Italian vs French for Business: Which One Should You Learn Next?

Being the language geeks that we are, there’s no more joyous dilemma for us than having to decide what language to study next. But when you’re a busy professional who sees language learning as a way of boosting your career, the decision process can get a bit more serious. 

That is why, today, we are going to help you make up your mind between Italian and French, two of the most relevant, useful, and (needless to say!) beautiful-sounding languages you could ever find.

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So, if you want to know which one is easierand more importantly, which one is more convenient for businesskeep reading until the end. 

Italian vs French: How Different Are They?

pexels-vincent-ma-janssen-2886284-1-250x375.jpg“Italian vs French” articles sometimes take the “versus” part too seriously, to the point that readers who are already fluent in one of the two languages end up believing they will never be able to speak the other one. With Italian vs French, that’s not the case. In fact, if you already know French, becoming fluent in Italian should be quite a smooth process!

The Similarities

As you probably know, Italian and French are Romance languages, which means that they both derive from Latin, the ancient language of the Roman Empire. Due to their common roots, Italian and French have a striking lexical similarity, with almost 9/10s of the two languages’ words being mutually intelligible for most speakers. 

 

English French Italian
business les affaires gli affari
answer la réponse la risposta
apology l’excuse la scusa
bottom le fond il fondo

 

As you can see from the examples above, Italian and French are much more similar to one another than they are to English, so if you’re already fluent in one of them, this can only help you to master the other one.

Besides, speaking about Italian vs French grammar is almost impossible. They are conceptually very similar, with most of the sentences in both languages following a subject-verb-object order, a formal and an informal version of “you”, and a tendency to use the past perfect much more often than we do in English! For all these reasons, it’s evident that any honest Italian vs French comparison had to start with the similarities.

The Differences

Now, if you still want an Italian vs French section based on actual differences, we can surely come up with one. After all, there has to be a reason why these two languages sound so different despite having the same origin and sharing so many of their core words!

The first big difference between Italian and French is that, in French, the relationship between what is written and what is said is much more complicated than in Italian. While French is not a phonetic language by any means (meaning that the spelling-to-sound rules are far from straightforward) Italian has a 1:1 written/spoken relationship. What you hear, you can write!

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As you can imagine, the straightforwardness of Italian spelling and pronunciation makes it much easier for beginners to master the sounds of this language. French, on the other hand, has unique, often complex pronunciation rules: 

  1. There are silent letters at the end of most words — e.g. parfum, trop, froid, vous, poulet, prix, chez
  2. Different vowel clusters have the same pronunciation — e.g. au and eau, eaux
  3. The letter h is silent at the beginning of words and before vowels  —e.g. herbe (grass) and huile (oil)
  4. There are many special letters: ê, î, ï, ô, ç, é, è, á, à.

Compared with French, Italian spelling-to-sound rarities are almost negligible. Apart from double letters getting extra stress (elle, essi); ch being pronounced /k/ before vowels (anche), and c realized as /ch/ before i and e (cielo), Italian sounds will usually coincide with what is written on the page 90% of the time. 

When it comes to phonetics, the biggest Italian vs French differences in terms of pronunciation are the fact Italian words tend to be stressed on the second syllable, while their French counterparts are accented on the last one, AND… the quality of the sound R in both languages. 

If you’ve ever seen a Sophia Loren movie, you know that Italian r is heavily thrilled, especially when there are two of them together (Arrivederci!). Now, if you’ve ever seen a Gérard Depardieu film, you also know that the French r, known as a glottal fricative, is wildly different and absolutely unique to this language!

So, which language is easier, Italian or French? 

After everything we’ve said above, the answer won’t come as a surprise. With fewer special letters, fewer silent ones, and extremely simple pronunciation rules, Italian is clearly the easiest of the two. But be careful. Saying that Italian is easier than French is not saying that you won’t have to make an effort to master it!

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Remember: no matter how easy a language seems at first sight, without enough exposure and practice you won’t get very far. Besides, there are other aspects to consider before deciding what language to learn, right? What leads us to the next question…

Italian vs French: Which one is more useful for business? 

Isn’t this the question of the day?

Speaking about questions, do you know what percentage of the UK’s adult population claims to be fluent in Italian? Just above two per cent. Can you imagine how easy it would be for a fluent Italian speaker to stand out from their competitors while looking for a job?

Though Italian is often associated with great painters, wonderful cuisine, and stylish clothes, it is much more than what it seems. Spoken in Italy, Switzerland, and minority communities across the world including the US, the UK, and Australia, Italian plays a key role in international relations as an official language of the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Besides, Italy is the UK’s most prominent non-English-speaking trading partner, bringing in more than £8 billion to the economy every year.

Impressive, right? But remember this is an Italian vs French article! We have to see if Italian can hold its ground against a giant like French.

Globally, French has about 229 million people users, 76 million of whom are native speakers. Just to give you an idea of how impressive these numbers are, Italian is only spoken by 67 million people globally

Just as Italian is often seen as the language of the arts, French is the language of romance. However, it also holds a huge relevance in the business world. On the one hand, international organizations like the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) include French as the official language. On the other, French truly is a global language. With 39 countries across the world speaking the French language at the moment, it has a strong presence in Europe, America, and parts of Africa such as Rwanda and Ethiopia. What is interesting about these emerging markets in Africa is that we are dealing with countries that are not proficient in the English language. As a consequence, knowing French can be an invaluable asset if you want to do business in these regions.

Italian vs French: Which is your winner?

Remember we said we would help you choose between Italian and French? Well, that was kind of, sort of… a white lie. While we can display all the information we have about both languages, ultimately it is you who has to make the final choice.

Are you looking for a gold star to add to your CV? One that you can get with relatively small effort? Then Italian might be your best choice. However, if you’re looking for a challenging language that will give you access to both strong and emerging economies, you should definitely go for a French course. 

No matter which one you choose, we can help! (This time, for real).  On our website, you will find online and in-person courses taught by native speakers of both French and Italian who also happen to be fully qualified and experienced educators. 

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Still undecided on which language to learn next? Not a problem. Send us a quick message and we’ll pair you up with a tutor for a free trial lesson in either Italian or French so you can make up your mind!