Wow! We've just gotten started, but already we have found personal tutors (on YouTube) who are willing to teach us Italian right in our homes. We don't even have to get dressed... this is great!

Now that we've got our alphabets learned, let's take a deeper look at the sounds of letters and letter combinations, and learn a little bit about spelling. [Note: I'm going to be talking about Italian here, but this is an example of what you should be learning in any language you study.]

Here are the details I find notable about Italian pronunciation:
  • c and g - make strong sounds (/k/ and /g/ respectively) before the letters a, o, and u:
    cosa is pronounced "ko-za"
    gatto is pronounced "gat-to"
    but have softened sounds (/cʃ/ and /dʒ/) before e, and i:
    ci is pronounced "chee"
    gelato is pronounced "jel-a-to"
    To get the hard sounds back when using an e or an i an h has to be added:
    che is pronounced "kay"
    ghetto is pronounced "get-to"
    This is completely backward from the an English-speaker's logic. But now that I know this rule, I'll be ready to pronounce words correctly.
  • gl and gn - when the letter g precedes the letter l, a special case exists where the g is silenced and the l or n becomes palatized.
    foglio is pronounced "fo-lyo"
    gniocchi is pronounced "nyo-kee"
    These palatized consonants are similar to the Spanish ll and ñ, the Portuguese lh and nh, or the Russian ль and нь. These are sounds that seem to appear in most languages, but which seem to lack unique representation in alphabets.
  • z - makes the typical European /ts/ sound, rather than the /z/ sound we're accustomed to in English
    pizza is pronounced "peet-tsa"
  • double consonants are elongated, with a tiny stop in the middle:
    leggere is pronounced "leg-ger-reh"
    caffè is pronounced "kaf-feh"
    attività is pronounced "at-tiv-it-ah"
  • stress falls on the second-to-last syllable (just as in Spanish and Polish) in most cases. Most exceptions will involved an accent mark, but there are some that don't.

More or less, that's all there is to it. You should take the time to perform a similar exercise with the alphabet for whatever language you've chosen, and make note of the sounds that are new, or letters which sound different than their English equivalents.

And then... armed with your knowledge of Italian pronunciation, go find some Italian words and pronounce them! You can find them anywhere. Check out Google in your foreign language. Sound out the instructions that were included with your DVD player.

You will also be surprised when you realize that you've been saying many of these words wrong your whole life! For me, one example is pistachio - which I must now learn to say as "pees-tak-io".

What words did you find in the language you are studying that you've been saying wrong? Leave some comments and let me know!



comments powered by Disqus