In today's globalized world, the exchange of cultures and languages is more prevalent than ever before. A fascinating linguistic phenomenon that has emerged in recent years is the widespread use of English words in various languages, including Italian. This trend, known as "anglicism" or "linguistic borrowing," has seen many English words being adopted into the Italian vocabulary. While some may perceive this as a cool and modern linguistic fusion, it is ironic that most Italians still struggle to speak fluent English. In this article, we explore the reasons behind this curious linguistic dichotomy.

Anglicism in Italian: The Cool Factor

The adoption of English words in Italian is not a recent development. As early as the 1960s, Italian youths began integrating English expressions into their everyday speech. Initially, this practice was fueled by the influence of American pop culture, music, and cinema, which fascinated the younger generations. The infusion of English words into Italian gradually spread to other domains, such as business, technology, and fashion.

Today, it is common to hear Italians using English words in informal conversations, advertisements, and even official communications. This adoption of English words in Italian is often perceived as a way to sound trendy, fashionable, and "cool." The appeal of foreign languages and their association with modernity has led to the incorporation of English words into Italian, creating a unique linguistic blend.

SUBSCRIBE on YouTube to never miss an episode

Examples of Anglicism in Italian:

  • Weekend — This word is used to refer to the weekend, and it has become a standard part of the Italian vocabulary.
  • Smartphone — The term "smartphone" has replaced the Italian word "telefono cellulare" for a mobile phone.
  • Fashion — While Italy is renowned for its fashion industry, the term "fashion" is frequently used instead of the Italian equivalent "moda".
  • Partnership — In business contexts, "partnership" has replaced the native terms "alleanza" or “collaborazione”.

The list goes on (see below for a more comprehensive one)… Even the Italian government uses English expressions in official communications: “spending review”, “budget”, “smart working” (an Italian adaptation of “working from home”), “policy” and so on.

Italians have even made up verbs from English, like “schedulare” — Italianized from "to schedule" (rather than using the native “prendere un appuntamento”).

These examples illustrate how English words have become deeply ingrained in the Italian language, used fluently and effortlessly by speakers across various age groups.

  • Lack of a Corresponding Word in Italian — This usually applies to technology words and modern job titles: “computer”, “hardware”, “software”, “partnership manager”, “account executive” and so on…
  • English is more efficient (and simple) — Italian is a beautiful language but gosh it can be verbose at times. Think of how much faster it is to say “I consult for a software firm” rather than “Faccio consulenza per un’azienda di programmi informatici”. Or “webcam” rather than “telecamera”, “call” rather than “chiamata”, and “default” rather than “impostazione predefinita”...
  • English is perceived as “cool” and modern — English is not only a lingua franca, used as a third language to communicate with people across the Earth…it is also the language of Hollywood movies, pop songs, and (now) international influencers. Italians associate it with “being cool”, “trendy” and “modern” (all words they use everyday). It becomes slang.

The Struggle to Speak Fluent English: A Complex Issue

The paradox is that, despite the widespread use of anglicisms in Italian, the majority of Italians still encounter difficulties when attempting to learn and speak English fluently. Several factors contribute to this language learning challenge:

  • Lack of Exposure — Although English words have found their way into Italian vocabulary, true immersion in the English language, especially in spoken form, remains limited for many Italians. The exposure to English through media (unlike other countries, all imported movies and TV shows are dubbed in Italian!), education, and daily interactions is often insufficient to develop a high level of fluency.
  • Education System — While English is taught in Italian schools, the focus has traditionally been on grammar and formal language, rather than on practical communication skills. As a result, many students may not develop the confidence to engage in real-life English conversations.
  • Language Interference — Italian and English belong to different language families (Romance vs. Germanic), leading to linguistic interference. Differences in pronunciation, syntax, and grammar can pose challenges for Italian learners of English.
  • Cultural Barriers — Language learning is not solely about grammar and vocabulary but also understanding cultural nuances. Misunderstanding cultural references or idiomatic expressions can hinder effective communication.
  • Fear of Making Mistakes — Fear of making errors and being judged can be a significant psychological barrier. Italians may feel embarrassed or hesitant to speak English in fear of sounding inadequate or unintelligent.

