Italian is a good example of a language that is useful, beautiful and relatively easy to learn. One of the reasons why the Italian language never became more popular is probably the fact that it does not have official status in multiple countries as do English, Spanish, and French. The Italian language is official in Italy, San Marino (a tiny country completely surrounded by Italy), and Switzerland (along with three other languages). In addition, large Italian diasporas exist in many countries across the globe, especially in the USA and in Argentina, bringing the total number of native speakers of Italian up to almost 70 million.
Italian belongs to the Romance language group. All Romance languages are descendants of Latin, and they emerged when the great Roman Empire broke into pieces in the 5th century CE. In each of the former Roman provinces, Latin was spoken with a particular accent and was influenced by the local tongues of the peoples conquered by Rome, which led to the development of closely related, yet markedly different Romance languages. Because Italian is spoken in the former center of the Empire, including the imperial capital Rome, it is closer to the original Latin than other tongues of the same root.
The Romance languages took shape during the first centuries of the Common Era, not so long ago from the historical viewpoint. This explains why they are rather closely related to each other in vocabulary and grammar. Speakers of Italian and Spanish, for example, are capable of understanding each other without ever studying each other's language. This is called “mutual intelligibility” in linguistics. Sometimes the intelligibility between related languages is not mutual, but only works one way. For instance, it is possible for a Romanian to understand spoken Italian without any prior study, while for an Italian to understand Romanian is considerably more difficult.
Italian boasts an extremely diverse and prominent literary heritage dating back to the times of the early Renaissance. Dante's The Divine Comedy, Bocaccio's The Decameron, and Petrarch's lyrics are world famous. In the 20th century six Italian authors, among them such prominent names as Salvatore Quasimodo and Eugenio Montale, were awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize in literature.
Italy invariably ranks on the very top of tourist destinations, which is another incentive to consider studying Italian. Knowing the language makes travel a lot more entertaining as well as, quite often, more economical. Overall, Italian is a reasonably easy, very beautiful and fairly practical language to learn. If you haven't started yet, you may want to consider this Free Italian Language Learning Resources website. It can provide you with introduction to pronunciation, grammar and everyday vocabulary. Free lessons from BBC is another resource you may want to try. We at 24HourAnswers.com are always happy to help you with any questions about the Italian language.
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