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Country factsheets

April 2011


ITALY

1. Overview




Population

Over 59 million

Official language

Italian

Recognised minority languages (“historic linguistic minorities”)1

Arbëresh (an Albanian dialect), Catalan, Croatian, Franco-Provençal, French, Friulian, German, Germanic languages other than standard German (Cimbrian, Mocheno and Walser), Griko (a Greek dialect), Ladin, Occitan, Sardinian and Slovenian;


Other languages (major migrant languages)

Romanian, Arab, Albanian, Chinese, Filipino, Latin American Spanish, African languages (such as Swahili, Afrikaans, Tingrinya, Amharic), Ukrainian

Foreign languages spoken

English (29%), French (14%)2


2. Language family and main characteristics of the Italian language


Italian is an Indo-European language of the Romance (or Neo-Latin) family closely related – among EU official languages – to French, Portuguese and Spanish.

3. National language system


The Italian legal framework for languages is a very complex one, for two main reasons: on the one hand, the linguistic wealth characterizing Italy means that there is a considerable number of languages traditionally spoken in Italy; on the other hand, the fact that languages are the object of both national laws (adopted by the national Parliament) and regional laws (adopted by Regional Councils) means that some languages are recognized at both national and regional level, while others are only recognized at regional level.

3.1. Legal basis

Whereas Law 482/1999 provides that Italian is the official language of Italy (Article 1), the Italian Constitution of 1948 does not state this explicitly.

A draft constitutional law aimed at amending Article 12 of the Constitution to recognise Italian as the official language of the Italian Republic was adopted on 28 March 2007 by the Chamber of Deputies and then submitted for approval to the Senate. Following the dissolution of Parliament in 2008, on 29 April 2008 the draft constitutional law was resubmitted to the Parliament by a group of centre-left deputies but never discussed since then. A new draft - prepared with the assistance of the Accademia della Crusca3 - was presented in October 2009 with a view to introducing a provision recognizing Italian as the official language of Italy by amending Article 9 of the Constitution, which would mean that the Italian language would be protected as cultural heritage.

Article 6 of the Constitution stipulates that “The Republic shall safeguard linguistic minorities by means of special provisions”. On that basis, the above-mentioned Law 482/19994 was adopted in 1999 as a comprehensive piece of legislation for the safeguard of the so-called ‘historic linguistic minorities’, aiming to protect “the language and culture of the Albanians, Catalans, Germanics, Greeks, Slovenians and Croatians, as well as the language and culture of the populations speaking French, Franco-Provençal, Friulian, Ladin, Occitan and Sardinian” (Article 2). The law includes provisions regarding: the teaching of minority languages in schools (Article 4) and Universities (Article 6); the use of minority languages by the local government (Articles 7-9); the broadcasting of radio and TV programmes in minority languages (Article 12).

The linguistic minorities protected by Law 482/1999 can be classified into two groups:


  • A) Communities established in the frontier areas, which, for historical reasons, have a common cultural and language tradition with the populations of the adjoining countries: these are the French-language minority in Valle d’Aosta, the German-language minority in Trentino-Alto Adige and the Slovenian-language minority in Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

    • In the case of Valle d’Aosta and Trentino-Alto Adige, the fundamental protection is ensured by the Special Statutes on autonomy provided for in the Constitution and by the provisions adopted to implement those Statutes. In these areas respectively French and German are used on the same basis as Italian.

French is spoken by some 100,000 people in the Valle d’Aosta Region.

As far as German is concerned, the Province of Bolzano (Alto Adige) has a majority German-speaking population. This area was annexed by Italy from Austro-Hungary under the terms of the 1919 Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye after World War I. In total some 270,000 Italians speak German as their first language. Some identify themselves as ethnic Austrians.

In Alto Adige, linguistic protection is ensured by recognition, as expressly provided for in the Constitution, of the existence of three linguistic groups: Italian, German and Ladin. The cohabitation of these groups is regulated by a number of laws designed essentially to organise an education system which makes distinct provision for Italian-language and German-language schools and also for teaching in Ladin (in the areas in which the Ladin-speaking population lives).


    • Slovene is spoken by around 80,000 speakers who live in the north-eastern Region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia near the border with Slovenia (Provinces of Gorizia and Trieste). Apart from a general provision laid down in the Special Statute for Friuli-Venezia Giulia5, the protection of the Slovenian minority is ensured by National Law No. 38/20016. On 23 October 2007 the Regional Council of Friuli-Venezia Giulia approved Regional Law 26/2007 on the protection of the Slovenian minority, enacting new rules about the use of Slovenian in the public administration and financial aid for organisations representing the Slovenian minority.

