London is arguably one of the most multicultural cities in the world. While many people aim to learn English in London, few actually take advantage of the opportunities available to learn or to teach many other languages there.
In 2017 a study highlighted in The Telegraph estimated that over 1.7 million Londoners were from a foreign country, with the top 5 most common foreign passports (and therefore the top 5 easiest languages to find in London) being Polish, Irish, Indian (Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi native speakers...), French and Italian.
Of all the languages present in London, the most common language after English in London is Italian. Walk into any cafe, bar or high end restaurant and the staff will probably be Italian. Spend a little time listening and if there are any other Italians around they will revert back to their native language. Most of them speak fluent English, but just as they will always prefer Italian cuisine above anything else, they also tend to prefer to stick to their own language!
TUTOROO's vision is to onboard some if these native Italian speakers onto our platform in order to introduce them to locals who need their services to be able to learn Italian in London. TUTOROO helps Londoners find native Italian speakers in their city so they can speak and practice Italian together.
Practising any new language can be challenging, and it’s important to overcome the fear and practice speaking as quickly as possible, as this will boost confidence and set the foundation for you to communicate in your chosen language early on.
Here are 5 useful phrases for you to use in London or anywhere else actually:
Everyone knows this simple greeting, but it is one of the most used words by Italians. It means hello or hi, and can be used any time of day. Ciao can also be used to say goodbye, and the meaning between hi and bye is to be taken in context (i.e. did you just meet this person, or are they about to walk away from you). While ciao is informal and mostly used by friends, it’s acceptable for a foreigner learning Italian to use as a greeting instead of buon giorno, buon pomeriggio or buona sera to avoid cultural timings and keep the language simple to start.
If you say ciao to any Italian, they will instantaneously reply repeating the word, and you can then move on by saying “come sta?” or “come va?” and let the Italian conversation begin.
Sto imparando l'italiano
“Sto imparando l'italiano” means “I am learning Italian”. Use this phrase with any Italian and while you might not understand their answer, their reaction will be positive. Compared to other languages, not many people learn Italian in London. Italians are always happy when someone is trying to learn Italian and are eager to help out by practising speaking Italian with them, so “sto imparando l’italiano” is your secret weapon of a phrase.
To follow on from “sto imparando l’italiano” you may need to ask the other person to slow down (“parli lentamente, per favore”) or to repeat themselves (“ripeta, per favore”). Italians tend to speak quickly and forget that you may not be able to understand them, so if you’ve used the above two phrases, then be blunt with them and say “non capisco” (“I don’t understand”). They mean well but when excited they may forget you are still learning.
Di dove sei?
The most obvious answer to this question is Italy, or Italia, and so while hopefully they will answer “where are you from?” with the name of a city, sometimes they will need a prompt. So, if you ask “di dove sei?” and they respond “Italia”, then ask the follow up of “quale città?” (“which city?”). Another way of asking is "Di che città?" to get a “di…….” response, but both will produce the name of an Italian city.
When they respond and ask you “di dove sei?” you can reply with “di (city name)” e.g. “di Manchester”. If you are from London then you can simply say “qui”.
Dove si mangia bene?”
The stereotype of Italians loving their food is true - they adore good quality food and delicious restaurants, and are always willing to share hidden gems with others. London has an array of incredible restaurants and so if you ask an Italian “dove si mangia bene?” then you might get pointed to the nearest excellent restaurant regardless of cuisine. If you are looking for the best Italian restaurant in town then the question needs to be phrased differently: “dov'è il miglior ristorante italiano?” This question will require some thought, and it might not be close, but you can be sure the food will taste as good as back home in Italy.
Tip: ask “dov'è il miglior ristorante italiano?” to a few different Italians to find out all the best Italian restaurants in London town.
Cosa fai a Londra?
This is a great phrase for intermediate learners of Italian, as the reply can bring new words and concepts to learn. While it hints at work, essentially it translates into “what do you do in London?” and if you ask a barista this question, because his job is so obvious, he might answer with the reason he came to London, or what he does in his free time. If you don’t understand the answer given, then it’s time to practice some of the phrases above, like “parli lentamente, per favore” or “ripeta, per favore”.
Learning any language is about being able to communicate, and so learning and practising with native speakers of Italian is essential to learning and improving your language skills. If you want to learn Italian in London, start by looking for a native speaking tutor with TUTOROO.
In bocca al lupo!