This is a GREAT question, after all, who doesn’t want to be fluent in the most beautiful language in the world spoken by Dante, Leopardi, Macchiavelli and many other classics?
There are two answers depending on which path to citizenship you will be taking:
- if you are applying for Italian Citizenship by descent, i.e. jure sanguinis you are not required to learn Italian simply because you already are an Italian citizen, you just have to prove it to the Italian Consulate if you reside abroad or to the local Town Hall in Italy. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: the day of your appointment, you will be interviewed by a consular officer who is Italian. Although the meeting is focused on reviewing your document portfolio, showing that you are making an effort to learn (or planning to learn) the language of your Ancestors is a nice touch. Ultimately, only if you fulfill all the requirements (and speaking the language is not one of those), you will receive Italian citizenship.
- if you are applying for Italian Citizenship by marriage, since 2018, you must speak Italian and show an adequate knowledge of the language (passing the level B1 test of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages - CEFRL). For those lucky female spouses of Italian citizens who were married before 1983, the process is different and thus learning Italian is not a requirement. For those who were married after 1983, males or females, who want to apply for Italian Citizenship via marriage, the only alternative is to start learning Italian and ultimately pass the language test. What to do in this case? You need to locate, possibly with the help of the Italian Consulate that have jurisdiction over the State where you reside, schools that are official CILS (Language Certification for Italian as Foreign Language) testing organizations. These institutes also offer online and/or in-person courses in preparation for the Citizenship B1 Test.
The test is usually held twice a year and it must be taken in person. You will need to fill out a registration form to be submitted at least 40 days prior to the exam. The duration of the exam (consisting of listening comprehension, reading comprehension, grammar and use of structure tests, compositions, oral interview) is about four (4) hours. The fee to take the test is about $170-$220.
Once the exam is successfully completed, the certificate must be submitted as part of the application for Italian citizenship by marriage.