  • B) Heterogeneous groups which have long been established in various regions of the country. These are minorities of diversified origins: some of them speak either Romance languages (Catalan7, Franco-Provençal8, Friulian9, Ladin10, Occitan11, Sardinian12) or Germanic languages other than standard German (such as Cimbrian13, Mocheno14 and Walser15), while others speak Albanian16, Croatian17 and Greek18. In the case of two regions, namely Sardinia and Friuli, people speaking respectively Sardinian (some 1.3 million people) and Friulian (around 600,000 people) represent a significant proportion of the population.

Apart from the above-mentioned languages, in Italy exist several other idioms such as Piedmontese, Lombard, Venetan, Ligurian, Emilian, Romagnol, Neapolitan and Sicilian, which are not protected by the current national legislation. In making this choice the Italian legislator seems to have considered that these are Italian dialects. However, some studies (such as Ethnologue) seem to consider these idioms as distinct languages rather than mere dialects. While being ignored by national law, they are the object of regional legislation on the promotion of local traditions19. During the summer of 2009 a harsh political debate took place about the proposal from Lega Nord (one of the parties of the governing centre-right coalition) to introduce the teaching of dialects in schools.

Other languages not protected by the current legislation include Corsican (spoken in La Maddalena Island by some 1,000 people), Gypsy languages such as Romany (spoken by some 45,000 people in Italy, where Romanies have been present since the 15th century) and immigrant languages.

The Italian Sign Language (LIS) is used by about 70,000 people but is not officially recognized. There is no national professional register for LIS interpreters nor a recognized formal qualification at university level. However, two private associations (ANIOS and ANIMU) have taken up the role of category association and are organized at national and regional level. They organize seminars and courses, often in conjunction with local universities or regional authorities, and provide assistance and advice to LIS interpreters or customers. They have drawn up a detailed profile for the LIS interpreter. One of these organisations, the ANOIS, is very active in cooperating with public authorities. In spite of the lack of a recognized qualification, sectoral laws provide for the intervention of a LIS interpreter when deaf or hearing-impaired people are involved, such as in schools, health services, the judiciary or in general public communications, such as TV news.

3.2. Languages in the public administration and in the judiciary

The national and regional laws concerning minority languages define the right of citizens to use minority languages in the public administration. In the regions concerned citizens may use the protected minority language (both orally and in writing) in the offices of the public administration (with the exception of the military and police departments), which consequently must have a certain number of staff who are able to communicate in the minority language. Citizens participating in meetings of local governing bodies may use the protected minority language, but the administration must provide for an immediate translation into Italian if some other participant does not understand the minority language.

Other than in border regions with recognized linguistic minorities (French-language minority in Valle d’Aosta, the German-language minority in Trentino-Alto Adige and the Slovenian-language minority in Friuli-Venezia Giulia20), where the use of the minority language for administrative purposes is provided for in regional legislation, local authorities in other regions can choose (but have no obligation) to publish official documents in both Italian and the protected minority language, but only the Italian version has legal value.

As far as the judiciary is concerned, in the regions where a protected minority language is spoken citizens may use the minority language in cases pending before a Justice of the Peace. In criminal proceedings taking place in a region where a protected minority language is spoken, citizens may use the minority language, and if the judge does not respect this right the proceedings will be null and void (Article 109 of the Criminal Procedure Code). Similar rules are applicable in civil proceedings (Articles 122 and 123 of the Civil Procedure Code). Foreigners who do not speak Italian and who are involved in criminal or civil proceedings have the right to be assisted for free by an interpreter (Article 143 of the Criminal Procedure Code and Article 122 of the Civil Procedure Code).

Italian laws provide for the intervention of a Sign Language interpreter in administrative matters when deaf or hearing-impaired people are involved, such as in schools, health services, the judiciary or in general public communications, such as TV news or traffic forecasts.

3.3. Education and training
3.3.1. Education and training in official and minority languages

In Alto Adige there are different schools for the three local language communities: Italian, German and Ladin.

In the schools of Valle d’Aosta, French is taught as many hours as Italian.

The Autonomous Region Friuli Venezia Giulia does not have specific competence in the field of State education, therefore schools with Slovene teaching language are regulated by national legislation21 and by international agreements22.

