Geographical distribution of Italian speakers

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This article details the geographical distribution of speakers of the Italian language, regardless of the legislative status within the countries where it is spoken. In addition to the Italian-speaking area in Europe, Italian-speaking minorities are present in many countries.

Statistics[edit]

Summary table[edit]

Country Native speakers (L1) Total speakers (L1+L2)
Absolute % Year Reference Speakers % Year Reference
 Albania 523 0.02% 2011 [1] 799,414 27.8% 2016 [2][note 1][note 2]
 Australia 290,328 1.24% 2016 [3][note 3]
 Austria 10,742 0.13% 2001 [4] 790,249 9.4% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 Argentina 1,359,791 3.48% 2006 [7]
 Belgium 190,816 1.72% 2012 [8][note 4] 580,667 5.24% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 Canada 413,766 1.19% 2016 [9][10] 574,725 1.67% 2016 [10]
 Colombia 122,901 0.30% 2005 [11][note 5]
 Croatia 18,573 0.43% 2011 [12]
 Cyprus 28,961 3.36% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 Finland 2,857 0.05% 2018 [13]
 Estonia 4,319 0.33% 2011 [14]
 France 655,961 1.03% 2007 [15][note 4] 3,237,620 5.11% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 Germany 632,903 0.76% 2010 [16][note 4] 2,536,126 3.16% 2012 [17][18][note 4]
 Greece 375,096 3.38% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 Ireland 14,505 0.31% 2016 [19]
 Italy 57,490,841 96.8% 2012 [8][note 4] 58,213,202 98.01% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 Libya 22,530 0.40% / [20]
 Liechtenstein 570 1.51% 2015 [21]
 Luxembourg 13,896 2.92% 2011 [22] 28,561 6.22% 2011 [23]
 Malta 2,267 0.54% 2012 [8][note 4] 171,576 41.34% 2011 [24][note 5]
 Other EU27 countries (only total speakers) 1,060,589 1.15% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 Monaco 8,172 21.9% 2016 [25]
 New Zealand 8,214 0.22% 2018 [26][note 5]
 Poland 10,295 0.03% 2011 [27] 707,987 1.86% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 Portugal 9,411 0.09% 2012 [8][note 4]
 Romania 2,949 0.02% 2011 [28] 1,493,378 7.44% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 Russia 1,013 0.001% 2010 [29] 83,202 0.06% 2010 [30]
 San Marino 25,000 85.5% 2004 [31]
 Slovenia 5,972 0.31% 2002 [32] 249,408 12.13% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 South Africa 5,768 0.01% 1996 [30]
 Spain 111,919 0.24% 2016 [33][note 4] 1,128,417 2.41% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
  Switzerland 693,813 8.18% 2017 [34][note 5] 1,277,411 15.5% 2014 [35][36]
 Tunisia 32,021 0.3% 2011 [37]
 Uruguay 21,077 1.1% 2019 [38] 178,794 9.6% 2019 [38]
 United Kingdom 102,248 0.16% 2011 [30] 1,335,739 2.1% 2012 [39][40][note 4]
 United States 677,455 0.21% 2016 [41][note 5] 3,820,442 1.21% 2013 [42][note 5]
 Venezuela 600,000 2.58% 2010 [43]
Total (partial) 61,599,306 81,187,113

Native speakers[edit]

