LONDON, Sept. 12, 2008 -- In Italy, where people often disguise their ignorance of English with a colorful sign language when attempting communication with real English speakers, many have grown quite accustomed to inserting a few English words in their everyday conversations.
Italians go on "il weekend" and can't bear "lo stress," use "il computer" and follow "l'election day."
But now an influential cultural institute is leading a battle against the intrusion of English in Italian conversation, which Italians call "Anglitaliano."
The Dante Alighieri Society, which proudly draws its name from the most illustrious Italian poet, has had enough of words like "OK," "briefing" and "mission" popping up in Italian sentences and has been asking visitors to its Web site to point the finger at foreign words polluting everyday Italian.
"Our survey shows that, although the hard core of foreign words included in our language doesn't bother anybody, there are a few excess that many Italians dislike," Alessandro Masi, chairman of the Dante Alighieri Society, told ABC News.
According to the survey, respondents can't stand Italian use of the word "weekend," which is the least popular of all English words for 11 percent of them, followed by "OK" (10 percent), "welfare" (8 percent) and "briefing" (5 percent).
"There is the widespread misunderstanding among some Italians that adding an English word to the speech is more international. It's not true! It often hides they can't speak any more English than the word itself," said Italian journalist Patrizio Nissirio.
High-Tech Speak Becomes International
Many foreign words in Italian are drawn from the fashion or the economic worlds and are used to fill in the gaps of the language. And there are new realities, such as the Internet or the field of high-tech, which come out from international contexts and need an international vocabulary to be described.
"Rejecting Anglicisms in 2008 is backward," said Elisa Ballabio, a broker from Milan, said in an interview with ABC News. "People need to understand that a language develops and can become more international, just like a culture. What I am appalled at is the Italianization of English words. Shall we comment on 'forwardo'? 'Deliverare le impressions'? 'Overperformare'? This is scaring it means we are not able to use our language correctly."
The battle for Italian spilled over to politics as Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi waged war against the European Union, where German, English and French are preferred languages to Italian.
In an outburst of nationalism he has urged the ministers in his government to defend Italian within the European community, asking them to refuse to attend meetings or voting sessions where the relevant paperwork is not in their language.
Some language experts believe Italian is spreading, regardless of Italian citizens' increased use of English.
Aldo Maria Morace, dean of the faculty of Italian literature at Sassari University told ABC News: "Look, the Italian language abroad is spreading notwithstanding the Italians. If Berlusconi really wanted to protect our culture and language, he could do so in many other ways. I feel this might be more a demagogic move to please the more nationalists members of his coalition."