Do they speak English there?
This has got to be one of the top 10, if not the top 5 questions tourists ask when they’re getting ready to come to Italy.
It makes sense, you’re excited about visiting the country and you want to make sure you’ll be able to communicate. Its no joke trying to ask for the bathroom when you have no clue what words to say and the gestures you’ll need to make could scar you and everyone else who’s watching for life.
However, if you want to have the best possible time in Italy and I’m sure you do, you’d be doing yourself a HUGE favor by learning at least some words (I’m speaking only to passersby right now) in Italian.
Depending on which city your visiting and if you’re staying in particularly touristy locations, people will speak to you in English but guaranteed the second you venture further out the less English you will encounter.
So for my beginners, here are the first 5 phrases you need in your Italian arsenal.
Dove il bagno? - Where is the bathroom?
Buongiorno, possiamo avere un tavolo per…? Morning, can we have a table for…?
Scusi, dove e…? Excuse me, where is…?
Quanto costa? How much does it cost?
Come ti chiami? What is your name?
For those of you who want to stay in Italy on a long-term basis DO NOT fall into the trap of “it’s ok, they all speak English” because no they really don’t.
I’m going to be blunt here and say that Italians do not speak english beyond pleasantries and asking for your food order and the Italians who have really mastered English are an exception NOT the rule. Besides, do you really want to limit yourself to only making friends with people who speak English when there are thousands of other people who have the potential to become amazing new friends but you’re letting a language barrier get in your way?
Not to mention, if you avoid learning Italian you’ll be missing out on just how warm Italians can be to foreigners who actually try to speak to them in their language. Trust me. I’ve noticed the difference in how I’ve been treated when I spoke zero Italian and when I finally could have some conversation. I’m talking free gelato friends, FREE GELATO!
On a practical note, Italy has a ton of bureaucracy. Getting things done here is not always an easy task so when you need to call a plumber, go to the doctor, ask for help when the ticket machine isn’t working, or understand all the service options listed in the post office you’ll wish you spoke Italian. After a time, it’s no longer cute to hide behind your boyfriend or friends who speak the language or to flounder around in a cafe because you can’t pronounce ‘una torta’ correctly.
But back to friendship because this is the most important thing here. If you’re Italian friend who speaks english, takes you out to meet their friends, guess what they’ll all be speaking? Ding ding ding! Italian. So when everyone is having a great time, drinking, laughing and swiping stories, you’ll want to be able to join the fun!
So here are some phrases you’ll need to start up some conversations in Italian. Cause duh, conversation is the key to friendship!
Di dove sei? Where are you from?
Hai fratelli o sorelle? Do you have any brothers and sisters?
Qual é il tuo preferito…? What is your favorite?
Quanti anni hai? How old are you?
Ciao, sei carino/a! Hey, you’re cute! (Not a conversations starter but it’ll help if you want to start flirting a bit)