Rome is a well visited city because of it’s great attractions, food and mostly good weather. But just how widely spoken is English there? Can an English speaker go there and get by fine just using that, without needing any Italian? What’s the level of spoken English in Rome?
English is fairly widely spoken in Rome because of the very large tourist market. You’ll find it very widely spoken, at least to a basic level, in all the central places that tourists go. There is never usually a problem using only English in Rome for short stays.
In other words, if you’re going to Rome on holiday, you’ve nothing to worry about. You don’t really need any Italian, although a few basic phrases always helps with the locals, and it’s impossible not to pick the basics up anyway, even if you’re not really trying.
Let’s look at English in Rome in more detail.
Do Tourists Have Any Language Problems In Rome?
The universal feedback on this is no. Tourists never report any problem using English in Rome, since it’s such a key tourist city, receiving millions of tourists a year from the major English speaking countries.
Therefore, as a city, Rome is well equipped to handle English speakers. English is widely spoken in all the following places:
- Tourist shops
- Attractions (English spoken, plus English language leaflets)
- Restaurants (at least enough to take your order).
- Train stations usually have signs also in English, plus staff who can speak it.
- Taxi drivers mostly speak at least basic English.
- Tourist Information centers
- Walking tours of Rome available fully in English.
- Younger people under 30 will especially be able to speak English. Older people may struggle a bit.
Of course, learning a few basic words to be polite like hello/please/thankyou (ciao, per favore, grazie) is always appreciated and pretty much happens automatically anyway when you go there. See the section at the bottom for more useful phrases. But for shorter vacation visits, Italian is not strictly required to get by in Rome.
It’s one of those European cities along with Barcelona and Lisbon that does have a strong international feel to it because of the tourism and business, so you can be more comfortable there using English than a lot of other Italian cities.
Of course, as you move outside the central areas, and into smaller shops/cafe’s/suburbs, English is less spoken, in line with most of the rest of Italy. Only around one third of the Italian population as a whole speaks English, and even then often only basic. In the central parts of Rome, this maybe moves up to around 50%, because of all the tourism.
Is Fluent English Spoken In Rome?
This is an important clarification point, since whilst English is pretty widely spoken in Rome, it still tends to be only basic English, just enough for people to do their jobs dealing with tourists.
As with most of Italy as a whole (Milan is an exception), do not expect massively fluent or proficient levels of English; only basic English is usually spoken by the locals that can speak it.
Therefore, even if you do converse in English, it’s still important to do so in a way it’s easier for the local people to understand. Here are some tips for being better understood using English in Rome:
- Speak clearly and slowly.
- Use simple, easy to understand words – no slang or clever words like “kinda” or “sort of”. Just keep it simple.
- Use simple, short sentences, don’t go off on tangents or rambles.
- Try to speak in the simple present tense – “I go to …..tomorrow” instead of the more complex conditional or future tense (I will go to…. tomorrow.). Italians understand and speak in the simple present tense best.
If you want to find truly fluent English speakers, these are much rarer, both in Rome and Italy in general. Here are some suggestions:
- Younger people under 30 – some may be students with a strong grasp of English or who have perhaps been on placements or studied abroad and have better fluency. Older people may struggle more.
- The university system has a higher percentage of fluent English speakers.
- In general, look for professional looking businessmen type people – some of them may speak better English.
- There are walking tours of Rome mostly conducted in English. The guides will always speak good English if you want help with directions.
- The tourist information centers often have at least 1 member of staff who speaks good English to convey details to tourists.
Can You Live In Rome Speaking Only English?
Rome definitely has more of an international feel than most other Italian cities, therefore the answer to this leans more towards yes.
It is possible to live in Rome long term and only speak English, not needing much Italian. English is widely enough spoken that it is possible to get through the basics of daily life with only English.
However, as with pretty much any European city you move to, it is still strongly recommended to learn Italian anyway, both to help with cultural assimilation and also open up more social opportunities and make friends locally.
Also no matter where you settle in Italy, speaking some Italian will also come in handy when you inevitably have to deal with the bureaucratic and slow moving Italian state system, or even with commercial businesses to get daily things sorted where staff may not speak much English.
Therefore, although not strictly necessary in Rome, being able to speak Italian is still strongly advised. See our article on living in Rome without Italian for more on this.
Can You Work In Rome Only Speaking English?
Again, as Rome is such an international city, and the answer again is sometimes yes.
It is sometimes possible to work in Rome only speaking English, if you get placed there working for an international company. Some of these multi-nationals may conduct most of their business in English, with either little or no Italian required.
However, as with living there, it’s still strongly recommended to learn to speak some Italian anyway. Also, these jobs with multi-nationals are hard to come by, and you won’t be able to get away with not speaking Italian in most other jobs.
Working for any Italian company in Rome, you’re almost certainly going to need to speak Italian. Sometimes they’ll require fluency; other times they may take you on with basic Italian skills on the condition you are continuing to learn and improve and interact in Italian.
Therefore, it’s possible, but nowhere near guaranteed, that you could work in Rome speaking only English. Again, see our post on living in Rome for more details.
Can You Study In Rome Only Speaking English?
Because of it’s strong international feel, Rome is one of those cities in Italy (along with Milan and Bologna) where you can actually also enroll in university programs that are taught in English.
Whilst choice is somewhat limited, and you have to shop around, here are some examples:
- List of programmes delivered in English at Sapienza University Rome
- List of courses delivered in English at University Roma Tre
For someone studying in the fields they offer, this could be a great bonus – you can study an advanced level degree (usually Masters course) entirely in English, and live in a great Italian city as well. However, as with all cases, it’s still better to learn some Italian anyway.
Learning Some Basic Italian Phrases
Even for short term trips to Rome, it’s still advisable to learn some basic Italian phrases, since the locals still appreciate an effort with at least a few words. The basics are also easy with Italian and widely known anyway.
See the video and table below for some phrases to get started with.
|How are you? (formal/friendly)||Come stai/sta?||Com-eh sty/sta?|
|Fine, thanks||Bene, grazie||Beh-ne grat-see-eh|
|Please||Per favore||Per favoor-eh|
|Sorry||Mi dispiace||Me dis-piar-chey|
|Sorry/excuse me (informal)||Scusi||Scoosi|
|Do you speak English?||Parla inglese?||Parla inglay-sey?|
|Speak slowly||Parla lente||Parla lentay|
|Where's the bathroom?||Dov'e il bagno?||Do-vay eel ban-yo?|
|I'd like this please||Vorrei questa per favore||Vorrey kwesta per favoor-eh|
|Take out/eat in (for food)||Porta via/mange qui||Porta via/manje kwee|
|1/2 beers please||Uno/Due birra(e) per favore||Oono/doo-ey birra(eh) per favoor-eh|
|1/2 tickets please||Uno/Due biglietto(i) per favore||Oono/doo-ey billyetto(i) per favoor-eh|
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