Nowadays, in the provinces of Trieste and Gorizia Italian State schools where Slovene is taught include establishment of all educational cycles located both in town and in villages, while in the province of Udine there is only one State with bilingual Slovenian-Italian teaching, located in St. Pietro al Natisone. Overall, the pupils and students availing themselves of the opportunity of education in Slovenian in Friuli Venezia Giulia in the school year 2008/2009 were about 3700.

In most of the other Italian regions concerned, minority languages are learnt at schools on a voluntary basis.


3.3.2. Language learning

The Italian school system is based on three cycles: primary (or elementary) school, lower-secondary (or middle) school and upper-secondary (or high) school.

All pupils start learning English at the first grade of primary school. A second foreign language (in most cases French, Spanish or German) is added at the first grade of lower-secondary school. In upper-secondary schools pupils learn one or several foreign languages depending on the type of upper-secondary school they attend. For more information on language learning at school, see paragraph 6.2.1. below.

It should be noted that Italy is last but two in the list of EU Member States as far as the knowledge of foreign languages is concerned. Italian learners show better results only if compared to the UK or Ireland. The situation does not seem to improve with time: the 2006 Eurobarometer survey highlights a decrease in the percentage of Italians who can hold a conversation in a foreign language (from 46% in 2001 to 41%) compared to a European average of 50%. A survey carried out by Censis shows that 66.1% of Italians take classes in foreign languages without acquiring a speaking competence. This is confirmed by recent data from the Education Ministry: after maths, English is the subject matter Italian students are worst at. In 2008, 30% of students failed to achieve the required standard in English at the end of the school year.


3.3.3. Language education for immigrants

So-called “direct integration” is the method used in Italian schools to ensure that pupils with an immigrant background learn Italian: eligible immigrant children of foreign mother tongue enrol directly in classes in mainstream education; these children receive special support with learning the language of instruction during normal school hours. The situation is chequered since each school can find alternative ways to facilitate the (linguistic) integration of immigrant children; some schools, for example, get support from either civil society associations or local authorities to offer additional classes meant, inter alia, to enhance immigrant children’s integration.


3.3.4. International schools

In Italy there are 27 foreign schools, most of which established in Rome (12) and Milan (8); there are none in southern Italy. The demand for an international education is so strong that the LUISS, the University financed by Confindustria, took over the management of the Rome International School and last year set up a high school in order to offer a complete educational cycle, from nursery to University degree.



3.4. Languages and the labour market

Public sector – In the regions concerned citizens may use the protected minority language (both orally and in writing) in the offices of the public administration (with the exception of the military and police departments), which consequently must have a certain number of staff who are able to communicate in the minority language. In Alto Adige laws have organised the local civil service according to the (very strictly applied) principle that posts are reserved for the three linguistic groups (Italian, German, Ladin) in proportion to their size as determined on the basis of the general census carried out every ten years, in which citizens are free to declare their group of origin.

Private sector – In the private sector the languages most commonly required, in addition to Italian, are English, German, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and Chinese. Many multinational companies use English as their working language.

3.5. Use of languages in media

Article 12 of Law 482/1999 provides that the public radio and television service is to broadcast programmes in minority languages in the regions concerned. A variety of media (both printed and audiovisual) and cultural activities actually exist in all minority languages.



3.6. Language institutions

The most prestigious institution for the study and promotion of Italian is the Accademia della Crusca (Academy of the Chaff), which is Europe’s oldest institution devoted to safeguarding a language and one of the oldest academies still active. Its origins can be traced back to a group of Florentine scholars who, between 1570 and 1580, held convivial meetings on subjects such as literature and language. Nowadays the Accademia regularly organizes conferences on multilingualism (also in cooperation with the DGT Field Office in Rome)23.

Another important institution, which is financed by the Italian government to promote the Italian language abroad, is the Società Dante Alighieri24 , which runs official examinations to certify the knowledge of Italian as a foreign language. In the polemics concerning the defence of the Italian language in the EU Institutions (see below under 6.2), the Società Dante Alighieri has taken positions very close to those of the Italian Government and of the Italian media. A Dante Alighieri Committee was recently created in Brussels with the specific goal of encouraging membership by EU officials, Italian and otherwise, to promote the use and knowledge of Italian in the institutions of the European Union.
4. Language industry

Estimate of volume and value of the language market as concluded in the final report of the study on the size of the language industry in the EU, carried out for the DGT in 2009:

The total value of the translation and interpreting market in Italy - including freelancers - lies between 781 million € and 976 million €.

