September 26th is the European Day of Languages celebrating the rich diversity across Europe and promoting learning. And few countries have more dialects to celebrate than Italy where each town and village has its own particular language. So, as the first thing that a new language student usually learns is how to greet someone – to say hi, good morning and good day for example – here’s how to say hello in Italian to get you off to a great start!!
What does Ciao mean?
Probably the best-known Italian word for hello is Ciao (pronounced chow) which, confusingly, also means goodbye! The word came from the Venetian dialect word s‘ciao a shortened form of Sono suo schiavo or I am your slave.
It was originally the equivalent of At your service in English and was used as a reverential, slightly haughty greeting by Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni in his comedies of the 1700s before being introduced into Italian in the 1800s.
Unfortunately, however, although the phrase was originally spoken in formal situations, the word is now used informally between friends, family or with young people and is more like hi than hello. On the positive side ciao can be used at any time of the day and also means goodbye either as a simple ciao or ciao ciao meaning bye-bye.
In formal circumstances, therefore, where you do not know the person you are greeting, when presented to new people or when greeting older people with whom you should use a formal greeting out of respect, you should not use ciao as it is too informal and could cause offence. Or worse, mark you out as an ignorant tourist!
Confused? Don’t worry, it gets easier!!
Buongiorno, saying Good Day
Literally good day, buongiorno (pronounced bwon-jor-noh) is used for formal, polite greetings. It can be used in the morning or afternoon, ie during the day(!), and is a polite way to greet both friends and family and also strangers or new acquaintances. You’re on safe ground with buongiorno unless, of course, you slip up and use it in the evening! Easy eh!
Another couple of ways to say good day are buona giornata (pronounced bwona jornahta) or buon di (pronounced bwon dee) although these are less common.
Note : Buona giornata is also a way of saying good day when, for example, leaving a shop but we’ll get into that another time!
OOOh, and one very last point…..
Italians are a very polite people and always say hello when meeting anyone. This includes when you pass someone in the street (although don’t just greet everyone unless you’re in a small village and trying to make friends otherwise that would be a bit weird!), buying tickets for the train or shopping, for example.
To an Italian, entering a shop is similar to entering a person’s home, something that you’d never do without a greeting. So if you want to make a good impression when travelling in Italy, always make sure to greet the shopkeeper when you enter, even if they’re serving someone, and make sure to say thanks and goodbye as you leave, although I’ll save that lesson for another post!!!
Ciao for now!
European Day of Languages website – http://edl.ecml.at/Home/tabid/1455/language/en-GB/Default.aspx
The European Year of Languages 2001, jointly organised by the Council of Europe and the European Union, was successful in involving millions of people across 45 participating countries. Its activities celebrated linguistic diversity in Europe and promoted language learning.
Following the success of the Year the Council of Europe declared a European Day of Languages to be celebrated on 26th of September each year throughout its 47 member states. The general objectives of the European Day of Languages (EDL) are:
- Alerting the public to the importance of language learning and diversifying the range of languages learnt in order to increase plurilingualism and intercultural understanding;
- Promoting the rich linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe, which must be preserved and fostered;
- Encouraging lifelong language learning in and out of school, whether for study purposes, for professional needs, for purposes of mobility or for pleasure and exchanges.
Information on the EDL sourced from the EDL website.
The post Italian 101 – How to say hello in Italian first appeared on DreamDiscoverItalia.