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Itanglese 2009
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773% increase in the use of English terms in Italian written texts

According to a survey on a sample of 58 million words produced by Italian companies, between 2000 and 2008 there was a 773% increase in the use of English terms in Italian written texts. This survey was carried out by Agostini Associati, an Italian translation agency that has produced the ‘Itanglese Code’ to restore Italian to its former glory.

Throughout the long history of language it is common  for  languages to influence one  another.  At the beginning of the 19th century, when Napoleon Bonaparte watched over France,  some French words emerged in the use of other languages.  For example, in some countries such as Russia, before the Franco-Russian War of 1812, the nobles admired the French language so much that they chose it as their first language for conversation.In fact Russian nobles believed that the elite should speak French in accordance to how rich and fashionable they were, while the lower classes  were not permitted to learn nor appreciate the language, and only spoke Russian.


This fad in Russia lasted for several years; however,  at the beginning of the 20th century Lenin and Bolsceviti carried out the October Revolution and in the name of the population started to reaffirm in a strong manner the dominance of the Russian language versus other foreign languages.  As a result many noble Russians returned to speaking their native language.
The beginning of the 21st century was certainly marked by the growth of the English language: English is the most studied language, the most widely used in business (even when the parties are not English mother tongue) and probably the language that exports the greatest number of words to other markets (sorry, languages!). Aside from the reasons and the consequences of this growing phenomenon, Italian seems to be one of the biggest “direct importers” of English terms and acronyms. According to a recent survey by translation company Agostini Associati, which every year translates millions of words from Italian into over 60 languages, the number of English terms employed in mainstream Italian has grown by 773% in 8 years! This research was carried out by comparing a series of documents translated in 2000 (from Italian into other languages, for a total of 53 million words). In all cases, the documents studied were corporate or institutional in terms of content (Agostini translates for 70% of firms registered with the FTSE MIB of the Italian Stock Exchange, and provides translations for many Italian companies that export overseas). Analysis of the data revealed that the weight of “imported English” terms on the total can vary greatly depending on who produces the content: “When we translate marketing documents and translations from Italian, sometimes the percentage of English terms in an Italian text can be as high as 35% of the total” explains Alessandro Agostini, partner and marketing manager of Agostiniassociati.it. “It is interesting to note how often we change or modify the original meaning of some of the English terms we ‘import’ into Italian; in effect, these words undergo a kind of ‘Italianisation’, a fact that can often cause confusion among mother tongue English translators”.

In short, English is quickly colonising the Italian language, aided and abetted by Italians themselves.

The 10 most common English terms in the 2008 sample were: Look, Business, Fashion, Performance, Competitor, Annual Report, Mission, Buyer, Brand, Switch.

Agostini Associati has also integrated this study with an online survey on the Itanglese phenomenon, commissioned to GMI - Global Market Insight, and targeted at users of translation services, which confirms the increasing use of Itanglese in Italian companies.

31% of interviewees noted a huge increase in the use of English terms in spoken and written Italian, and a considerable 53% perceived the phenomenon of ‘Anglicisation’ in their company.

53% of interviewees confirmed that the companies where they work use English terms on a daily basis, and almost 30% consider this to be completely normal, if anything a sign of just how ‘modern’ one’s company is.

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