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Guest Editorial: Why is the Italian Language So Difficult to Preserve?

By Rosario Mariani

A recent BBC article claims that almost 8,000 universities in non-English speaking countries are offering programs entirely in English. Bachelor and master degrees are chosen by over five million people, and, while students once had to travel abroad they are now staying in their own countries to pursue their higher education in English.

Italy is one of these countries where at the University of Milan, the Sapienza in Rome and a few others are offering under-graduate and graduate programs entirely in English.

There are nearly 100 million people in the world who speak Italian, but well over a billion who speak English. In the financial, Hi-tech, science and other fields, the “lingua franca” is undoubtedly English. If Italian millennials hope to compete in a global economy, they better be competitive and master the tongue of the Anglo Saxons.

However, it appears to me that the Italian government agencies and the media are over-extending themselves by arbitrarily choosing English expressions over Italian to communicate with its population. It seems that in Italy, it is fashionable these days to utter English words and phrases.

Recently, the Italian government took legislative action to reduce employment by easing hiring labor laws to urge employers to hire more staff. This program was labeled in English as “jobs act.”

The Italian Navy placed ads in English to recruit personnel by using such caption as: “Be cool and join the Navy.” What made the Italian armed forces act so unpatriotic?

Last week a gay couple wanted to adopt a child fathered by one partner, while also allowing the mother of the child to retain her motherhood role. This social life anomaly was coined “stepchild adoption.” All Italian newspapers, TV and radio shows reported the story by using this English expression. Some reporters even had difficulty pronouncing it.

Italian companies now have “business meetings” instead of “una riunuione” and after the meetings, obviously there are “debriefings.”

Italians who need medical attention in a day-clinic must now look for signs saying “day hospital.” In pharmacies you need a “ticket” to get your prescribed medicine.

On TV, “Notizie della domenica” is now announced as “Sunday News” reported by an “anchorman” sitting behind the “news desk.” A day doesn’t go by where a multitude of English words penetrate the national media.

On a lighter note, a travel agency in Italy gave a couple a “hotel voucher” for a prepaid vacation in a foreign country. It took the couple hours to realize that the name of their hotel was not “Voucher!” I guess the proper documentation should have been called “buono alberghiero.”

These are a few examples on how the Italian language is being de-emphasized by individuals who should be proud of Dante’s “lingua volgare,” a language that inspired so many musicians, artists, poets and many more. Italians accept new words from other cultures, but the over-use of English expressions must be kept under check, particularly when the public entities who should oversee abuses are the culprits.



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