The Italian language is beautiful to listen to even if you have no idea what is being said. The intonations, the rising and falling lilt of the conversation and the rhythmic flow is music to your ears. Add to this the many gesticulations and facial expressions of the speaker and you can begin to believe that you really do understand the dialogue going on around you.
Over 85 million people worldwide speak Italian, 59 million of whom live in the European Union. The melodic quality of Italian is mainly due to the fact that most words end in a vowel giving wonderful words like italiano (Italian), arrivderdeci (goodbye), si (yes), and mi scusi (excuse me).
Italian is descended from Latin so anyone who had classical schooling with Latin or already knows a smattering of Spanish or Portuguese will better understand Italian. But if you don’t have a clue, just imagine how wonderful it would be if you could speak a few Italian words or phrases when visiting Italy.
Below is a list of some great but simple phrases to try out on the locals when you are in Italy. Practice them a few times and if you want to boost your confidence, check out an Italian language website where you can hear a native Italian pronounce each phrase, so you can see if you are getting it right. And then practice some more. Try really hard to pronounce each word or phrase with the right emphasis and with a self-assured flourish.
Basic Italian Words and Phrases
The Italian word is in bold, and the phonetic spelling to the right. The capital letters depict where the main emphasis should be placed.
- Good morning: buon giorno (bwohn-JOR-noh)
- Good evening: buona sera (BWOH-nah-SAY-ra)
- Goodbye: arrivederci (ah-ree-vay-DEHR-chee)
- Bye: ciao (chow)
- Please: per favore (pehr fah-VOH-ray)
- Thank-you: grazie (GRAHT-zee-ay)
- You’re welcome: prego (PRAY-goh)
- Welcome: benvenuto (ben-ve -NOO- toh)
- Excuse me: mi scusi! (me skoozee)
- Can you help me? mi può aiutare? (me-poo-OH ah-yoo-TAH-ray)
- I don’t speak Italian: non parlo italiano (nohn PAR-loh ee-tah-leeAH-non)
- I don’t understand: non capisco (nohn kah-PEES-koh)
- Do you speak English? parla inglese? (PAR-lah een-GLAY-zay)?
- Yes: si (see)
- No: no (noh)
- Enjoy your meal: buon appetito (bwohn ap-e-TEET-o)
- Is everything ok? va bene (VAH BAY-ne)
- Yes, everything’s fine: si, bene (see BEHN-nay)
- What’s your name? come si chiama? (KOH-may see kee-AH-ma)
Remember that although most Italians speak English they will appreciate your efforts in trying to speak at least a few words of their beautiful language when you are in their homeland. And if you manage to sound like a native, the only problem you will encounter is that the listener will be so enthusiastic that they will respond with a torrent of Italian that may leave you completely lost!
If that should happen to you, then all you need to remember to say, politely and with a big smile, is: scusa – non capisco (I’m sorry I don’t understand). And they will love you even more!