Country Absolute % Year Reference
 Albania 523 0.02% 2011 [44]
 Australia 290,328 1.24% 2016 [45][note 6]
 Austria 10,742 0.13% 2001 [46]
 Belgium 190,816 1.72% 2012 [47][note 7]
 Canada 413,766 1.19% 2016 [48][49]
 Colombia 122,901 0.30% 2005 [50][note 8]
 Croatia 18,573 0.43% 2011 [51]
 Finland 2,857 0.05% 2018 [52]
 France 655,961 1.03% 2007 [53][note 7]
 Germany 632,903 0.76% 2010 [54][note 7]
 Ireland 14,505 0.31% 2016 [55]
 Italy 57,490,841 96.8% 2012 [47][note 7]
 Libya 22,530 0.40% / [56]
 Liechtenstein 570 1.51% 2015 [57]
 Luxembourg 13,896 2.92% 2011 [58]
 Malta 2,267 0.54% 2012 [47][note 7]
 Monaco 8,172 21.9% 2016 [59]
 New Zealand 8,214 0.22% 2018 [60][note 8]
 Poland 10,295 0.03% 2011 [61]
 Portugal 9,411 0.09% 2012 [47][note 7]
 Romania 2,949 0.02% 2011 [62]
 Russia 1,013 0.001% 2010 [63]
 San Marino 25,000 85.5% 2004 [64]
 Slovenia 5,972 0.31% 2002 [65]
 South Africa 5,768 0.01% 1996 [66]
 Spain 111,919 0.24% 2016 [67][note 7]
  Switzerland 693,813 8.18% 2017 [68][note 8]
 Tunisia 32,021 0.3% 2011 [69]
 Uruguay 21,077 1.1% 2019 [70]
 United Kingdom 102,248 0.16% 2011 [66]
 United States 677,455 0.21% 2016 [71][note 8]
Total (partial) 61,599,306

Subnational territories[edit]

Territory Country L1 speakers Percentage Year Reference
Catalonia  Spain 201,200 3.2% 2018 [72]
Istria County  Croatia 14,205 6.8% 2011 [73]
Uusimaa  Finland 1,800 0.11% 2018 [74]
South Tyrol  Italy 141,300[note 9] 27.4% 2014 [75]
Piran  Slovenia 1,174 7.0% 2002 [32]
Izola  Slovenia 620 4.3% 2002 [32]
Koper  Slovenia 1,059 2.2% 2002 [32]
Ticino   Switzerland 267,617 88.8% 2016 [76]
England  United Kingdom 92,241 0.17% 2011 [77]

Native and non-native speakers[edit]

Country Speakers % Year Reference
 Albania 799,414 27.8% 2016 [2][note 1][note 2]
 Austria 790,249 9.4% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 Argentina 1,359,791 3.48% 2006 [7]
 Belgium 580,667 5.24% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 Canada 574,725 1.67% 2016 [10]
 Cyprus 28,961 3.36% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 Estonia 4,319 0.33% 2011 [14]
 France 3,237,620 5.11% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 Germany 2,536,126 3.16% 2012 [17][18][note 4]
 Greece 375,096 3.38% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 Italy 58,213,202 98.01% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 Luxembourg 28,561 6.22% 2011 [23]
 Malta 171,576 41.34% 2011 [24][note 5]
 Other EU27 countries 1,060,589 1.15% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 Poland 707,987 1.86% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 Romania 1,493,378 7.44% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 Russia 83,202 0.06% 2010 [30]
 Slovenia 249,408 12.13% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
 Spain 1,128,417 2.41% 2012 [5][6][note 4]
  Switzerland 1,277,411 15.5% 2014 [35][36]
 United Kingdom 1,335,739 2.1% 2012 [39][40][note 4]
 United States 3,820,442 1.21% 2013 [42][note 5]
 Uruguay 178,794 9.6% 2019 [38]
 Venezuela 600,000 2.58% 2010 [43]

Unspecified[edit]

Country Absolute % Source
 Brazil 4,050,000 2.07% [78]
 Argentina 1,500,000 3.7% [79]
 United Kingdom 255,423 0.17% [80][81][better source needed]
 Spain 143,389 0.31% [80][better source needed]
 Venezuela 132,758 0.42% [80][better source needed]
 Uruguay 94,442 2.74% [80][82][better source needed]
 Chile 56,834 0.32% [80][better source needed]
 Netherlands 39,519 0.23% [80][better source needed]
 South Africa 33,716 0.06% [80][better source needed]
 Peru 32,362 0.10% [80][better source needed]
 Austria 27,178 0.31% [80][better source needed][83]
 Mexico 16,200 0.2% [80][better source needed]
 Japan 6,900 0.01% [84]

Europe[edit]

Knowledge of Italian according to EU statistics

Italian is an official language of Italy and San Marino and is spoken fluently by the majority of the countries' populations. Italian is also used in administration and official documents in Vatican City.[85]

