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Lesson Transcript

Laura: "Buongiorno!" "Sono Laura."
Marco: Marco here! Italian Pronunciation Series Lesson 1–the Italian Alphabet.
Marco: Hello, and welcome to ItalianPod101.com, the fastest, easiest, and most fun way to learn Italian!
Laura: I'm Laura, and thanks for being here with us for this Pronunciation lesson.
Marco: What is our focus today, Laura?
Laura: Today we will talk about the Italian alphabet.
Marco: It will be like learning notes for composing music.
Laura: Yes, Italian is such a melodic language, don't you think?
Marco: Absolutely. That's why I'm studying it.
Laura: Today, we will speak standard Italian.
Marco: that's originally from Tuscany, right?
Laura: Yes, of course, it changed a bit from the Middle Ages, but it's essentially the same.
Marco: The first time I was in Italy, I noticed that no one spoke the same way as my language teacher.
Laura: In Italy, there are many different dialects and regional accents. But standard Italian is, of course, the standard.
Marco: So that's what I would hear on TV, right?
Laura: Correct. If you stick to standard Italian, you won't have any problems in communicating. You will also get different accents quite soon.
Marco: As long as I manage to order food, I'm happy!
Laura: Marco, do you remember how many letters there are in the Italian alphabet?
Marco: Twenty-one or twenty-six...I always forget about that.
Laura: Well, both answers would be correct. In the Italian alphabet there are twenty-one letters for words of Italian origin, plus another five that we use for loanwords.
Marco: A loanword?
Laura: Yes, words of foreign origin. For example, "yogurt" or "yoga" are both written with a “ipsilon” that is "-Y."
Marco: That sounds like a very healthy start.
Laura: We need some positive energy to go through the alphabet in one lesson. So we have twenty-six letters that we call graphemes, but overall we have thirty sounds that we call phonemes.
Marco: Some letters can have two or more different ways of pronunciation. It depends on where they are positioned in a word.
Laura: That sounds complicated, but it will be a lot easier once we get a go at it. So, let's start to see our Italian letters one by one.
Marco: Wow, it feels like my first day in school.
Laura: Good, so let's start with the first twenty-one…"-a," "-b," "-c," "-d"
Marco: "-e," "-f," "-g," "-h," "-i"
Laura: "-l," "-m," "-n," "-o," "-p," "-q"
Marco: "-r," "-s," "-t," "-u," "-v," "-z."
Laura: That sounded really nice, don't you think?
Marco: Yes, and if you repeat this like a mantra every day, you'll get the hang of it soon.
Laura: Repeat it while doing your morning yoga exercises.
Marco: Or while eating your morning yogurt.
Laura: Maybe speaking while eating is not such a good idea.
Marco: You're right, but this is just my first day in school, so please excuse my poor manners.
Laura: So it's time to get to work on our alphabet…"-a," "-b," "-c," "-d."
Marco: Can we see some words with these letters?
Laura: Of course.
Marco: Let's start with "-a."
Laura: "-a," [aaaaa], "albero."
Marco: "Albero" means "tree." "-b."
Laura: "-b," [bbbb], "barba."
Marco: "Barba" means "beard." Now "-c."
Laura: "-c," [ccccc], "casa," or [chhh], "ciao."
Marco: "Casa" means "home." "Ciao" means "hello" or "goodbye." One letter, two very different sounds.
Laura: Yes, a [cccc] and [ccchhh], depending on which letter follows after our "-c." We will learn that, don't worry.
Marco: Okay. Now "-d."
Laura: "-d," [dddd], "dito."
Marco: "Dito" means "finger."
Laura: By the way, "un dito" is a very useful measuring tool in Italy. "Un dito di vino," meaning "a finger of wine." Do you know what that means?
Marco: Well, if the finger is vertical, it means you are going to drink a lot of wine. If it's horizontal, you are going to drink just a little.
