Why Study Italian?
Over the centuries, Italy has produced some of the most remarkable cultural works in the western canon, from Dante's Divine Comedy to Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, from Machiavelli's Prince to the neorealist films of Vittorio De Sica, and from Castiglione's The Courtier to the post-modernist novels of Italo Calvino. According to UNESCO, over 60% of the world's art treasures are found in Italy, and knowing Italian allows you to appreciate this treasury of human expression.
Historically, too, Italy has been of great importance. The Roman empire had a profound influence on the development of Europe and subsequent Western Civilization. In the Middle Ages cities such as Florence and Venice were among the richest and most powerful of Europe. In addition, Italy was the birthplace of the Renaissance, the culture and values of which provided foundations for much of life in the West over the last five hundred years.
Today Italy is a key ally to the U.S.: it hosts more NATO and U.S. military bases than almost any country. In addition, Italy is one of the world’s leading industrial democracies. It is the ninth largest global market. The USA–Italy bilateral relationship is strong and growing. The two countries cooperate closely on major economic issues. With a large population and high per-capita income, Italy is one of the United States’ most important trade partners. (The Italo-American community, the fifth largest ethnic group in the U.S., has been a driving force for the development of cultural and economic bonds between the two countries.) An estimated 7,500 American companies do business with Italy and more than 1,000 U.S. firms have offices in Italy, including IBM, General Electric, Motorola, and Citibank. Consequently, many employers in the United States are seeking people who speak both Italian and English. Knowing Italian is beneficial in several career fields in which contemporary Italy is a world leader: the culinary arts, interior design, fashion, graphic design, furniture design, machine tool manufacturing, robotics, electromechanical machinery, shipbuilding, space engineering, construction machinery, and transportation equipment.