I was talking to an Italian friend and explaining how I was conducting a job interview for some new graduates at our office. I used the word ‘intervista’ to describe this–which, as I was rapidly pointed out, is of course incorrect. Indeed, ‘intervista’ is a classic example of a false friend, i.e. a word that sounds like a word in your native language but has an entirely different meaning in the one you are learning. Although an intervista is indeed an interview of sorts, it is only used to describe a meeting between a journalist or presenter and a subject. For example, “Il giornalista ha avuto un’intervista col ministro.” (The journalist had an interview with the minister).
It is not used to describe job interviews–this is instead a ‘colloquio’, or more accurately a ‘colloquio di lavoro’.
Yet another type of interview is an ‘interrogatorio’, which is what you would use to describe a police interview. This is of course the root of the English word ‘interrogation,’ which we use in a similar vein.
Another, closely related concept with a range of words is the humble meeting. The most common word to describe a formal or planned meeting of any sort, including in business, is ‘riunione,’ which is basically where ‘reunion’ comes from. A room dedicated to meetings, i.e. a meeting room :-), is a ‘sala riunioni’. If you want to tell someone that you’re going to a meeting, you say that you are ‘participando ad una riunione.’
A meeting of a relatively large number of people is an ‘assemblea’–this could be used to describe a public meeting, for instance, but also meetings of a religious nature. You guessed it, this is where the English word ‘assembly’ comes from.
A nice phrase to know is the ‘riunione a porte chiuse’ (meeting with closed doors), which is used to describe a ‘closed meeting’, as we would say in English.
A meeting that hasn’t necessarily been planned or is relatively informal is an ‘incontro’ (think the English ‘encounter’!). For example, you could have a family meeting (incontro di famiglia) or a classroom meeting (incontro di classe). If you were to say ‘riunione di famiglia’ it might refer to a larger gathering involving extended family.
Another useful word in this context is ‘raduno’, meaning gathering. This could be used to describe a meeting (formal or informal) where people aren’t necessarily sitting down to discuss something specific. If someone is asking people to gather to hear an announcement, then that is a ‘raduno’ rather than a ‘riunione’.
However, if unsure, just go with ‘riunione’.
After all this, according to another Italian I recently spoke to, the most common way nowadays of saying ‘meeting’ in Italy, especially in a business context, is, erm, ‘meeting’. 😮