Italian, often considered one of the most beautiful languages in the world, is a Romance language still spoken in the same region where Latin first spread. The new language emerged only centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire; the standard form spoken today comes from the Tuscan dialect of the city of Florence. The great Italian poets Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio all wrote in Tuscan, which contributed to the rise of the language.
Today, Italian is used mainly in Europe: it’s an official language of Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, and Vatican City and is also spoken by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia. There are about 65 million native speakers of Italian and another 20 million speak Italian as a second language.
Italian is widely taught in many schools around the world, but rarely as the first foreign language; in fact, Italian is considered the fourth- or fifth-most frequently taught foreign language in the world.
According to the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, every year there are more than 200,000 foreign students that are learning the Italian language; they are distributed in the 90 Institutes of Italian Culture around the world, in the 179 Italian schools abroad, and in the 111 Italian sections belonging to foreign schools.
In the United States, Italian is the fourth most taught foreign language after Spanish, French and German, in that order (or the fifth if American Sign Language is considered).[ In central-east Europe Italian is first in Albania and Montenegro, second in Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, and Ukraine after English, and third in Hungary, Romania and Russia after English and German. But throughout the world, Italian is the fifth most taught foreign language, after English, French, German, and Spanish.
In the European Union statistics, Italian is spoken as a native language by 13% of the EU population, or 65 million people, mainly in Italy. In the EU, it is spoken as a second language by 3% of the EU population, or 14 million people. In addition, among EU states, the Italian language is most likely to be learned as a second language in Malta by 61% of the population, as well as in Slovenia by 15% of the population, in Croatia by 14% of the population, Austria by 11% of the population, Romania by 8% of the population, and in France and Greece by 6% of the population. Italian is also one of the national languages of Switzerland, which is not a part of the European Union. The Italian language is well-known and studied in Albania, another non-EU member, due to its historical ties and geographical proximity to Italy.