Si, Parliamo Italiano! Globalization of the Italian Culture in the United States

Article excerpt

Si, Parliamo Italiano! Globalization of the Italian Culture in the United States. Edited by VINCENZO MILIONE and CHRISTINE GAMBINO. New York: John D. Calandra Italian-American Institute, 2009. Pp. 89. ISBN: 978-0-9703403-3-7

According to the US 2000 Census, 1,008,370 people over the age of six spoke Italian at home (), and a Modern Language Association survey on Enrollments in Languages Other Than English in United States Institutions of Higher Education, Fall 2006 (Furman, Goldberg & Lusin, 2007) indicates that between 2002 and 2006 the number of students of Italian in institutions of higher learning has grown by over 20% () (7).

In the preface to Si, Parliamo Italiano! Anthony Tamburri rightfully starts out by stating that with this study the authors have made two important contributions to our understanding of this state of affairs by computing "a more accurate number of the people who speak Italian in the United States" (9) and by determining that "the socio-linguistic landscape for Italian is actually much more broad that we may have thought" (9). In fact, this is a concise, but well documented study whose authors present valid arguments for the need to understand why the study of Italian language and culture must be persevered.

The study begins with an "Executive Summary" followed by an "Introduction" on the historical background of Italian studies in North American academia and the role of "standard" Italian in unifying an immigrant population that spoke a multitude of dialects. This is followed by a section on "Source Data for Italian Language Analysis" based on the U.S. Census, the American Community Survey and the General Social Survey. Of particular interest is a description of how outcomes are determined by the format of census and survey questions. The U.S. Census and the American Community Survey only inquire about "primary home language," while the General Social Survey asks "Do you speak any language other than English? If so, which language or languages?" (21-22).

The section on " Geographical Analysis of Italian Ancestry" first focuses on New York City, and the greater metropolitan area of New York, and then on the entire United States as a reflection of the migration of Italian Americans to other regions of the country. By comparing US Census 2000 data with that of the 2006 American Community Survey and the 2000-2006 General Social Survey, the authors highlight some rather dramatic changes. While the there has been a decline in the overall number of persons of Italian ancestry in the New York City/ Tri-State areas, the overall numbers of persons identifying themselves as Italian Americans in the United States has grown by 13.56% (25).

Milione and Gambino offer one main explanation for the increase in Italian American self-perception. The sections on "Italian Language Speakers at Home," "Italian Language Usage in the United States," "Italian Language Usage in the New York Tri-State Area" and "Italian Language Usage in New York City" show that concomitant with the decline in the numbers of persons who use Italian as their primary language at home, there has been an increase in the number of Italian American organizations that promote Italian language and culture and, more significantly, actively seek to refute negative stereotypes in the media (z9).

In "Italian Language Speakers in the United States: A Broader Picture" Milione and Gambino write that, "Of course, one does not have to be Italian to speak Italian" (39) and point out that, according to the General Social Survey 2000-2006 "nearly one out of three people in the U.S. who speak Italian are not of Italian ancestry" (39). In "The Impact of School Instruction for Italian Language Speakers" the authors address the issue of where people can learn Italian, if not at home. …