Already a popular choice in countries like Germany and the United States, the study of Italian has been growing globally, especially in Eastern Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and Asian countries such as China and Vietnam.
1.5 million people studied Italian in 2013, according to new data presented at an international conference on the promotion and use of the Italian language in the world, entitled Stati Generali della Lingua Italiana nel Mondo, held in Florence last October 21 and 22.
During the conference, which was organised by the city of Florence and the Italian ministries of foreign affairs, education, and culture and tourism, government officials and experts discussed how the global popularity of the Italian language could also be used as a tool for greater economic growth. ‘We should use Italian companies operating abroad, as well as the Catholic Church, as vectors in the diffusion of the Italian language,’ suggested Mirko Tavoni, president of Italian Culture on the Net, a consortium of 19 Italian universities promoting Italian language and culture. ‘There is a growing and dynamic demand for Italian in the world, but we need to find creative ways to attract a larger potential student body,’ said Mario Giro, undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The conference was also an occasion to discuss proposed reforms to Italy’s public school system, including the importance of teaching Italian to the country’s new immigrants and their children. Minister of education Stefania Giannini said: ‘We cannot overlook that fact that language is an instrument of integration, and we will establish a specific course of study for those wanting to teach Italian as a second language to the children of immigrants.’
HAVE YOUR SAY
The teacher training course is part of a larger package of proposed educational reforms, which includes ending the system of precarious contracts for teachers; increasing transparency by publishing online financial and assessment data for individual schools; reduced bureaucratic inefficiencies; providing high-speed wi-fi and other digital tools in all public schools; and mandating music and sports in primary schools and art history in secondary schools. Italian citizens are invited to learn more and vote on these proposals and make suggestions until November 14 at https://labuonascuola.gov.it.