However, based on the data provided it was impossible to estimate the total number of persons active within translation and interpreting.

Full text of the study:

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/translation/publications/studies/size_of_language_industry_en.pdf

5. Language status in international organisations


Italian has been an official language of the European Communities since 1952, when the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community entered into force.

6. Sensitive issues and official position on language matters

6.1. Background


Standard Italian is a direct descendant of Latin (some 75% of Italian words are of Latin origin) based on the Tuscan dialect. The dialect spoken in Tuscany was promoted as the standard due to the socio-economic power associated with Florence as well as its literary heritage (Dante’s The Divine Comedy is often credited with the emergence of the Tuscan dialect as a standard).

One of the most important actors in defining a standard for literary Italian was the Accademia della Crusca, founded at the end of the XVI century (see above under 3.6 ), whose main achievement was the Vocabolario (Dictionary), published in five editions between 1612 and 1923. Mainly based on the store of Florentine texts from the 14th century (considered the golden era of the language), but also including various later authors, some from outside Tuscany, the Vocabolario was the main reference tool for written Italian. In a country like Italy, characterised by the vitality of different linguistic traditions and the lack of a unifying political/cultural centre, it represented the strongest link between the different regional communities. This work was the first example of a modern dictionary in Europe and acted as the model for the great dictionaries of France, Spain, Portugal, England and Germany.

When Italy was unified in 1861, Italian existed mainly as a literary language. Many Romance regional languages and dialects were spoken throughout the Italian Peninsula, each with local variants.

The establishment of a national education system led to a decrease in variation in the languages spoken across the country. Standardization was further expanded in the 1950s and 1960s thanks to the rise of mass media and television (the State broadcaster RAI helped set an Italian standard).


6.2. Current situation



6.2.1. English language teaching in Italian schools

In compliance with the Moratti reform, adopted in 2003 by the then centre-right government, English is taught as a foreign language from the first year of primary education, with a second EU language being introduced in lower-secondary school.

In October 2005, the centre-right government completed the reform by passing Legislative Decree 226/2005 on language teaching, whose Article 25, paragraph 2, stipulates that 1) parents can ask that the time allotted to the learning of the second EU language be used for the learning of English and 2) this choice, once it is made for the first year of lower-secondary school, must be kept during the other two years of lower-secondary school and during the whole upper-secondary school as well. At the time, the ambassadors in Italy of 5 European countries (accompanied by Mr Dastoli, the then Head of the European Commission’s Representation in Italy) met Ms Letizia Moratti, the then Education Minister, and pointed out to her that this measure was contrary to the European “1+2” objective. As a result, Ms Moratti suspended this much-criticised provision, which consequently has never been applied.

However, Article 25, paragraph 2, of Decree 226/2005 has not yet been formally repealed (its application has only been suspended yet another time by Ministerial Circular n. 19 of 13h February 2007). This is not considered satisfactory by teachers of foreign languages other than English, who keep asking for a clear and definitive repeal of the above-mentioned provision. In December 2007 a group of Italian teachers lodged a petition with the European Parliament in order to reach this objective (petition 1432/2007). Another aspect which is criticised by language teachers’ associations (and which is also addressed in the above-mentioned petition to the EP) is that the legislation in force foresees 3 hours per week for the teaching of English, whereas only 2 hours per week are foreseen for the teaching of other foreign languages.

On 2 October 2008 the Italian Education Minister, Ms Mariastella Gelmini, announced that the number of hours devoted to the teaching of English in lower-secondary schools would be increased from 3 to 5 per week, thus making optional the learning of a second foreign language. This is what Ms Letizia Moratti, the Education Minister in the previous Berlusconi government, had wanted to do in 2005 before being dissuaded by the 5 ambassadors. To this effect, the government adopted in December 2008 a draft regulation providing for the introduction of the so-called “strengthened English” option in lower-secondary schools as of the school year 2009-2010.

However, on 7 April 2009 the Administrative Court for the Lazio Region (TAR del Lazio) issued the first of a series of orders suspending the application of the circular letter No. 4/2009 by which the Italian Ministry for Education had sent out to lower-secondary schools instructions concerning the possibility for their students to opt for “strengthened English” in the school year 2009-2010. The Court ordered the suspension because the instructions in the circular aimed at implementing a provision which is part of a regulation (the above-mentioned draft regulation adopted by the government in December 2008) which hadn’t yet entered into force. Following these orders, in June 2009 the Ministry for Education repealed the circular letter. This means that the “strengthened English” option will not be effective as of the school year 2009-2010 (it will probably be effective as of the school year 2010-2011).

