let me start with a matter of fact: Italian is one of the most loved and studied languages in the world. In our internal debate, which is mainly focused on the risk of the progressive grammatical and linguistic degradation, we often overlook the appeal that our language has abroad, with more than two million foreigners starting to study Italian every year.
Aware of this interest but also of the need to nurture and enhance it, in 2001 the Foreign Ministry, in conjunction with the Accademia della Crusca, the Dante Alighieri Society, and with the support of the Swiss Federal Authorities, launched the Week of Italian Language in the World, that we now celebrate every year in October. Over time, this initiative has become the event of reference for a vast programme of cultural activities, exhibitions, conferences, concerts and meetings that, thanks to the work performed by the diplomatic and consular network and the Italian Cultural Institutes, are offered to hundreds of thousands of spectators around the world. Every year a different theme becomes the leitmotif for more than one thousand events that span across all forms of art, in accordance with the theme chosen for that year. The theme chosen for this year’s edition is the relationship between the Italian language and the cinema, following the attention previously given to the relationship between the Italian language and creative industries. Indeed, it is undoubted that the Italian cinema has an international appeal and is capable of representing the Italian lifestyle worldwide.
Within the context of an excellent film, the Italian language transmits abroad the images and values of beauty and quality that make up the foundation of a lifestyle appreciated throughout the world. There is a community of almost 300 million people around the world that look on our Country with interest and admiration, making it – and I will never tire repeating this – the world superpower of beauty. Some forms of art (for example, the opera) are almost entirely identified with the Italian language.
But the art, culture and the fascination that we exert abroad, is not only food for the soul but also a tangible wealth, a heritage of inestimable value that we are learning to use ever better. If, in Italy, we are worried over the tendency to make an excessive use of English terms (precisely Il Corriere, a few weeks ago, published “linguistic first-aid” kits against the dissemination of Anglicisms), abroad it’s quite the opposite, with Italian words entering the global common language thanks to the evocative force of “Brand Italy”. We become aware of this when we travel and it is also proven by surveys that indicate that Italian is the second most-used language in the world in commercial posters and trademarks, immediately after English. A growing number of companies use Italian in identifying their products in international communication campaigns, thanks to the beauty that Italy evokes at every latitude.
Promoting our language means promoting ourselves and the dissemination of Italian is therefore one of the top priorities of our foreign policy actions. President Mattarella recalled this in his closing remarks at the Joint Action of the Italian Language 2016, inviting us to promote the Italian language abroad through “the humanism that derives from our culture, from our way of living and working”.
Alongside the successes achieved, many challenges remain to be met, especially if we consider our culture’s enormous potential. There are more spaces that we can conquer and we are working to do this through a network of dedicated professionals around the world and with the daily work of our offices abroad, to which I would like to address public thanks.