Italian is also recognized as an official language in Istria County, Croatia, and Slovenian Istria, where there are significant and historic Italian populations.[86][87][88]

In central-east Europe Italian is first in Montenegro, second in Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, and Ukraine after English, and third in Hungary, Romania and Russia after English and German.[89] But throughout the world, Italian is the fifth most taught foreign language, after English, French, German, and Spanish.[90]

In the European Union statistics, Italian is spoken as a native language by 13% of the EU population, or 65 million people,[91] mainly in Italy. In the EU, it is spoken as a second language by 3% of the EU population, or 14 million people. Among EU states, the percentage of people able to speak Italian well enough to have a conversation is 66% in Malta, 15% in Slovenia, 14% in Croatia, 8% in Austria, 5% in France and Luxembourg, and 4% in the former West Germany, Greece, Cyprus, and Romania.[92]

Albania[edit]

In Albania, it is one of the most spoken languages. This is due to the strong historical ties between Italy and Albania but also the Albanian communities in Italy, and the 19,000 Italians living in Albania.[93] It is reported as high as 70% of the Albanian adult population has some form of knowledge of Italian. Furthermore, the Albanian government has pushed to make Italian a compulsory second language in schools.[94] Today, Italian is the third most spoken language in the country after Albanian and Greek.

The Italian language is well-known and studied in Albania,[95] another non-EU member, due to its historical ties and geographical proximity to Italy and to the diffusion of Italian television in the country.[96]

France and Monaco[edit]

Italian is also spoken by a minority in Monaco and France, especially in the southeastern part of the country.[97][98] It was the official language of Corsica until 1859.[99] Today it is estimated that only 10% of Corsica's population speak the language natively, with 50% having some sort of proficiency in it. Ligurian is recognized as a regional language in the department of the Alpes-Maritimes, furthermore, there is an autochthonous Italian population dating from the Savoyard Kingdom of Sardinia, which controlled the area until the 1860, regardless the more recent Italian immigrants of the twentieth century.[100]

Malta[edit]

Italian is widely spoken in Malta, where nearly two-thirds of the population can speak it fluently.[101] Italian served as Malta's official language until 1934, when it was abolished by the British colonial administration amid strong local opposition.[102]

Sovereign Military Order of Malta[edit]

Italian is used as the official language of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a Roman Catholic chivalric order which, while not a nation per se, is still recognized as a sovereign subject of international law.

Switzerland[edit]

Italian is official, together with French, German and Romansch in Switzerland, with most of the 0.7 million speakers concentrated in the south of the country, in the cantons of Ticino and southern Graubünden (predominately in Italian Grigioni). Italian is the third most spoken language in Switzerland (after German and French), and its use has modestly declined since the 1970s.[103]

Africa[edit]

Due to heavy Italian influence during the Italian colonial period, Italian is still understood by some in former colonies.[104] Outside former colonies, Italian is also understood and spoken in Tunisia and Egypt by a small part of the population.[105]

Eritrea[edit]

In Eritrea, Italian is at times used in commerce and the capital city Asmara still has one Italian-language school. The official language of Eritrea, Tigrinya, has a number of words borrowed from Italian.[106]

Libya[edit]

Although it was the primary language in Libya since colonial rule, Italian greatly declined under the rule of Muammar Gaddafi, who expelled the Italian Libyan population and made Arabic the sole official language of the country.[107] Nevertheless, Italian continues to be used in economic sectors in Libya, and today it is the most spoken second language in the country.

