How is the Italian language in Sicily?
From time to time, we are asked the following question: “Will people be speaking in Italian or will they be speaking in Sicilian?” or “What will be the language spoken?”
It is essential to realize that every region (almost every town) has its own different “local language” in Italy. For linguists, there are no linguistic differences between language and dialect, but a language is recognized by all speakers in a given country and has an official character, which is denied to dialect, which is restricted to a specific geographical area.
Therefore there is a “local language” in the Veneto region, and another in the Lombard region, and another in the Liguria region, or in Sardinia, or in Apulia, or in Campania, in Calabria and even in Tuscany, worldwide known as the cradle of the Italian language. And there is one in Sicily too. Each “local language” (dialect) is almost completely not understandable by people living in other Italian regions.
Standard Italian is somehow a “young language” if you consider the number of people who have grown with it as their native language. The birth of standard Italian as a commonly broad spoken language throughout all of Italy can be dated after the I world war and particularly after the spread of media such as the radio and TV.
Standard Italian was already being taught and learned in our national education system, in our elementary schools, since Italy’s unification in 1861, but unfortunately, only a tiny minority of kids could attend the schools: the sons of the aristocracy. All the others continued to grow in poverty and… in dialects.
And this is another important question to have to be taken into consideration: the use of the dialects very much depends on the social conditions and the social environment, whether we consider cities or rural areas, and it also depends (nowadays) on the age of the speakers. All these factors influence the use of the dialect.
Therefore the truth is another: in Italy, we all are born, grow and live in a sort of bilingualism. On one side, we all study and commonly use standard Italian. On the other, we learn our different dialects “on the road” while living.
And here is a second absolute truth: local languages (dialects) are spoken only among the same local people! No one would address someone from another Italian region or a foreigner in the local language!
So do not be afraid when you choose an Italian language school in Italy! In all schools, you will be taught in a very good standard Italian and everywhere Italian people will address you in a very good standard Italian. It may just happen that, living on the road, you may pick up some Sicilian words in Sicily, some Venetian words in Veneto, some Roman words in Rome. Dialects express the local culture at its best and are mostly used to make jokes nowadays. Have fun then!