Since the Gelmini reform envisages a single teacher for all subjects for elementary school pupils, several commentators doubt the quality of the teaching: the reform introduces a training programme of up to 200 hours to make sure that teachers learn English and are able to teach it to children, which, according to ANILS, the national association of foreign-language teachers, is completely inadequate.

Apart from the “strengthened English” option in lower-secondary schools, Minister Gelmini’s reform includes other measures concerning the teaching of foreign languages in either lower-secondary or upper-secondary schools:




  • as far as foreign pupils are concerned, the time allotted to the learning of the second EU language in lower-secondary schools (2 hours per week) may be used for courses of Italian as a foreign language;

  • as far as upper-secondary schools are concerned, the learning of English will become compulsory during the whole cycle (5 years; at present, in some kinds of upper-secondary school, such as classical high school, the learning of English is compulsory only during the first 2 years of the cycle);

  • in some kinds of upper-secondary school (conservatory, art school and human sciences school) 2 foreign languages will be taught;

  • in technical high schools during the 5th year it will be possible to teach a subject in English (CLIL);

  • in language high schools the teaching of a third foreign language will be reinforced since it will start during the first year of the cycle.


6.2.2. University programmes in English

Since the academic year 2007-2008, students enrolling at the Turin Polytechnic who have chosen to take their courses in English have been exempted from tuition fees for the first year. In addition to this, some courses that the Turin Polytechnic used to offer in both Italian and English, are now only offered in English. Some media and the Accademia della Crusca consider this an example of linguistic discrimination (students who take their courses in Italian pay full tuition fees; there is a risk that the Italian language will no more be used for certain subject matters), and concern is growing over the spread of the use of English as a language of instruction in higher education to the detriment of Italian. More and more Italian Universities are offering courses in English (for example: Bocconi University in Milan, LUISS University and Tor Vergata University in Rome, Ca’ Foscari University in Venice).


6.2.3 Regional Law on Friulian language

In its judgment 159/2009 issued on 22/5/2009 the Italian Constitutional Court has declared unconstitutional some provisions contained in the Regional Law 29/2007 adopted by the Region Friuli-Venezia Giulia to protect and promote the Friulian language, thus granting most of the requests and arguments presented by the Italian government.

Most of the provisions declared unconstitutional were found to be in breach of provisions contained in Law 482/1999.

More specifically, Articles 6 and 8 of Law 29/2007 were declared unconstitutional inasmuch as they impose on all regional authorities – even on those operating outside the territories where Friulian-speaking communities are established – the obligation to answer in Friulian to citizens using that language and to publish in Friulian documents concerning all the citizens. These provisions are in breach of the “principle of territoriality” established by Law 482/1999, according to which public authorities may only be obliged to use a minority language in those geographical areas where the relevant community is actually present.

Article 9 of the Regional Law was declared unconstitutional inasmuch as it establishes that the town councils belonging to the Friulian-speaking territories may provide for the immediate translation of the speeches held and documents discussed in their official meetings, whereas according to Law 482/1999 town councils belonging to minority-language territories must provide for such immediate translation.

Article 11 was declared unconstitutional inasmuch as it provides that Friulian authorities may adopt a toponym in Friulian as the only official name of a place, whereas according to Law 482/1999 Friulian authorities may only adopt Friulian toponyms in addition to the Italian ones.

Article 12 was declared unconstitutional inasmuch as it provides that, upon enrolling their children in school, parents must declare whether they do not wish their children to be taught the Friulian language, whereas according to Law 482/1999 parents must declare whether they do wish their children to be taught the minority language.

Finally, Article 14 of the Law was declared unconstitutional inasmuch as it provides that the Friulian language must be taught in schools for at least one hour per week and by using the CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) methodology, whereas according to Law 482/1999 schools are free to choose how and for how much time minority languages should be taught.



6.2.4. The role of the Italian language in the EU

This has been a very sensitive issue for the last five years. Polemics started in February 2005, when the decision to drop Italian from Commission’s press conferences except on Wednesdays raised a storm of media comment in Italy and the reactions from the Permanent Representation of Italy to the European Union. In particular, Italians find it difficult to accept that German is a procedural language, while Italian is not. Ever since the Italian government has been very critical of the Commission’s language regime. According to Italian authorities, the “discrimination” of the Italian language is apparent in EU web sites, in calls for tender and notices of competition as well as in meetings held in the EU Institutions25.