Somalia[edit]

Italian was also introduced to Somalia through colonialism and was the sole official language of administration and education during the colonial period but fell out of use after government, educational and economic infrastructure were destroyed in the Somali Civil War. Italian is still understood by some elderly and other people. The official languages of the Somali Republic are Somali (Maay and Maxaatiri) and Arabic. The working languages during the Transitional Federal Government were Italian and English.[108]

Ethiopia[edit]

Italian is still spoken by few parts of the Ethiopian population (mostly among older generations) despite the brief period under Italian rule when compared with the other colonies, and it is taught in many schools (most notably the Istituto Statale Italiano Omnicomprensivo di Addis Abeba). Also, Ethiopian languages such as Amharic and Tigrinya have some words borrowed from the Italian language.[109][110]

Americas[edit]

Canada[edit]

In Canada, Italian is the second most spoken non-official language when varieties of Chinese are not grouped together, with over 660,000 speakers (or about 2.1% of the population) according to the 2006 Census.[111]

Costa Rica[edit]

In Costa Rica, Central America, Italian is one of the most important immigration community languages, after English. It is spoken in the southern area of the country in cities like San Vito and other communities of Coto Brus, near the south borderline with Panama.[112]

South America[edit]

Percentage of population born in Italy through Venezuela

Italian immigrants to South America have also brought a presence of the language to that continent. In Argentina about 63% of the population has Italian ancestry,[113] and Italian is the second most spoken language[114] after the official language of Spanish, with over 1 million (mainly of the older generation) speaking it at home. Italian has also influenced the dialect of Spanish spoken in Argentina and Uruguay, mostly in phonology, known as Rioplatense Spanish. Its impact can also be seen in the Portuguese prosody of the Brazilian state of São Paulo, which itself has 15 million Italian descendants.[115] Italian bilingual speakers can be found in the Southeast of Brazil as well as in the South. In Venezuela, Italian is the second most spoken language after Spanish, with around 200,000 speakers, same as Colombia.[116] Smaller Italian-speaking minorities on the continent are also found in Paraguay and Ecuador.

Also, variants of regional languages of Italy are used. Examples include the Talian dialect in Brazil, where it is officially a historic patrimony of Rio Grande do Sul; the Chipilo Venetian dialect in Mexico; and Cocoliche and Lunfardo in Argentina, especially in Buenos Aires.

United States[edit]

Distribution of the Italian language in the United States.

Although over 17 million Americans are of Italian descent, only around 709,000 people in the United States spoke Italian at home in 2013.[117] Nevertheless, an Italian language media market does exist in the country.[118] On the other hand, although technology allows for the Italian language to spread globally, there has been a decrease in the number of Italian speakers in the home in the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of those speaking Italian at home in 1980 was 1,614,344. In 1990, those speaking Italian at home in the United States had dropped to 1,308,648. In 2000, the number of speakers decreased to 1,008,370, and finally, in 2010, it had plummeted to 725,223. The percent change from 1980 to 2010 was a negative 55.2.[119]

In the United States, Italian is the fourth most taught foreign language after Spanish, French, and German, in that order (or the fifth if American Sign Language is considered).[120]

Australia[edit]

In Australia, Italian is the second most spoken foreign language after Chinese, with 1.4% of the population speaking it as their home language.[121] The Italo-Australian dialect came into note in the 1970s by Italian linguist Tullio De Mauro.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Percentage refers to people who specify Italian as the 'foreign language known better'.
  2. ^ a b Based on a 2016 population of 2,875,592 (Albanian Institute of Statistics)
  3. ^ The reported population size was obtained by projecting the responded percentage to the total population, since the source either included the part of the population who didn't answer or didn't take into account some parts of the population, for example children.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah Population data by Eurostat, using the source year. "The number of persons having their usual residence in a country on 1 January of the respective year". ec.europa.eu. Retrieved 2018-11-08.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h The reported population size was obtained by projecting the respondent percentage to the total population, since the source either included the part of the population who didn't answer or didn't take into account some parts of the population, for example children.
  6. ^ The reported population size was obtained by projecting the responded percentage to the total population, since the source either included the part of the population who didn't answer or didn't take into account some parts of the population, for example children.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Population data by Eurostat, using the source year. "The number of persons having their usual residence in a country on 1 January of the respective year". ec.europa.eu. Retrieved 2018-11-08.
  8. ^ a b c d The reported population size was obtained by projecting the respondent percentage to the total population, since the source either included the part of the population who didn't answer or didn't take into account some parts of the population, for example children.
  9. ^ Based on a 2014 population of 515,714 (Statistiche demografiche ISTAT Archived 2014-10-30 at the Wayback Machine)

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