The Italian language is the most direct descendent of Latin among all the Romance languages. It evolved from vernacular Latin beginning in the 10th century A.D. It became formalized in the 14th century through the works of Dante Alighieri, who mixed southern Italian languages with his native Tuscan in his Divine Comedy. Although the city-states of contemporary Italy continued – and continue – to have distinct dialects, by the mid-19th century, around the time of the unification of Italy, a common language was standardized throughout the country.
Today, Italian language education in the United States focuses on written and spoken Italian through textbooks and, increasingly, an inter-disciplinary approach that touches on art, opera, theater, literature and current events around the world. The studies broaden students’ understanding of the world, its history, and its culture, and they give depth to the high school experience of all students fortunate enough to take the program.
At one high school that offers Italian language education, students present a staged production of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s great tragic opera Pagliacci. At another, they attend an all-day cooking seminar, conducted exclusively in Italian. At yet another, the students go online to research current events on Italian newspaper sites and Italian radio. There is no lack of interest in Italian. Consider the following studies: