the country. Whether you need some help just introducing yourself or need to refresh your Italian because you haven't used it for a long time, you should consider checking out the many talented private tutors on Superprof (a lot of them will even offer the first hour of tuition for free just to see if they're the right tutor for you!).
What are you waiting for?