When Libya and Italy meet by Asra Abdalla Abuzaid

I am really enjoying living here in Italy as I get to learn about new people, culture and language. Actually, after living here for some time, I have realized that Libyans and Italians have some things in common, for example, people in both cultures like to use a lot of hand gestures while talking, food is a huge part of our cultures and we love chatting.

In addition, I discovered that the Libyan dialect has more Italian words than I ever thought. Some of these Italian words that are used in Libyan dialect maintain the same pronunciation and meaning, for example, gonna (skirt), colla (glue) and maniglia (handle). Others are slightly different in pronunciation and have the same meaning such as lavandino (sink) which became /lawandino/ in the Libyan dialect. Some words are pronounced the same as in Italian, but used with slightly or completely different meaning, for instance, gabbia (cage) in Libyan dialect is used to mean a little box and mobilia which means ‘furniture’ in Italian, in  Libyan dialect is used to refer only to bedroom furniture.

It is worth mentioning that most of the Italian words used in the Libyan dialect are nouns. However, there are some words that are not, for example, the filler beh is used a lot in the Libyan dialect the same way it is used in Italian. There is also the expression aspetta aspetta (wait, wait) in spoken Italian, which is pronounced as /sbeta sbeta/ in the Libyan dialect and used in two ways: one with the same meaning as in Italian and the other to mean ‘slowly, slowly’. Also, the Italian word chissà (who knows) is used in Libya especially by elderly people the same way it is used in Italian, but pronounced differently as /chassi/.

There are also some Italian gestures used in Libya too. One of these is the gesture Italians make when they rub their finger into their cheek to say the food is delicious. The same gesture is used in Libya to mean that someone is beautiful.

Finally, the Libyan dialect contains so many Italian words, more than I can mention here and they exist in different aspects of life. Now, you might be wondering  ‘how did all these words come to the Libyan dialect?’ Well, in short, it was because of the Italian colonization of Libya and the trade relationship the two countries have maintained.


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