When it comes to learning a language, what they don’t tell you is that it’s more than just learning how to speak the language because you often need to learn how to write the language, too.
That might seem simple, but when you get into it, you realize that writing in a foreign language, particularly Italian, is an art form unto itself.
In a book called Listening Myths by Keith S. Folse, he outlines some of the biggest differences between speaking and writing, which I’ll paraphrase below:
- When speaking
- You tend to use language that’s less clear.
- You use more pronouns.
- You use more “ums, ahs, and hmms”.
- You use more slang.
- You’re able to use your body to convey meaning.
- In general, writing tends to be:
- More formal (even though the way people write on the Internet has helped it become more informal)
- More precise
- More flexible since you can edit yourself
Specifically for Italian, you’ll notice that some words are only used in writing and are very rarely spoken.
For example, esso and essa, which are used words to mean he, she or it, are almost exclusively used in writing and rarely (if ever) in speech.
In a paper on the differences called Le differenze tra lo scritto e il parlato from the University of Nottingham, conjunctions like the ones below are used when writing.
- Giacché – Since
- Malgrado – Despite
In spoken Italian, we might substitute these with:
- Siccome – Since
- Nonostante – Despite, notwithstanding
The author also says that in writing you tend to see more complex grammar like use of indirect discourse and passive and impersonal forms.
When doing this research, I also stumbled on a pretty cool article written by an Italian called Le 10 parole da non usare (quasi) mai quando si scrive/The ten words to use (almost) never when one writes.
This author was giving advice on the words to avoid when writing things that will be printed or used in a more official article.
Here’s a link: Le 10 parole da non usare (quasi) mai quando si scrive
Here are a handful of words that were mentioned:
- Cosa/cose – Thing/things
- Molto – Much
- Io – I
- Abbastanza – Enough
Instead of using this, the author recommends finding more refined synonyms or excluding them entirely.
So should you care about the difference? That’s up to you. If you’re someone who wants to live in Italy or potentially conduct business there, then definitely.
If you just want to be a conversational speaker and have casual, everyday interactions, I wouldn’t worry about it.
However, if you’re inspired to improve your writing in Italian, check out this step-by-step guide from Sam Gendreau over at Lingholic: How to Dramatically Improve Your Writing: A Step-by-Step Guide
Questions? Comments? Let me know!