6.2.4.1. The Italian government’s complaints


Since its establishment in April 2008, the centre-right government started a very harsh campaign for the defence of the Italian language in all international fora, especially within the EU institutions. In July 2008, the Head of the Italian government, Silvio Berlusconi, sent an official letter claiming that “it is essential that the EU guarantees the dignity of those languages which are less spoken in the Union” and calling upon Italian officials to “counteract the practice, begun by the European Commission… [of] introducing the ambiguous notion of ‘working’ or ‘procedural’ languages, with the effect of creating a trilingual hierarchy” with English, French and German as the main beneficiaries. In this connection ministers and Italian public administration representatives were asked to exploit every occasion to publicly oppose the Commission’s practice to use a restricted number of languages in meetings. In particular they were asked to: only speak Italian during EU meetings in Brussels and refuse to take part in the discussion whenever an interpretation service in Italian is not available; refuse to discuss any document not provided in Italian. The State legal office (Avvocatura dello Stato) was asked to systematically initiate proceedings at the European Court of Justice whenever they spotted a discrimination of the Italian language, such as in the publication of competition notices or calls for tender. Franco Frattini, Minister for Foreign Affairs and former EU Commissioner, was assigned the task of leading the “battle for the defence of Italian”.
Italian government representatives and State legal officers never miss public occasions to criticize the European Commission, which is allegedly imposing a “creeping trilingualism” in the EU institutions and a de facto monopoly of the English language. The most recurring allegations are the following: non legislative Commission documents are never available in Italian; all press releases should be systematically translated into Italian; multilingualism in the Commission’s web pages is inexistent and Italian readers never find information in Italian; open competitions impose the knowledge of only EN/FR/DE as a second language; calls for tender are not translated into Italian, thus excluding Italian businesses from the internal market.

6.2.4.2. Open competitions


As regards more particularly open competitions, Italian authorities complain about the publication of vacancies only in the three procedural languages26.

In 2007 the media gave some prominence to a complaint made by Italy concerning the EPSO/AD/94/07 competition for the recruitment of administrators in the field of information, communication and the media, which was published in the Official Journal on 28/2/2007 only in three languages (English, French and German). In the Italian version of the OJ there was no information on the publication of the competition notice. The failure to advertise the competition in the other 20 EU official languages was regarded as another example of discrimination against non-procedural languages, leading to complaints in Italy and to Spain’s filing a case with the Court of Justice. The European Parliament too criticized the lack of publication in the other 20 official languages. Eventually, on 20/6/2007 the competition notice was republished in all the official languages and the deadline for participating in the competition was postponed from 28 March to 18 July 2007.

Another case which had some prominence in the Italian media concerned the vacancy notice COM/2005/335 for the post of director-general of OLAF, which was annulled by the Court of First Instance on the initiative of the Italian government, supported by Spain and Latvia (judgment issued on 20/11/2008 in case T-185/05)27. While the Court granted Italy’s application, some remarks need to be made on the exact meaning of this judgment. As a matter of fact, and contrary to what seemed to suggest most Italian newspapers in their comments on the judgment, the normal practice of the Commission has always been (before and after this judgment) to publish vacancy notices in all the official languages of the EU: the judgment in case T-185/05 has annulled a decision which only concerned vacancy notices for senior management posts published in the period November 2004-31 December 2006. Moreover, the judgment states clearly that the Commission can legitimately decide to publish vacancy notices in a limited number of languages, provided that it respects two conditions: 1) the languages in which the vacancy notice is published (for example EN, FR and DE) must be (amongst) those whose knowledge is required for the vacant post; 2) the linguistic versions of the Official Journal in which the vacancy notice is not published must provide the information that the notice is published in the EN, FR and DE versions of the same Official Journal, so as to enable all potential candidates (also those who read the Official Journal in a version other than EN, FR or DE) to apply for the post.

6.2.4.3. Calls for tender


Another often-heard complaint by the Italian government concerns delays in translating calls for tender into Italian, which damages the interests of Italian enterprises and citizens as compared to those of other Member States.

As a matter of fact, notices of calls for tender are generally published in the Official Journal at the same time in all the EU languages. However, the invitation to tender, the model contract and the technical specifications are normally made available by the relevant services on their web sites only in one or two official languages, but potential tenderers receive them in their languages upon request and within 5 working days.


