All you need to know about Iberian America

How Easy is it to Understand Italian if You Speak Spanish?

Back in my first few years in college, there was some Latino I knew through a fraternity that happened to speak Spanish pretty well.

And so while already knowing Spanish, he was dedicated to learning Italian also.

Quite frankly, I never understood his desire to learn Italian.

He never seemed too interested in anything regarding Italian culture. Never been to Italy. Had no plans to go to Italy. Didn't know much about Italy.

But he wanted to learn Italian!

In hindsight, I think the dude just enjoyed learning foreign languages and that was it.

Especially where, after some odd years since then, I think the reason for why he chose Italian was because of how easy it'd be to pick it up.

Like I said, he didn't care much about Italy at all and his true passion seemed to be just learning foreign languages in general.

That seemed to be the motivation.

And, in the years since then, I've come to realize on several occasions just how damn easy it is to understand bits and pieces of Italian when listening to it.

It's a bit like Portuguese where, if you speak Spanish, you can understand bits and pieces of the Portuguese language (especially if you are just reading it and can recognize similar words versus hearing it spoken which I find harder to understand).

In comparison, I find it easier to pick up bits and pieces of Italian both when spoken and also when written.

Senior Thesis in College

The first time I noticed this was when I was in my final year of college working on some senior thesis.

The thesis ended up being some massive project that lasted a year and was about 230 and more pages in length.

It mostly was focused on organic coffee and looking at the trade networks of a group of people producing coffee in Mexico and then selling it around the world.

Most of their customers happened to be in the US, Canada, Europe, Turkey and Japan.

When looking into their customers in Europe, I ended up interviewing some of them and a few happened to be Italian.

While reviewing their websites and promotional videos promoting the coffee in Italian, I found myself with relative ease understanding half of what was being said.

Or what felt like half anyway.

My thesis advisor -- who also spoke Spanish very well -- was able to understand bits and pieces of what they were saying in their videos pretty well also.

When doing the interviews over the phone, I remember sometimes they would stop speaking in Spanish to me and speak in Italian to each other and I could understand bits and pieces of that too.

Then I actually went to Italy.

My time in Italy

Sometime around that same period, I took a trip to Italy also mostly just because I wanted to backpack around Europe.

I mostly was just going from capital city to capital city.

While in Italy, it was the same thing I noticed.

For one, oddly enough, I almost felt like I was in Argentina again for some reason.

No joke.

But, beyond that, I found it easier to navigate my way around parts of Italy.

In contrast, I also went to Poland and found it MUCH harder to use public transportation because the ticketing machines didn't have an English or Spanish translation and Polish obviously is a bit different from Spanish.

Not like Italian where -- even if I don't understand a majority of it -- I got a fighting chance of MAYBE guestimating well enough what I'm reading or hearing.

And I found that to be true when traveling in Italy where I could understand just enough when printing a ticket, listening to someone speak or whatever else.

I've had the same thought recently whenever watching the Rocky movies also

Italian in Rocky

I enjoy watching the Rocky movies again and again from time to time.

And there are certain scenes in Rocky 2 that I find funny because I can actually pick out certain words that sound VERY similar to Spanish.

Here are the scenes in question.

Rocky 2 scenes: The wedding scene and the scene where he asks for a prayer before the fight

Truth be told, these scenes are why I wanted to write this article because I'm always reminded of how similar Italian is to Spanish every single time I watch these scenes.

Still, these are all just my individual experiences.

Is there anything more concrete to show how similar Italian is to Spanish?

How Easy it is to Understand Italian if You Speak Spanish?

Well, given you are reading this in English, let's start there first because there is something that comes to mind that I want to bring up.

Online, there's these "Official Groups" published that put different languages together in different groups in terms of how easy it is to learn that language if you are an English speaker.

Italian happens to be in Group 1 for the easiest languages out there as you can see here.

Apparently, you need about 600 hours of study to get "general professional proficiency" in speaking and reading.

Of course, I'm assuming said studying includes actually living in Italy because, in my experience learning Spanish, it was really actually living in Latin America that made my Spanish where it was.

The classes helped but you need to get outside of the classes in my experience.

Anyway, that's all assuming you are an English speaker without any Spanish skills.

Obviously, with Spanish skills, learning Italian should go even faster.

As I said, even I can understand bits and pieces of Italian and I never even studied it before!

So while I can't find anything comparable to what I just cited for how much work you supposedly need if you are a Spanish speaker, I did find this online here.

"Give yourself a good 6–9 months of classes to properly learn, absorb and gain fluency. A Spanish friend of mine , living and working in Italy, after 3 months he could understand almost everything and could speak Italian fairly good."

So take that for what it is.

I couldn't find any quick studies on this topic but you get the idea: learning Italian shouldn't be the hardest thing in the world if you already know Spanish.

It's not like you are learning Japanese anyway!

But that's all I got to say.

Leave any comments below.

And follow my Twitter here.

Thanks for reading.

Best regards,


No comments yet

Leave a Reply: