31.08.2020 Merano Dialogues with Gabriele Valle: Are Italians losing their language?

Federico Guiglia meets and interviews Prof. Gabriele Valle, author of “Italiano Urgente. 500 anglicisms translated into Italian on the Spanish model” (preface by T. De Mauro).

“In the last twenty years, half of the new words in the Italian language have consisted of crude anglicisms, i.e. not adapted to our language’. Gabriele Valle, an Italian-Peruvian lecturer at the Isit University School for Translators and Interpreters in Trento, has raised the alarm against ‘lockdown’, ‘recovery funds’ and ‘hotspots’, i.e. words taken from English in Italian despite the existence of the corresponding expressions of ‘confinement’, ‘recovery funds’ and ‘identification centres’. He is the author of the valuable book ‘Italiano Urgente, 500 anglicisms translated into Italian on the Spanish model’ with a preface by the great linguist Tullio De Mauro.

Interviewed in video-conference by Federico Guiglia as part of the meetings already uploaded on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/akademiamerano/videos/316084109472613) and Youtube (https://youtu.be/AXwnApo27B8) and promoted by the Accademia di studi italo-tedeschi, Professor Valle explained that all neo-Latin languages, and in particular Spanish, French and Portuguese – “our sister languages”, as he calls them – always translate or adapt anglicisms in their own language, even with newly created words. “It used to happen in Italy as well,” the lecturer recalled. “Then in the 1970s, but especially in recent times, this mechanism broke down. Today we are the only neo-Latin-speaking country that, for example in digital communication, says ‘computer’, ‘password’, ‘link’, ‘mouse’ even though the corresponding term exists in Italian. And then the amount of useless anglicisms thwarts the main premise of a language: to make oneself understood, to communicate’.

The professor spoke of “serious psychological subservience to the dominant language that leads to the result of the messy itanglish. The contamination of languages is an enrichment for everyone. It is a virtue. But to contaminate means to render into the structure of one’s own receiving language the terms that come from foreign languages, and today from English in particular. Out of laziness, opportunism or provincialism, we are giving up doing this’.

Together with other scholars, Gabriele Valle is promoting a petition to the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, to expose the issue and raise awareness in the institutional, academic and journalistic world, “as happened in France and Spain with important cultural debates”.
“In the dictionaries of the Italian language there are 4,000 unadapted anglicisms,” the professor concludes. “Do you know how many are in the most authoritative Spanish dictionary of the Real Academia? Less than 200”.