Italian vs Spanish: Which One Should I Learn Next?
Is there a more joyous conflict than not knowing what language you want to learn next? If you keep listening to our Italian and Spanish playlists without being able to decide which one will be your next target, we’re here to help.
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One of the reasons why Italian vs Spanish can be a tough choice is that they are very similar. Being Romance languages (they can be traced back to the Roman Empire), they share enough roots to be mutually intelligible, which means that those who master either of them will be able to get the gist of what is being said in the other.
As a result, the English speakers who want to achieve fluency in any of these languages will face similar challenges, from verb conjugations to those tricky rolled ‘r’ sounds. For this reason, if you want to make the best choice we will have to take a close look at both Italian and Spanish and assess your own motivations to learn a new language.
So let’s get started!
Which culture do you find more appealing?
Learning a new language is much more than memorizing phrases and declensions. Every time you learn a new language you gain access to a unique culture characterized by specific modes of behaviour, traditions, food, and artistic artifacts.
The Latin boom that has taken over the music industry in recent years with artists like Maluma, Luis Fonsi and J. Balvin, for example, has resulted in hundreds of millennials and centennials inquiring about Spanish lessons. Similarly, those who love romantic music and look up to artists like Laura Pausini, Andrea Bocelli and Tiziano Ferro may opt to take Italian lessons so they can sing along to their favourite ballads.
Both Italian and Spanish, however, will expose learners to a rich tapestry of art, history and culture that goes well beyond the music charts. Spanish, on the one hand, will give you access to the world of writers like Miguel de Cervantes, painters like Pablo Picasso and Frida Kahlo, and poets like Rubén Darío or Pablo Neruda. Not to mention modern-day visionary filmmakers such as Pedro Almodovar and Alfonso Cuarón and pop music icons such as Ricky Martin or Luis Miguel.
Italian, on the other hand, is the language of the Roman Empire, the key to some of the most fascinating events in world history. It’s the language of the Emperors, Leonardo Da Vinci, Galileo, and Vivaldi, among other people who have made immeasurable contributions to Western culture. Widely known as the birthplace of art cinema, Italy has also graced the world with groundbreaking films such as Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and Passolin’s Accatone, which makes Italian the perfect language for film lovers.
In short, both Italian and Spanish come with ties to a whole world of culture, art, history, and entertainment. In the end, which one you choose will have a lot to do with your taste and interests.
Italian vs Spanish: Which one is easier?
As we said before, Italian and Spanish belong to the same language family and they present striking similarities even for untrained years. As a result, the challenges that both of these languages present for English learners are also very similar. However, there are a few differences between Italian and Spanish worth mentioning.
It’s not a secret that Italians have a powerful accent, with stretched vowels and almost musical pitch shifts from one syllable to the next. But, contrary to what you may believe, it is this great range of sounds and intonation patterns that make Italian easier to pronounce. The almost exaggerated clarity with which Italians produce every single sound makes it very easy for learners to understand what is being said and copy native speakers.
Spanish, on the other hand, is spoken much faster and with a non-distinct tone of voice that makes it more difficult to tell sounds apart. Besides, being one of the most spoken languages in the world (with at least 5 distinct accents only in Spain), Spanish is suffused with regional varieties and pronunciations that may be alienating for people who have learned a different accent. Italian, which tends to be more homogenous, presents no such difficulties.
In short, it would seem that, when it comes to Italian vs Spanish pronunciation, Italian is an easy winner.
Grammar, however, is a different story. While Italian and Spanish are very similar in terms of verb declensions and rules for the use of pronouns, Italian is slightly more complicated in a few key aspects such as grammatical gender. While Spanish just uses “o” and “a” to distinguish between masculine and feminine articles (niño: boy; niña: girl; hermano: brother, hermana: sister), Italian rules are much less straightforward.
Second, the way people form plurals in Spanish is more similar to how we do it in English. If you want to make a word plural in Spanish, all you have to do is add -s or -es: casa – casas; ciudad – ciudades. This isn’t the case with Italian.
In Italian, the most common way to form a plural word is by changing the ending from one vowel to another: if the word ends in -o, the ending changes to –i; if it ends in-a, the ending changes to –e: libro: libri; casa – case
To sum up, while Italian is easier in terms of pronunciation, Spanish is simpler in terms of grammar. It seems this Italian vs Spanish thing is not as easy as we thought it would be.
If you speak English, Spanish will be definitively easier than Italian for you because there are more similarities. For example, Spanish and English make plurals almost the same way, adding es or s at the end of the word, Italian doesn’t.
Italian vs Spanish: How useful are they?
There are three main reasons why you would choose one language over the other. So far, we have taken into account personal preferences and the challenges involved in learning both Italian and Spanish.
But there is a crucial aspect we can’t disregard: how useful Italian and Spanish are for professional purposes.
With 65 million native speakers in Italy, San Marino, Vatican City, and Switzerland, Italian is the 22nd most spoken language in the world. These numbers may seem impressive at first sight, but they dwarf when we compare Italian with Spanish.
Until very recently, English was the second most spoken first language in the world after Mandarin. But not anymore. Over the last couple of decades, Spanish has comfortably overtaken English, which comes as little surprise if we consider its official status in Spain, eighteen Latin American countries, and its strong presence in the United States.
If you are looking for a language that will allow you to impress employers all over the world and do business in more than twenty countries, Spanish seems to be the winner.
That said, if you’re particularly interested in getting a job in the fashion industry, or you just want to move to Rome, Milan or Naples, Italian will of course be the most useful language for you.
As stated before, what language you ultimately choose to learn will depend on a variety of factors that no one other than you will be able to assess.
Dina, a client from Calgary, had very personal reasons to want to learn Italian:
“My father is Italian born and moved to Canada when he was 18. Because my mother is not Italian, he never spoke his language at home, so my siblings and I never learned. I’ve come to a time in my life where I am appreciating and embracing my Dad’s culture, and have decided that I want to learn my language.
For me, the best thing about Language Trainers is the flexibility – I can choose when I want to do my online classes, how often, and I can work at my own pace – there’s no pressure to meet deadlines, which I find very relaxing.”
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Whether you want to learn Italian or Spanish (or Italian and Spanish!), send us a quick message now and we’ll pair you up with one of our native teachers so you can start working on your goals in no time. All you have to do is tell us what your motivations for learning are and when you want to start, and we’ll do the rest. Oh, and do you want to know what the best part is? If you choose the online methodology, we will offer you a free trial lesson with no strings attached. What are you waiting for? Get started now!