When deciding on learning a new language, you might choose one based on what it sounds like. Or if you move because of work, you may need to accommodate to the new linguistic milieu as a matter of necessity.
But some learners make their decision based on which language is spoken by the largest number of people around the world. This is why so many choose English, Mandarin, and Spanish. Learning all three of these would give you the ability to converse with half of the world’s population.
Italian doesn’t make the top 10, but it sits at a respectable 23rd place. Speaking Italian would open up the ability to chat with almost 70 million people. This number includes the 60 million that live in Italy, but an additional several million that can be found on other shores.
So where can you find the most Italians abroad?
The United States
When accounting for official passport holders, the United States only officially has around 300,000 Italians living within its borders. However, this doesn't give you the full picture. The country as a whole has around 17 million Italian Americans, who are US citizens that are of Italian descent but may have several generations of relatives that were born in Italy.
Most settled on the east coast since this was the part of the country where they would have first arrived by boat. New York has the largest number of Italian Americans, with around 3.1 million living in the city. This has influenced much of the city's culinary culture with many restaurants serving coffee, pizza, and other Italian favorites.
Neighboring New Jersey, which is famous for having the oldest boardwalk in the US is home to large Italian-American populations, with almost 50% of the people of Hammonton and Dover Beaches South being of Italian Descent.
New Jersey is a popular tourist city, with around two dozen casinos helping to drive millions to the state each year. In recent years, this has been supplemented by several new online casinos offering generous casino offers and making the market even more competitive. Many Italian Americans help support this industry, with a large technology sector that employs around 200,000 people and pays around $23 billion in wages each year.
Many of these Italian Americans don’t speak Italian though. According to data from the US Census Bureau, there are just over 700,000 Americans that are able to chat in Italian.
If you want to find the country with the most Italian passport holders, then you need to head around 5,600 miles to the South American country of Argentina. According to a 2016 constitutional referendum held in Italy, there were more than 670,000 citizens living there.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Italians moved to Argentina for the same reason they moved to the USA: in search of economic opportunities. The country had lenient immigration policies at the time as it needed a lot of workers to help develop the economy. Farmworkers, in particular, were in high demand thanks to the huge swathes of arable land.
The emigration was so vast that it is reported that 62.5% of the Argentinian population has at least one ancestor from Italy. This has led to more than 1.5 million Italian speakers, making the language the third most spoken there. It didn’t become the official language of the country because, at the time, different regions of Italy still spoke in different regional languages as opposed to the standardized version used now.
Although Germany doesn’t share a land border with Italy, it is the European country with the most Italian nationals outside of Italy. As of 2016, there were more than half a million Italian passport holders living within the Federal Republic of Germany, more than the number living in the UK and France combined. It is believed there are nearly a million more with Italian ancestry. Almost all of them live in the southern half of former West Germany.
The large emigration from Italy also saw large numbers travel north, though many had also emigrated to Germany since the Middle Ages. After 1945, Germany experienced a large economic boom, leading to Italians moving for work.
The two countries were founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community (which later became the European Union). The freedom of movement facilitated by this has been the biggest driver of Italians moving to Germany in the last few decades.
If you want to practice your Italian in Germany, you may be in luck. There are more than 600,000 native speakers and 2.5 million people able to speak at it proficiently.