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Itanglese Code and Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day marks the rebirth of Italian, traditionally regarded as the international language of love. No more will we Italians employ Anglicisms to whisper “I love you”, there will be no more “kisses”, or romantic “cheek to cheek” dinners in extremely “fashion(sic.) lounge food restaurants”. This year let’s fall back in love with Italian and limit the growing influence of ‘Itanglese’ with the ‘Itanglese Code’ – a series of rules for stemming the tidal wave of English terms and sayings that has entered our language.

The highly-respected Hoepli dictionary defines “Itanglese” as “the Italian language used in certain contexts and settings, characterised by the frequent and arbitrary use of English terms and expressions”.


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The exponential rise in the use of English words in the Italian language (both oral and written) is undeniable, yet until now nobody has attempted to define a set of simple criteria to help us understand when the borrowing of such terms is appropriate and justified. As such, Agostini Associati, an Italian translation agency that ‘manages’ millions of words a year, has decided to give back the Italian language some of its lustre with the “Itanglese Code”, a short guide with a specially produced logo, that aims to encourage Italian communicators (particularly those that speak to a large audience or work as educators) to be a little more sparing in their use of Anglicisms.
The use of an English term or expression in an Italian context (written or spoken) is ACCEPTABLE when:


  1. The English term is found in the Hoepli and/or Zanichelli Italian dictionary.
  2. There is no viable translation and the concept cannot be rendered with one or more synonyms.
  3. The term or expression is also a registered trademark or proper name in English.
  4. The term or expression is the primary advertising slogan of an international product/service, and is maintained in English in all countries in which the product/service is present.
  5. The term has an ambiguous meaning in Italian and is contained in a message in the Italian language that is aimed at non-Italians (e.g. a company letter in Italian for non-Italian colleagues in overseas offices).
In all other cases, the use of an English term or expression in an Italian context (written or spoken) is  NOT ACCEPTABLE, particularly when:
  1. English terms are used in order to appear more modern and technologically advanced (e.g. in advertising campaigns on TV, radio and other communications media).
  2. The communicator uses English terms to be/seem "more technically prepared" (e.g. lessons and print outs on economic/financial issues).
  3. English terms or expressions are used out of laziness and a reluctance to translate them from the original.
  4. The addition of English words has the ultimate aim of “confusing the interlocutor” (e.g. leaving English terms, which could be translated into Italian, in texts relating to a financial investment in order to confuse the client).
  5. The use of the English term upsets the grammatical and syntactical balance of the rest of the Italian phrase.
  6. The quantity of English terms or expressions used in an Italian language text or context is superior to 5% of the total.
  7. The original meaning of the English term or expression is altered when used in Italian.
  8. The origin of the English term or expression is Latin (N.B. many English have a Latin etymology).

For Valentine’s Day 2010 let’s not waste our time seeking out romantic expressions in English: let’s fall back in love with Italian, the most romantic language in the world! Even mother tongue English speakers will admit that Italian is the romance language par excellence!

Agostini Associati would like to thank Hon. Paola Frassinetti, Vice Chair of the Education and Culture Commission of the Chamber of Deputies and proponent of a law to defend the Italian language, for lending her support to the "ITALIAN, SOMEONE STILL LOVES YOU!" initiative. 
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