First: Italian offers career opportunities.
Italy is the eighth largest economy in the world, slightly behind France and the UK, of the same size as Russia and still much larger than India. Its beauty and charm sometimes overshadow its economic dimension; the recent euro-crisis has not helped in this respect. Italy is not only a cultural superpower, but also a major global manufacturer. The recent takeover of Chrysler by Fiat might have brought this to people’s attention.
Now, no matter how hard we try, we Italians are still far away from a flawless command of the English language. We do need native English-speaking managers and qualified personnel, in a large amounts, to sustain Italy’s business in its international outreach. Of course, this line of reasoning is all the more compelling if your kids would like to pursue a career in the world of design, architecture, art restoration, music and arts in general, in which Italy excels globally.
For Americans, who already speak the “lingua franca” of the world, the Italian language can be a powerful tool to find jobs in the internationalization of the Italian economy and the Italian society at large.
Second: Italian makes you special.
If this argument was not enough, dear parents, also consider this: Italy was the cradle of Western civilizations, from the Roman Empire to the Renaissance, and produced a unique cultural heritage. The Reputation Institute ranked Italy first in the world in 2013 for culture. If your children learn Italian, they are bound to stand out in the crowd as those who have a robust background in humanities and understand Dante, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Rafael — as well as the multiple expressions of the Italian cultural genius. In a world that is increasingly flat and homogenized, people who speak Italian have a clear understanding of the “fundamentals” of our world. This is a definite plus in society for everybody, be they engineers, marketing managers or designers.
Third: Italian is beautiful and fun.
Let me add the icing on the cake. Italian is beautiful and fun! It is beautiful because its abundance of vowels makes it very musical. Opera fans know what I am talking about. It is fun, because Italians are friendly and open — and they won’t hold a grudge if your pronunciation is not perfect. By the way, Italians are probably the staunchest admirers of America in Continental Europe: we just love the Americans’ jovial approach to life when you come to visit our cities. Also, Italian words pepper the global modern lifestyle: billions are touched by Italian daily, whether they are singing a capella, complaining of a fiasco or enjoying a cappuccino. It’s fun to understand these words in their original context.
Fourth: Italian is a source of identity for Americans with Italian ancestry
Needless to say, all these arguments become existential for Americans of Italian origin. Often their ancestors spoke the local languages when they came to the US. Later they tried hard to get assimilated, for understandable reasons. The new generations of Italian-Americans have the luxury, today, to be able to reconnect with the modern, dynamic, noble side of their historic homeland, thereby regaining a key part of their identity, by learning Italian.
-- by SF Consul General Mauro Battocchi