WHERE IS THE BEST ITALIAN SPOKEN?
People studying English may be told the “best” English is spoken in Oxford. It’s a pretty meaningless statement. You may be told the best Italian is spoken in Tuscany (because Dante, the national poet, was born here). In fact the Tuscans have quite an odd accent and pronounce the initial c in words as an aspirated “h” (Italians make fun of the Tuscans by saying: “una hoha-hola hon la hanuccia” – una coca-cola con la cannucia – A Coke with a straw).
The reality is that if you learn Italian from educated people anywhere in Italy, your Italian will be quite acceptable. However, see the note re dialects below.
WHAT IS THE BEST ACCENT TO ADOPT?
Accents in Italy vary greatly, partly due to the influnce of dialect (see below). Most learners tend to prefer to use northern/central accents as their model (for example the Milanese or Bolognese accent). A strong northern (for example Veneto) or southern (for example Calabrese) accent is not ideal, but not a big problem.
I’VE HEARD ABOUT DIFFERENT DIALECTS – CAN YOU EXPLAIN?
As a country of “city states” which was united only relatively recently, Italy still has an abundance of dialects. A dialect is different from an accent, in that it contains different forms/structures and vocabulary. Just to give one example, in Veneto (Veneto is the dialect spoken in the region of which Venice is the capital) the word for “fork” is “piron” – quite different from the standard Italian “forchetta”! As a general rule, you should not learn a dialect, but Standard Italian. In a very limited number of cases – eg people trying to integrate totally into a particular region where the dialect is widely spoken – learning the dialect could be appropriate.
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