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some hints to learn Italian pronunciation

Posted by Monica on June 25, 2011

Why when I try to speak Italian, Italian people can’t understand me?

You need some help, so today I give you some quick hints to learn Italian pronunciation.

First of all in Italian we pronounce the most of the letter exactly because Italian is a phonetic language, which means that it is spoken the way it is written 😉

Italian and English share the Latin alphabet, but the sounds represented by the letters often are very different in the two languages.

All Italian vowels have a clear and defined sound, and when two or three vowels meet, they maintain their distinct sound, like in “ciao“ or “aiuto (=help)”: they are never slurred.

In addition to this, remember: Italian words end in a vowel and you must pronounce them according to the International Phonetic Alphabet!

Moreover, in Italian all consonants except “h” can be doubled. Double consonants are pronounced much more strongly than single consonants.

Some very important difference:

C” is pronounced /t∫ / when it comes before “i” and “e” but /k/ when it comes before “a”; “o”; “u”

So, “C” before “a”, “o”, “u” and before consonants has a sound similar to the English k (-> Caffè; Coca cola; cuore; crema), but “C” before “e” and “i” has a sound similar to the English ch as in church instead (-> Ciao; cena).

H ” is very important after “c” and “g”, but is silent at the begin of a word instead.

G” is pronounced /dʒ / when it comes before “i” and “e” (-> Gelato; Germania; giorno), but /g/ when it comes before “a”; “o”; “u” (-> gatto; golf; gusto)

So “G” before “a”, “o”, and “u” and before consonants has a sound like the g in good; but before “e” and “i” has a sound like the g in general.

Gli”  is like lj or ll in million and

Gn” is like the ny in canyon so,  I like “gli gnocchi

R” is very different from the English r; it is always pronounced with one flip of the tongue against the gums of the upper teeth (the alveolar ridge): this is the famous Italian trilled r with vibrations.

Now listen to the Italian songs on this page [go]:   enjoy these songs with karaoke 😉

Remember: listen to and sing Italian songs  in this way you can develop your listening and comprehension skills!

6 Responses to “some hints to learn Italian pronunciation”

  1. Bob said

    Great post. Pronunciation is definitely a problem for me as well. I’m learning a bit of Italian too and I’m using the Eton Institute phraseapp on my iPhone. The great thing about this app in particular is that it contains audio aids by native Italian speakers plus transliteration so I’m learning words and phrases very easily. Good blog!

  2. elaine said

    a very helpful activity-many thanks-elaine

  3. Mike said

    When I first learned Italian I had a hard time with the `gl` sound as in gli, but with practice I mastered it. Now it`s just those rolled r`s that give me a bit of difficulty. Nice post for the learners.

  4. David T said

    I did not realize until very recently that the vowels in Italian do not have multiple sounds like they do in English. The letter “e” in Italian sounds more like the long “a” in English, so “Devo” sounds more like “Dayvo” than “Deevo.” Learning that was a HUGE help for me in terms of pronouncing Italian words more correctly.

    • Ciao Davide,

      agli adulti la pronuncia crea sempre difficoltà, ma con molto esercizio tutto diventa più facile.
      Proprio ieri, una studentessa ha provato a seguire la mia pronuncia (la parola era “Responsabilità”), ed è riuscita a pronunciare una perfetta “R” italiana. E’ stato molto gratificante vederla gioire mentre diceva: “si può fare! ce l’ho fatta, dopo due anni … allora è possibile! Devi dirlo a tutti i tuoi studenti!”

      Consiglio a tutti, sia a chi vive in Italia, sia a chi vive in una nazione in cui è impossibile parlare italiano, di ascoltare le canzoni e di canticchiarle: solo sviluppando l’abilità di ascolto, lentamente si arriva a un netto miglioramento della pronuncia.

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