Sicilian dialect 101

31 Oct 2018

Italy has many regions and every region has its own dialect. When you come to Sicily you will immerse yourself in a new, beautiful language: Sicilian dialect.

Sicilian dialect has many influences due to the central position of Sicily. Sicilian words come from the following languages: Latin, Greek, Arabic, French, Spanish, German and of course Italian.

Palermo and Catania: an ancient dispute

An interesting thing is that there isn’t only one Sicilian dialect: every village, city and even street has its own shades of this fascinating language. If you go to Catania and then to Palermo you will certainly feel the difference.

A well-known difference between these two cities is the dispute in relation to the word “arancino” (it’s a stuffed rice ball, but this is a different story). In Catania people say “arancino”, in Palermo “arancina”. Try to say “arancina” in Catania, I recommend you to start running before you say it.

Sicilian dialect: where to “find” it

What are the best venues in order to hear Sicilian dialect? Small villages are the best places because they preserve their cultural heritage and are less “spoiled” by globalization than big cities. Try to visit one of them and you will feel time has stopped there.

Explore the narrow streets, perhaps you will run into a couple of men playing cards or into a compelling bocce match. Pay attention because you will certainly hear Sicilian dialect.

But even if you visit a big town there’s a place where you can hear for sure the local dialect: the street market. It is a mix of smells, food, delicacies and local products. The official language is only one: Sicilian. Every seller tries to sell his products and to do so he shouts so loudly that you can hear him even if you are one mile away. Street markets are definitely worth a visit.

Some words from Sicily

These are some Sicilian words that you have to learn if you want to experience Sicily like a pro:

beddu (it means beautiful and it’s often used as a vocative when calling a person), caruso (boy), cirasa (cherry, from the Greek word kérasos), accura (be careful), amuninni (let’s go), a picca a picca (little by little), camurrìa (bother, annoyance), comu si? (how are you doing?), talìa (look).

Sicilian dialect has emigrated together with Sicilian people during the past decades. In USA, for example, the merge between English and Sicilian dialect has generated the Siculish slang.

Now it’s your turn

Sicilian dialect is an extremely important heritage of southern Italy and there are many organizations that promote and teach it all over the world.

So, when you plan your trip to Sicily, don’t forget to learn some Sicilian words. Maybe you will have the chance to talk with an old man while sitting on a bench somewhere in a village in the middle of nowhere. If you experience that, you are a lucky person.