Italian language in Slovenia
The Italian language is an officially recognized minority language in Slovenia, along with Hungarian. Around 3,700 Slovenian citizens speak Italian as their mother tongue. Italian has a strong presence in Slovenia, both historical and current. An estimated 15% of Slovenians speak Italian as a second language, which is one of the highest percentages in the European Union.
Geographic Distribution and Population
Italian is co-official with Slovene in three municipalities in the Slovenian portion of Istria: Piran (Italian: Pirano), Koper (Italian: Capodistria) and Izola (Italian: Isola d'Istria). The official census, carried out in 2002, reported 2,258 ethnic Italians in the country (0.11% of the total population). However, 3,762 people (0.2% of the total population and a slight dip from the number in the 1991 census) reported themselves to be mother tongue speakers of the language, of whom 1,832 declared themselves as being ethnic Italian, 1,195 as ethnic Slovenes, 34 as Croats, and 37 belonged to an ethnicity that was not listed.
Of the total 3,762 Italian native speakers in Slovenia, 2,853 live in one of the three municipalities where it is co-official: 1,174 in Piran, 1,059 in Koper, and 620 in Izola. Around 15% of all Slovenians speak Italian as a second language, which is the highest percentage in the European Union after Malta. An estimated 5% of Slovenians use Italian in their daily life, which is the highest percentage in the European Union outside Italy. The vast majority of those live in the Slovenian Littoral, where daily economic and personal contacts with neighboring Italy are common.
Usage of Italian
According to the Slovenian constitution, the Italian language is co-official in the areas of Slovenian Istria where the Italian people have been traditionally present as an autochthonous population. According to law, all official signs are to be written in both languages, as should all public notifications. Italian is to be used in all public offices in the bilingual area. Beside Slovene language schools, there are also elementary, high and grammar schools with Italian as the language of instruction. At the state-owned University of Primorska, however, which is also established in the bilingual area, Slovene is the only language of instruction (although the official name of the university includes the Italian version, too).
Italian can be used in the municipal assemblies of Koper, Izola and Piran, although in practice almost all discussions are carried out in Slovene.
- Population by ethnic affiliation, Slovenia, Census 1953, 1961, 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2002
- Population by mother tongue, Slovenia, Census 1991 and 2002
- Population by mother tongue, municipalities, Slovenia, Census 2002