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Lesson Transcript

Welcome to Introduction to Italian.
My name is Alisha and I'm joined by...
Hi everyone! I'm Marika.
In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of Italian pronunciation.
The Basics of Timing
Italian is what is called a "syllable-timed" language. What this simply means is that every syllable is pronounced for roughly an equal amount of time.
avranno (“they will have”)
Notice how each syllable is pronounced for roughly the same amount of time? The first n is held for roughly the same amount of time as all the other syllables.
avranno (“they will have”)
English, on the other hand, is a "stress-timed" language. Unstressed syllables are often shortened, while stressed syllables are pronounced longer.
The stressed syllable "tu" in "opportunity" is pronounced longer than all the other syllables. Listen to it again.
Compare this once again to the syllables in Italian.
avranno (“they will have”)
Even though Italian is not a stressed-timed language, individual words still have primary stress.
In most Italian words, the stress falls on the second to last syllable. So you'll need to pronounce this a tiny, tiny bit longer and louder than the other syllables, but not by much.
avranno (“they will have”)
buonGIORno (“Good morning”)
Apart from the stressed syllable, all other syllables are pronounced for roughly an equal amount of time.
English vs. Italian sounds
One of the biggest differences between English and Italian pronunciation, is that Italian is largely phonetic, meaning most words are pronounced as they are written. This makes learning Italian much simpler than learning English, for example.
For the most part, English and Italian share the same consonant and vowel sounds.
i, u,
b, d, f, m
In fact, 75% of ALL sounds in Italian are similar to English, so most of these sounds will be familiar to you.
Some sounds, however, will be quite new. The good news though is that these will be very limited.
e (in bene)
e (in vero)
z (in zero)
gl (in maglia)
Let's briefly take a look at some of the unique sounds of Italian.
The Unique Sounds of Italian
First, let's start with the vowels.
There are five vowels in Italian: A, E, I, O, and U.
The vowels A, I, and U, will always be pronounced in the same way.
a, i, u
These sounds should be relatively easy for you to duplicate.
The vowels E, and O, however, will be a little more challenging.
They each have two variant sounds: One 'open' version, and one 'closed' version. The open version requires you to 'open' your mouth wide, while the 'closed' version is pronounced more narrowly.
Compare the open E, followed by a closed E.
e (open), e (closed)
e (open), e (closed)
Now the open O, followed by the closed O.
o (open), o (closed)
o (open), o (closed)
Even when there are two or more vowels in a row, just pronounce them separately.
aereo (“airplane”)
Okay, now let's move on to the consonants.
As we mentioned before, most consonant sounds are identical to the ones found in English. How would you pronounce this word in Italian?
Despite not knowing Italian pronunciation, the chances are that your pronunciations of the S, P, and G consonants were spot on. Most consonants you encounter shouldn't be too difficult for you to pronounce.
Some consonants, like the rolled R sound in Italian however, will be more challenging.
Do you remember how to pronounce this word? We taught you this word in the previous lesson.
(2 second pause)
It's pronounced...
This word uses the rolled R sound.
To pronounce this sound, place the tip of your tongue on the gum ridge behind your upper teeth, just like you do when you want to say the English D sound. Then relax your tongue, and blow out air.
Concentrate the air pressure at the tip of your tongue and gum ridge. The air will push your tongue away from the gum ridge. When this happens, try to force your tongue back into position. This should all happen very quickly.
One useful trick, is to flip your tongue up and back against the gum ridge the very moment you feel the air begin to push through.
Well done. This is a challenging sound, so don't be too hard on yourself if you didn't get it.
Double Consonants
Another significant aspect of Italian pronunciation, is the pronunciation of double consonants. Unlike English, double consonants must be pronounced clearly and held for longer periods of time in Italian. Failure to do so could result in miscommunication.
pala (“shovel”)
palla (“ball”)
Remember how Italian is a syllable-timed language? Imagine that you're holding that consonant sound for one extra syllable.
palla (“ball”)
palla (“ball”)
Many learners do not hold the sound for long enough, so when in doubt, pronounce it a little longer than you would normally.
OK. Let's recap what we've learned in this lesson.
In this lesson, you learned that Italian is a "syllable-timed" language, where syllables are pronounced for roughly an equal amount of time.
Italian pronunciation is very regular, so most words are pronounced as they're spelled.
Collectively, nearly all sounds in Italian are identical to English, and there are only a handful of new sounds that you need to learn.
And finally, double consonants an important aspect of Italian pronunciation which you need to look out for.
We've covered only the basics of Italian pronunciation. If you're interested in learning more, check out the entire course we created named "The Ultimate Guide to Italian Pronunciation". In that course, we cover and break down every single sound in the Italian language, showing you mouth and tongue positioning, and giving you tips to help you perfect your Italian Pronunciation.
In the next lesson, we'll introduce you to the basics of Italian grammar, where you'll learn about Italian word order and how to build basic phrases in Italian.
See you in the next lesson. Bye!