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awomanscorned's avatar

How important is it that I know Italian when visiting Italy?

Asked by awomanscorned (11261 points ) November 10th, 2010 from iPhone

I’ll be going in spring and know “Ciao” “Gratzi” “Bella” “Luna” and food. Will I be okay with a few basic phrases or will I need to know more?

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38 Answers

jrpowell's avatar

When I was in Italy I tried. Then damn near everyone spoke English. Just make it look like you are trying.

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Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I’ve only been to Roma, and we got around just fine not knowing any Italian. With what you’ve learned from your class, you will be just fine.

Where will you be visiting, and how long will you be there?

GeorgeGee's avatar

I’ve taken and led trips to Italy both before and after learning Italian. I certainly enjoyed my trip and experienced much less stress after learning the language. It’s not hard to learn the pronunciation, and if you learn that and bring a phrase book/dictionary, you’ll be able to manage pretty well. As a minimum, I would recommend that plus a review of all the major street and building signs. You will avoid lots of trouble and embarrassment by being able to read signs that say “do not enter,” “Men’s room,” “emergency exit,” and so forth.

janbb's avatar

It’s not important at all. I knew nothing and picked up the words for my favorite gelato flavors almost instantaneously. Seriously, you can get around fine and it’s amazing how much you can learn just from signs, etc. We had a lot of fun with seeing what we could pick up.

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GeorgeGee's avatar

Don’t be afraid to use your Spanish there. Many Italians understand Spanish. And you’ll be able to recognize similar words in Italian on menus and so forth.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

My mistake…I thought your previous post said “Took Italian”, not “Look Italian”.

janbb's avatar

If you try to use a few words that you pick up, they are not snobby at all and will work with you.

john65pennington's avatar

Most everything in Italy is in both languages, except McDonalds. all Italian there. the people are very nice and they will help translate for you. they did for us.

Also, notice how the people really do love children.

Blackberry's avatar

Ideally, it would be better to be as fluent as possible, but that’s not realistic. I couldn’t even hit on women because I wasn’t fluent in Italian when I went there.

JLeslie's avatar

“Look” Italian? To who an American? My brother-in-law is Italian from the north and he has very pale white skin and brown hair, his sister is blond. Lots of people look Italian, and many people in Italy look Austrian and German. You’ll be fine, your Spanish knowledge will help. Buy a Berlitz book that has the included CD, so you can listen to the language, and it comes with a mini pocketbook size Italian English dictionary by category, menu, hotel, social, etc.

Mikewlf337's avatar

Learning some Italian wouldn’t hurt but I think alot of people there know English. I hear that alot of Europeans know English. I may be wrong though.

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bob_'s avatar

It would help a lot, but it’s not crucial.

See here and here.

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Thammuz's avatar

Note: It’s spelled ”Grazie

@johnpowell O_o Really? I live here and about 60% of the people I know wouldn’t be able to understand directions to get out of a cul-de-sac, and I live in Milan, arguably the most culturally advanced of Italian cities (which is not saying much, to be honest)...

@Mikewlf337 Europeans being the keyword. Italians are the European equivalent of rednecks. Whatever applies to Europe at large, in Italy applies only to some of the bigger cities.

@john65pennington The people really do love children. It’s pretty much an all catholic country, what did you expect? :P

@GeorgeGee And you’ll be able to recognize similar words in Italian on menus and so forth. Don’t rely too much on it, though. And “burro” here means butter, not “donkey” (which is “asino”).

In my experience: Stick to the big cities and pretty much all the bigger shops and restaurants will invariably know enough English to serve you efficiently. They won’t be able to talk to you intelligently about the products they’re selling but they’ll be able to tell you the price/ingredients/specifics. If you go somewhere that is not in the city and is not somewhere you’d normally find tourists, then GOD HELP YOU. Our countryside is basically stuck in a warped space-time field made of xenophobia, ignorance and Catholicism and pretty much nobody there has knowledge of anything outside Italy. If they know about Italy.
They’ll try to be helpful, though, which might not be enough, but it’s really all most of the people here can offer.

Here’s the itinerary: Rome, Vatican City, Lucca, Cinque Terre, Florence, Venice

You should be fine with English only then.

Important note: Any closed public area is a non smoking area here. Restaurants don’t have smoking areas, you have to go outside.

JLeslie's avatar

@noelleptc :) well the truth is the Italians are a fairly homogenous group in their ancestry, but in America most Italians are from the south or Sicily and tend to be darker in complexion and hair. All the countries along the mediterranian have a similar coloring and features. I’m Jewish and get asked if I am Italian. The cities you are going to are full of tourists, so they are used to dealing with tourists. Italy is FANTASTIC! The food is unbelievable! You will have a great time.

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Thammuz's avatar

@JLeslie Truth. The north, especially, has been conquered so many times we pretty much have samples from all over the European gene pool.

JLeslie's avatar

@Thammuz yes, that was my original point. In America most who immigrated here 60–100 years ago were from the south, so the stereotype of how Italians look in America is skewed. I would guess in the last 40 years there has been even more immigration into Italy. If I remember correctly during WWII part of Austria on the coast became Italy?? Part of the real Von Trapp story if I was paying attention.

Thammuz's avatar

@JLeslie You mean Fiume, I assume. It wasn’t Austria, but yes, there was a brief spell, though that didn’t factor in the gene pool as much as one would think, because of all the racial purity bullshit that was going around during the fascist regime.

Incidentally Austria conquered most of northern Italy, as well as Milan, which has been thrown around like a football between France, Spain and Austria for a good while.

KungFuPanda's avatar

I have friends who knew neither Italian nor Spanish but managed very well in Italy with just English. You said you know basic phrases, I guess that’s great. Probably learn a few more phrases so you could surprise (amuse) them and you’ll be fine I guess :) Good luck and bon voyage!

Zaku's avatar

Non preoccuparti. Gli italiani sono sempre felice quando qualcuno pure prova di parlare l’italiano! Eppoi per tante cose non e’ necessario.

Thammuz's avatar

@Zaku Non preoccuparti. Gli italiani sono sempre felici quando qualcuno prova a parlare l’italiano! E poi per tante cose non e’ necessario. /grammar fascist mode

BarnacleBill's avatar

When my brother went, the phases that he said he used the most were:
I am lost.
I don’t speak Italian. Is there anyone that speaks English?
Can you help me?
I don’t understand.
Thank you.
I’m sorry.
He learned to read foods so he could manage menus.

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bob_'s avatar

Mi sono persa.
Non parlo italiano. C’e qualcuno que parle inglese?
Mi puo aiutare?
Non capisco.
Grazie.
Scusi.

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bob_'s avatar

Prego!

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bob_'s avatar

Well, yes, that, too.

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Thammuz's avatar

@bob_ Non parlo italiano. C’e qualcuno che parla (“che” is pronounced like the Spanish “que”) inglese?

bob_'s avatar

@Thammuz Ha, got me there. Freudian slip, scusa! :)

<— native Spanish speaker

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bob_'s avatar

@noelleptc When I was in Milan, March was rather cool, but then I’m used to warmer weather. The south should be better.

janbb's avatar

Rome was warm when I was there in March; Florence kind of cool and rainy.

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