ITALIAN AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE
Notes on its origin
Italian derives from the operation that Dante carried out on these local vernaculars (Tuscan in particular) in order to hone a single common language that was, at the same time, “gentle”, mellifluous and literary.
Italy and the "Grand Tour"
Italy, which for centuries was the favoured destination for many foreign visitors, still remains today a fundamental port of call on the "Grand Tour" for painters, writers, intellectuals and culturally-minded tourists in general.
As early as 1588 one could find the first "Chair" of the Italian language, for German students in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, and over the course of the following centuries, too, foreigners have spent considerable periods of time in Italy, enjoying a “full immersion” in the language of Dante.
Indeed Mozart, when he was travelling in the "bel Paese", was so charmed by the Italian language that he wrote letters to the members of his family – who were Austrian and lived in Austria – in Italian.
Italian for foreigners in the modern age
The study of Italian as a foreign language in modern times coincided, following the unification of Italy (1861-1870), with the founding of the Società Dante Alighieri (1889), whose first Chairman, Ruggiero Bonghi (1889-1895), created committees abroad that started up Italian language courses in order to preserve the national identity of emigrants. As regards the teaching of Italian to foreigners in Italy, records have been found that document courses held in Siena from 1917 onwards and, from 1921, in Perugia.