A variety of motives lead people to choose to study Italian language and culture.
As a language that derived from Latin, Italian gives students in medical/scientific and legal fields valuable insight into the root words and meanings of common terms in their respective disciplines; most anatomical/scientific and legal terms have close relatives in Italian, such as, arteria, vertebra , stomaco, intestino, ibrido, mercurio, tribunale, ipotesi, legale, giudiziario…
Artistic fields have drawn much from Italian culture, so the areas of music, visual arts, poetry, culinary studies, all have been beneficiaries; that gives currency to words like allegro, crescendo, orchestra, basilica, terra cotta, cupola, stanza, ottava, terzina, spaghetti, tortellini, cannoli…,
Modern Italy was one of the founding nations of the European Union and is a member of the G20, the group of some of the most industrialized nations in the world; thus, Italian is an important language of commerce in fields such as Formula 1 car racing (e.g., Ferrari), fashion and design (e.g., Armani, Gucci, Damiani, Natuzzi,), and the food industry (Barilla, Bertolli).
Italy is a popular destination because of its immense variety—rocky, sandy, and cliffside beaches, rolling hillsides, the Alps and Apennines, fertile plains, cities steeped in architectural and artistic history, and a culinary inheritance as regional and wide-ranging as the people who inhabit the Italian peninsula; further, it has been estimated that 40% of the cultural riches of the world reside in Italy.
Many people study Italian because of its melodic, musical sound; because it is a phonetic language, Italian pronunciation is relatively easy.
In some ways, as Chaucer is to English, Dante is to Italian: both writers gave these once marginalized, “vulgar” languages a place of honor within their literary canons and vaulted them into positions of respected status. For Italian, that status was further cemented by literary masterpieces by Petrarch, Boccaccio and others.
Unlike Latin, Italian is a living language with antique and modern traces, spoken today by almost 200,000 people as a first or second language; as such, it is a language of interest to travelers who desire to be more than tourists.
Italian is the fourth most studied foreign language in the world.
Italian is a language and culture studied for many reasons, including discovering more about one’s heritage. After thorough study, students can also decide to work or study in Italy, teach Italian, become tourist guides, interpreters, or translators.
Students in the Italian Studies Minor enhance their understanding of Italian language and culture through multiple venues: in class, via the Club Italiano, conversation groups, Film Nights (2-3 films each semester), and via study abroad programs. The learning of Italian language and culture is intertwined, with explicit cultural references to food, music, art, science, and more embedded into courses.