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Italian is a beautiful old world language, the closest living relative to Latin, and the third most spoken language in the European Union with 65 million native speakers. However, the many regional dialects of the language can make learning Italian quite difficult, as not many people in Italy actually speak ‘Italian.” There is quite a bit of difference between the language you hear on the streets of Milan, and the countryside of Sicily. Even many Italians have a hard time understanding each other’s dialects. That’s why the best way to become fluent in Italian, is to practice speaking with native speakers from all over the country.
What we think of as Italian is actually the dialect which originates in the region of Tuscany around Florence. This is the standardized language which is taught in textbooks, and spoken on the news. All Italians can understand and speak standardized Italian, however, when among friends or family, most will speak their own regional dialect. Sometimes these dialects are so different from one another that even other Italians cannot understand each other, and have to revert to speaking standardized Italian as a form of lingua franca.
If you want to speak Italian like a native, it’s best to practice with native speakers. That way you can flavor your language with some local spice, and don’t sound like you’re reading from a book. A trip through Italy will introduce you to all the different dialects the country has to offer, but if you don’t have the time or the resources for a long journey, there are plenty of ways you can find conversation partners online.