Mastering a basic Italian conversation is easy. Whether you’re lost amongst the floating pathways in Venice, ordering a colourful gelato in Naples, or browsing the boutiques of Milan, use this essential Italian travel phrase guide.
It’s one thing to see Italy, but to really experience this beautiful country, warm-hearted people, and romantic language, you have to parlare un po’ d’Italiano (speak a little Italian). If you’re not ready to study Italian before you travel, take this handy Italian travel phrase guide with you instead.
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Where is Italian spoken?
Did you know that Italian is spoken by about 85 million people worldwide?
Italian is the first language of 65 million people, and the second language of a further 15 million people. In addition to being the national language of Italy, Italian is one of the national languages of Switzerland, with which it shares its northern border, as well as San Marino and Vatican City.
It is also the second most spoken language in Argentina, where it is estimated that over half the population is of Italian descent, making Italians the largest ethnic group in the country.
Italian pronunciation is easy! Si legge come si scrive (you read it how it’s written) meaning it looks similar to how it sounds.
It’s worth noting that pronunciation must be clear, with every vowel distinctly enunciated which also makes sounds easier to understand. Italian vowels are always pronounced in a sharp or clear way regardless of stress. They are never slurred or pronounced weakly.
The Italian alphabet has 21 letters. Italian uses the same Roman characters as the English language minus five of them. The letters j, k, w, x, and y do not exist in Italian, so if you happen to see them used in an Italian text, that means the word is borrowed from another language!
Although Italians are very proud of their language, they have allowed some English words to creep in. Generally, they are pronounced the same way as in English with a couple of exceptions.
They say, for example, words such as gadgets, jogging, feeling and shock. You’ll even hear them use the word okay.
Since computers have entered their lives, they say cliccare sul mouse (kleek-kah-reh soohl mouse), meaning ‘to click (on) the mouse’. There’s lo zapping (loh zahp-ping), which means changing TV channels with the remote.
Consider the following list of words of English words with their Italian pronunciation:
la radio (lah rah-dee-oh)
il cocktail (eel kok-tail)
il jazz (eel jazz)
il cinema (eel chee-neh-mah)
il computer (eel kom-poo-ter)
il bar (eel bar)
il film (eel film)
il weekend (eel weekend)
i jeans (ee jeans)
lo shopping (loh shop-ping)
lo sport (loh sport)
lo shampoo (loh sham-poo)
lo zoo (loh zoh)
…and that’s just to name a few.
Now, let’s take a look at some essential phrase in this Italian travel phrase guide.
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Excuse me (to get attention)
(to get past someone)
Hello! / Hi!
Salve / Ciao!
saal-veh / chow
How are you?
Good / So-so / Not bad
Bene / Così così / Non c’è male
beh-neh / koh-zee koh zee / nohn cheh mah-leh
Do you speak English?
I don’t understand
How much is it?
1 uno oo-no
2 due doo-way
3 tre treh
4 quattro kwah-troh
5 cinque cheen-kweh
6 sei say
7 sette set-teh
8 otto oht-toh
9 nove noh-vay
10 dieci dee-yay-chee
Day after tomorrow
Where is …? Where are…?
Dov’è ….? / Dove sono
dohv-eh / doh-veh soh-noh
La fermata dell’autobus
lah fer-mah-tah del-louw-toh-bus
When does it open?
Quando si apre?
kwan-doh see ah-preh
When does it close?
Quando si chiude?
kwan-doh see key-you-day
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Over to you!
Which of these Italian phrases do you find most useful? What other phrases or expressions would you like to know?
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