7. DGT in Italy

DGT Field Office: Until the end of 2003 a translator from DGT used to be posted for a few years to the European Commission’s Representation in Milan. When the DGT Field Offices were reactivated in 2005, the DGT translator selected for Italy was posted to the European Commission’s Representation in Rome. Since 2007, two language officers have been working in the Rome Field Office.

European Master’s in Translation (EMT): The EMT is a project that encourages European Universities to establish a common curriculum for translator training.

The EMT aims to:

– encourage universities to develop post-graduate courses in translation and provide them with a model curriculum of a Master’s degree in translation;

– develop the labour market for translators in the new Member States;

– make DGT standards visible to the academic world across the European Union;

– promote multilingualism by strengthening the Commission’s ties with universities involved in translation research and teaching, and train professional translators, enhancing standards where necessary.

Three Italian universities programmes which have been selected to be part of the EMT network: the University of Bologna-Forlì, the LUSPIO University in Rome and the Trieste University.

The EMT project launched by DGT follows the European Master’s in Conference Interpreting (EMCI), a project initiated by DG Interpretation that has been operational since 1998. Trieste University is among the partners of the EMCI.


Juvenes Translatores: Juvenes Translatores is a translation contest for pupils of European schools launched by DGT with the aim of disseminating understanding of the translation profession and familiarising students with European language policy.


In 2010, 96 Italian schools registered and 58 (the maximum allowed for Italy) actually participated. The winner - Anca Maria Matei – came from Liceo Scientifico "Bruno Toushek",

Grottaferrata. She translated from Romanian into Italian.


Terminology co-operation: DGT is actively supporting the REI (Rete d’Eccellenza dell’Italiano Istituzionale: Network of Excellence for Institutional Italian). The REI project was launched in November 2005 by the Italian Department, with the full support of the Field Office, in order to foster a closer cooperation between language professionals working in the EU institutions and language professionals working in Italian institutions (Ministries, Universities and selected linguistic bodies), with the ultimate purpose of promoting clarity, concision and accessibility of the Italian language. The REI initiative has already proven to be an excellent device for establishing direct relationships between language professionals and making the DGT’s practical way of working known. The REI is also a privileged forum that can help diffuse the Commission translation practices and terminology such as the IATE database among linguists and freelance translators. DGT translators on their part benefit from the exchange of views with experts in the various disciplines.


Apart from the purely linguistic/terminological aspects, this initiative should also be seen as a practical contribution to giving the Commission a higher profile in linguistic circles.

1 See below, under 3.1.

2 Source: Special Eurobarometer 243, Europeans and their Languages, February 2006, http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_243_en.pdf. Please note that these figures are based on self-evaluation by respondents.

3 On the Accademia della Crusca, see below under 3.6.

4 http://www.parlamento.it/parlam/leggi/99482l.htm

5 Article 3 of the Statute reads as follows: "In the Region, all citizens shall receive equal treatment, irrespective of the language group to which they belong, and therefore their ethnic and cultural characteristics shall be preserved".

6 http://www.regione.fvg.it/rafvg/export/sites/default/RAFVG/AT5/ARG3/FOGLIA2/allegati/ITA_testo_38.pdf

7 Some 15,000 Catalan-speakers reside around the area of Alghero in the north-west corner of Sardinia; they are the descendants of a large group of Catalans who migrated from Catalonia in the 14th century.

8 Some 20,000 people living in Valle d’Aosta speak a dialect of Franco-Provençal that is similar to dialects spoken in France. About 1,400 people living in Faeto and Celle San Vito, two small towns close to Foggia (Apulia), speak another dialect of Franco-Provençal.

9 Friulian is a Romance language sometimes referred to as eastern Ladin since it is connected with Ladin. On 23 November 2007 the Regional Council of Friuli-Venezia Giulia adopted Regional Law 29/2007, which provides for the optional learning of Friulian in schools, for the use of Friulian in the public administration and for the support of media using Friulian. In a recent judgment the Italian Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional some provisions of this law (see paragraph 6.2.1 below for more details).

10 Ladin is a Rhaeto-Romance language spoken in the Dolomite mountains of Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto (Belluno). It is closely related to Swiss Romansh, Venetian and Friulian. Speakers are about 35,000. Since Ladin counts many varieties, the Planning Service of the Ladin Language (SPELL - Servisc de Planificazion y Eleborazion dl Lingaz Ladin) is working towards the creation of a standard Ladin language.

