Italians ‘don’t love’ their language

Italian may be a language of romance, but Italians themselves are not so affectionate about it, according to Claudio Marazzini, the president of the Florence-based Crusca Academy.

Italians 'don't love' their language
Italians don’t love their language, according to the president of the Florence-based Crusca Academy. Italian language photo: Shutterstock

Speaking at a conference on safeguarding Italian, Marazzini was cited by Ansa as saying that "Italian is not a language really loved by the Italians".

And this lack of affection towards their own language is paving the way for the increasing use of Anglicisms, he added.

"The reasons why Italy is so disposed to foreign influence is the frequent lack of a good knowledge of its own history and language to the extent that would restore belonging to the national culture," he said.

He added that this lack of knowledge often leads Italians living abroad to become "stateless".

"Apart from for food, and even for that less than before, the Italian citizen is very often a kind of stateless person, even if disadvantaged and not easily integrating abroad," he said.

"With this basis and roots, young people are easily prone to break off from the national reality and cut their bridges, the few that remain."

It is true that Italians have borrowed many words and phrases from English and woven into their language.

We put together a list of some of the most common Anglicisms.

Top 10: English words adopted by Italians

And here are some English words that have crept in, but have been completely reinvented.

 Top 15 English words reinvented by Italians

The Crusca Academy was founded in 1582 for the purpose of purifying Tuscan, the literary language of the Italian Renaissance.

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Italian expression of the day: ‘Qualcosa non torna’

Does this phrase add up to you?

Italian expression of the day: 'Qualcosa non torna'

Ever get the feeling that things aren’t quite right, that perhaps you’re missing something, that something fishy might be going on?

In Italian you can express that with the phrase qualcosa non torna (‘qual-KOH-zah-non-TORR-na’).

Qualcosa you’ll probably recognise as meaning ‘something’, and non of course here means ‘doesn’t’, so the slight wild card for anglophones is the verb torna.

That’s because tornare means ‘to return’ in most contexts – but it can also mean to balance, to add up.

Ho calcolato le spese, il conto torna.
I added up the costs, the bill checks out.

I conti dell’azienda tornano.
The company’s accounts add up.

The Math Seems To Check Out! GIF - The House Will Ferrell The Math Seems To Check Out GIFs

The word can also refer more nebulously to something sounding or feeling right – or not.

Secondo me c’è qualche parte del mio discorso che ancora non torna.
I think there are parts of my speech that still aren’t quite right.

And when something doesn’t torna – that’s when you know things are off. It’s the kind of expression you’re likely to hear in detective shows or true crime podcasts. 

Qualcosa non torna nel loro racconto.
Something about their story’s off.

C’è solo una cosa che non torna.
There’s just one thing that doesn’t add up.

It’s similar to how we can talk in English about someone’s account of an event not ‘squaring’ with the facts, and in fact you can also use that metaphor in Italian – qualcosa non quadra (‘qual-KOH-zah-non-QUAHD-ra’) – to mean the same thing as qualcosa non torna.

Trash Italiano Simona Ventura GIF - Trash Italiano Simona Ventura Qualcosa Non Quadra GIFs

You can adjust either phrase slightly to say ‘things don’t add up’, in the plural: this time you’ll want le cose instead of qualcosa, and to conjugate the tornare or the quadrare in their plural forms.

Ci sono molte cose che non tornano in quest’affare.
There are a lot of things about this affair that don’t add up.

Le loro storie non quadrano.
Their stories don’t square.

You can also add pronouns into the phrase to talk about something seeming off ‘to you’ or anyone else.

La sua storia ti torna?
Does his story add up to you?

C’è qualcosa in tutto questo che non mi torna.
There’s something about all this that doesn’t seem right to me.

alfonso qualcosa non mi torna GIF by Isola dei Famosi

The next time something strange is afoot, you’ll know just how to talk about it in Italian. Montalbano, move aside…

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.