The phenomenon of anglicism in Italian is a fascinating example of how languages evolve and adapt in a globalized world. The infusion of English words into Italian adds vibrancy and freshness to the language, but it doesn't necessarily translate into fluent English proficiency for most Italians. While adopting English terms may sound cool and trendy, overcoming the barriers to speaking fluent English requires a comprehensive approach that involves increased exposure, improved language education, and a supportive cultural environment that encourages language learners to embrace mistakes as part of the learning process. By addressing these challenges, Italians can enhance their ability to communicate effectively in English and further enrich their linguistic repertoire.

Abstract: riassunto / sommario
All inclusive: tutto compreso
Audience: pubblico

Background: sfondo / contesto / esperienze passate
Backstage: dietro le quinte
Badge: tesserino
Band: gruppo musicale
Bodyguard: guardia del corpo
Boss: capo
Brand: marchio
Break: pausa
Broker: agente / intermediario
Budget: bilancio / budget
Business: commercio / affare
Business plan: piano di gestione

Cameraman: cineoperatore
Cash: contante
Check-up: visita di controllo
Chewing gum: gomma da masticare
Comfort: comodità
Community: comunità
Competitor: concorrente
Compilation: raccolta / collezione
Concept: idea
Contest: gara / concorso
Copyright: diritto d’autore
Copywriter: redattore pubblicitario
Cover: copertina
Crew: squadra/gruppo
Customer service: assistenza al cliente

Deadline: scadenza
Default: impostazione predefinita
Design: disegno industriale
Device: dispositivo
Display: schermo
Download: scaricare

Editor: redattore
Email: posta elettronica
Escalation: incremento / aumento / far salire di priorità
Export: esportazioni

Fake: falso / impostore
Fan: tifoso / sostenitore
Fashion: moda
Feedback: opinione
Fitness: forma fisica
Flyer: volantino
Follower: seguace
Font: carattere (tipografia)
Full-time: a tempo pieno

Gangster: criminale / delinquente
Gap: lacuna
Gossip: pettegolezzo

Hall: ingresso
Hot: bollente / piccante
Hotel: albergo
HR: risorse umane

Import: importazioni
Intelligence: spionaggio

Killer: assassino
Know-how: conoscenza tecnica

Leader: capo
Live: in diretta / dal vivo
Location: posto / luogo
Log-in / Log-out: accedere / uscire (informatica)
Low cost: a basso costo

Mainstream: corrente principale
Marketing: commerciale
Markup: ricarico
Meeting: riunione / assemblea
Merchandising: attività promozionale
Mission: missione / obiettivo
Mood: umore

Network: rete / sistema
News: notizie / novità
Nickname: soprannome
Nomination: candidatura

Online: in linea / in rete
Outlet: punto vendita

Packaging: imballaggio/confezione
Part-time: a tempo parziale
Partner: socio
Partnership: collaborazione / alleanza
Performance: esibizione / prestazione
Preview: anteprima
Problem-solving: capacità di risolvere i problemi
PR: pubbliche relazioni

Random: casuale
Reception: accoglienza / ricevimento
Record: primato
Relax: riposo
Report: resoconto / verbale
Revival: ritorno

Scoop: notizia giornalistica di grande rilievo
Self-control: autocontrollo
Selfie: autoscatto
Sexy: sensuale / attraente
Shopping: compere / fare acquisti
Show: spettacolo
Showroom: salone di esposizione
Snob: altezzoso
Sponsor: finanziatore/sostenitore
Staff: personale
Stress: tensione
Store: negozio

Target: obiettivo / traguardo
Team: squadra / gruppo
Teenager: adolescente
Test: prova / esame
Ticket: biglietto
Trend: tendenza / moda

Update: aggiornamento (informatica)
Upgrade: eseguire l’aggiornamento (informatica)
Upload: caricare (in rete)

Waterproof: resistente all’acqua / impermeabile
Web: rete
Weekend: fine settimana
Wireless: senza fili
Workshop: laboratorio

Do you speak English fluently? How did you learn it and what are the words you've adopted into your everyday vocabulary?

Share this post