Arts and Culture / Talking Italy
Arts and Culture / Talking Italy
The editorial team at i-Italy gathered statements from prominent figures in the Italian American community about the importance of the Italian language.
Comments from A. Kenneth Ciongoli, Dominic Massaro, Luois Tallarini, Aileen Riotto Sirey, Maria Bartiromo, Riccardo Strano, Anielllo Musella, Daniel Nigro
“About 20 years ago, I investigated when it was Italians stopped speaking Latin and began speaking Italian. I found a published graph which showed 2 parallel curves, one for Latin and the other for the Latin Vulgare, the local Latin. This became Italian. When Dante wrote in his local dialect, he gave Italian the necessary prestige to become the lingua franca of the Italian peninsula. As I stared at this graph, it occurred to me that I was the first generation of my family, after 3 millennia, who did not speak local Italian. As a scientist it also occurred to me that my brain, the shape of my mouth and throat, my vocal cords, all were adapted for the Italian language. I am thoroughly American and the acquisition of the language of my ancestors can only improve an understanding of my ancestral culture and of myself. A powerful argument for the utility of every American to learn Italian can easily be made. Italian is the modern language of art and music as well as science. The Italian language is the West’s connection with the distinction of its history. There is no other language which more directly connects with humankind’s 3000 year history of excellence.”
A. Kenneth Ciongoli, Chairman of the National Italian American Fountation
"Language is at the very heart of culture. It is, at once, a means of cultural expression and preservation, a guide to cultural values. Unfortunately, I could not study Italian, having been raised in a period of time following the war when the study of the language of "enemy" belligerents was discouraged. It was not until passage of the Civil Rights Acts of '64 that the opportunity to learn Italian came into vogue, and the statistics bear witness to a huge increase of interest in the language. We must not allow it to wane. Integral is maintenance of the AP program."
Dominc Massaro, Justice of the Supreme Court of New York, President of the American Society of the Italian Legions of Merit
“In order to preserve our cultural being, not only for us but for our children as well, we must know and promote the language, culture, traditions and art of our ancestors. Unfortunately Italians in America, and elsewhere in the world, have done a poor job in preserving, teaching and promoting the Italian language, culture, traditions and the knowledge and history of Italian art history. This is exactly why we work so hard at the Columbus Citizens Foundation to promote the Columbus Day Parade and Columbus Celebration in New York.”
Luois Tallarini, President of the Columbus Citizen Foundation
“I've felt handicapped my whole life, not speaking Italian. It would make me happier to speak Italian, especially when I travel to Italy. When I go there I'd like to be recognized as an Italian.
The language connects you in a stronger way to the culture. It would really be advantageous for Italian Americans in particular to learn Italian.”
Aileen Riotto Sirey, Co-founder and Chairwoman of the National Organization
of Italian American Women (NOIAW)
“Learning Italian is important because first of all, it is my heritage. Knowing the Italian language is an integral aspect of understanding our culture and values. Additionally, Italy plays a vital role in the global economy and communication can be facilitated when language is not a barrier.”
Maria Bartiromo, business news anchor for CNBC, and managing editor of "Wall Street Journal Report with Maria Bartiromo”
A few words on how tourism and the study of a language go hand in hand to create a singularly stimulating vacation...
"Student and youth travel is the fastest growing major market in the travel industry. It represents over 20 percent of the total North American travel market.
Youths and adults who travel to Italy want to be able to communicate; they see how European travelers speak more than one language and are stimulated to learn. Traveling means enrichment, experience. In Italy there are several schools for foreign students, it is an opportunity to speak, read and write Italian in a fun way.
Attending classes during the day and interacting with locals the rest of the time means not only learning the language but also experiencing the culture and participating in every day life."
Riccardo Strano, Director for the U.S. and Canada, ENIT ( Italian Government Tourist Board)
'The Italian language is clearly a tool for contact and communication with Italy. In ICE's case, this means contact with businesses in Italy. Last year ICE actually offered a special program, that included the Italian language, to young, talented Americans who were given opportunities in the Italian fashion world. These were FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) and RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) students who in their last year of school, were flown to Italy where they created runway clothes as their sort of final thesis. They studied Italian, although some knowledge of the Italian language was a pre-requisite, and Italian culture.'
Aniello Musella, Director of the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) in New York.
'I have some personal experience in my inability to learn Italian, especially at my advanced age! The Italian language is really related to the culture. Italian families have been here a long time but their knowledge of language and culture is diminishing. The language brings a connection to that heritage we're so proud of, but sometimes don't fully understand. I'm trying to make my granddaughter learn while she still can. On my end, I'm learning with Rosetta Stone [a language learning software]. It helps you learn a lot of vocabulary, but isn't necessarily good at teaching you how to use it.
I am also involved in promoting the Italian language in a larger sense. I'm on the board of the ILICA (Italian Language Inter-Cultural Alliance), and we've been making efforts to help save the Italian AP Program.'
Daniel Nigro, FDNY Chief of Operations on 9/11