11 Occitan is spoken by some 40,000 people living in Piedmont and Liguria.

12 Sardinian is remarkable for being the most conservative of the Romance languages in terms of phonology and for its pre-Roman substratum. Since Sardinian has 5 main varieties, the Sardinian regional government promoted the creation of a standardized form of the language (the so called “Limba Sarda Comuna”) and in 2006 decided that the local administration should use this standard.

13 Cimbrian is a Germanic language related to Austro-Bavarian spoken in some parts of Veneto.

14 Mocheno is another Germanic language related to Bavarian spoken in some villages close to Trento.

15 Walser is related to Swiss German and is spoken in some parts of Valle d’Aosta and Piedmont.

16 Arbëresh, a dialect of Albanian, is spoken by some 80,000 people living in southern Italy and in central Sicily. The dialect has been preserved since groups of Albanians fleeing the Turks emigrated in the 15th century.

17 In the Molise Region some 2,000 people speak a Croatian dialect called Molise Croatian or Slavisano. The dialect has been preserved since groups of Croats fleeing the Turks emigrated from Dalmatia in the 15th century.

18 Scattered across southern Italy (Apulia and Calabria) are some 15,000 speakers of a Greek dialect known as Griko or Graecanic, the last living trace of the ancient Magna Graecia.

19 On 12 June 2009 the Italian government challenged before the Constitutional Court Regional Law 11/2009 concerning the “Protection, enhancement and promotion of the linguistic heritage of Piedmont”. The law grants the Piedmontese dialect the status of minority language in order to put it on an equal footing with Occitan, Franco-Provençal, French and Walser (the other minority languages spoken in Piedmont and protected by Law 482/99). According to the government the Regional Law violates Article 6 of the Italian Constitution (“The Republic protects linguistic minorities by means of appropriate rules”) as interpreted by Law 482/99, which does not recognize Piedmontese among the minority languages deserving to be protected. On 10/05/2010 the Constitutional Court published its decision 170/2010, which grants most of the requests and arguments presented by the Italian government.

20 For decades Slovene has been used as co-official in several municipalities in the province of Trieste and Gorizia, where documents are drawn up bilingual. Slovene standard is also used in some municipalities the Natisone Valley (province of Udine), albeit more sporadically. In 2007 a one-stop State administrative service for Slovenians in Trieste was established, aimed at allowing the community to use their mother tongue when dealing with Italian public institutions.

21 The relevant national legislation are Law No. 1012 dated 19.7.1961, Law No. 932 of 22.12.1973, and Law No. 38 of 23.2.2001, concerning standards for the protection of the Slovene linguistic minority in the Friuli Venezia Giulia.

22 Of great importance for Slovene teaching schools in Italy are the international agreements signed by Italy and Yugoslavia and, after its dissolution, the Republic of Slovenia. These agreements (the Memorandum of Understanding, signed in London on 5 October 1954 and subsequent bilateral agreements, the Treaty of Osimo signed on 10 November 1975, programmes for cultural cooperation, mutual recognition of qualifications etc.) lay down some general principles, such as the right to the education in one's mother tongue for all members of the two linguistic minorities as well as specific educational initiatives aimed at consolidating and deepening the educational offer.

23 For more information on the Accademia della Crusca and its activities, see at www.accademiadellacrusca.it.

24 http://www.ladante.it/index.asp.

25 As a matter of fact, the Commission’s translation production for Italian is substantially higher than that for the other non-procedural languages.

26 As a matter of fact – and apart from individual instances of maladministration such as the two cases referred to in the text – the Italian government’s complaint that open competitions are only available in EN, FR and DE is unfounded: even when the vacancy itself is not published in all the EU official languages, vacancy notices for posts within the EU Institutions are systematically published in all the official languages, so that each EU citizen has the possibility to be informed about vacant posts.

27 The operative part of the judgment reads: “THE COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE (Fifth Chamber) hereby: 1) Annuls the decision adopted by the Commission at its 1678th meeting on 10th November 2004, whereby external publications of the vacancy notices for senior management posts in the Official Journal of the European Union would henceforth be in English, French and German for a period ending 1st January 2007; 2) Annuls vacancy notice COM/2005/335 for the post of Director-General (grade A*15/A*16) of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), published by the Commission on 9th February 2005 (OJ 2005 C 34 A, p. 3)”.


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