Laura: Don’'t worry, it's horizontal. But back to our alphabet now. "-e," "-f," "-g," "-h," "-i."
Marco: "-e," "-f," "-g," "-h," "-i." Any word with "-e," "-e" in English?
Laura: "-e," [eeeee], "elefante."
Marco: "Elefante" means "elephant." Now "-f."
Laura: "-f," [ffffffff], "fuoco."
Marco: [fffffff]...sounds like an angry cat. "Fuoco," That's "fire." "-g."
Laura: "-g," [gggggg], "gatto." Or [gggggggii], "giocare."
Marco: "Gatto" means "cat." "Giocare" means "to play." Again, the same letter, two different sounds.
Laura: That’'s right, "-c" and "-g" behave in the same way, changing their pronunciation depending on the letter that follows.
Marco: Okay. Now, any words with "acca" that is "-h"?
Laura: "Hotel."
Marco: Wait, I didn't hear any "-h" here. I heard just an "-o."
Laura: True, that's because it's a silent "-h." We call it “acca muta." Literally, "mute -h."
Marco: Oh, so the "acca" is never pronounced.
Laura: That’'s right. There's no sound for "acca." Sometimes it modifies the way words are pronounced, but we'll have a look at it in another lesson, so don't worry about that just now.
Marco: Got it. So, any word for "-i," that is "-i?"
Laura: "-i," [iiiiiii], "ieri."
Marco: "Ieri" means "yesterday."
Laura: And now on with the alphabet…"-l," "-m," "-n," "-o," "-p," "-q."
Marco: A word with "-l," please.
Laura: "Elle," [lllllll], "letto."
Marco: A "letto" is a "bed." "-m."
Laura: "-,m," [mmmmmmm], "matto."
Marco: "Matto" means "crazy." "-n."
Laura: "-n," [nnnnn], "notte."
Marco: "Notte," "night." "-o."
Laura: "-oO," [ooooo], "opera."
Marco: "Opera," of course. Very melodic indeed. "-p."
Laura: "-p," [ppppp], "pasta."
Marco: "Opera" and "pasta." Now you're getting a bit too obvious. "-q"
Laura: "-q," [qqqqqq], "quadro."
Marco: "Quadro" means "painting." That sounds like the "-c" for "casa" we saw just before, doesn't it? [kkkk].
Laura: "Casa," "quadro"...[kkkk]. Yes, now we get the same sound, but a different letter. We will learn when to use which another time. Just remember the sound [kkkkk] is sometimes written with a "-c" and sometimes with a "-q."
Marco: So now we have to see "-r," "-s," "-t," "-u," "-v," "-z."
Laura: Right. "erre"...[rrrrrrrr].
Marco: I just love the Italian [rrrr] sound!
Laura: As in "ratto
Marco: "Ratto," meaning "rat?" Couldn't you pick a nicer word for a nice-sounding letter? Anyway...
Laura: "Esse," [sssssss]..."sasso."
Marco: "Sasso" means "stone." Three "-s" here. "-t."
Laura: "-t," [ttttttt], "tetto."
Marco: "Tetto" means "roof." Again three "-t" nice one. "-u."
Laura: "-u," [uuuuu], "ufo."
Marco: "Ufo" is a "U.F.O." Now, "-v."
Laura: "-v," [vvvv], "vino."
Marco: "Wine," what else. Now the last one, "-z."
Laura: "Zeta," [zzzzz], "zanzara."
Marco. "A mosquito," of course. [Zzzzzz]...
Laura: Sounds just like you're getting sleepy. We still have to see the five extra letters. Remember them?
Marco: Here we go…"-j" is "i lunga," "-k" is "cappa," "-w" is "doppia vu," "-x" is "ics," "-y" is "ipsylon."
Laura: There are not so many words with those ones in Italian.
Marco: How do we pronounce them?
Laura: So, "i lunga" is sometimes like a normal Italian "-i" and sometimes like the English "-j." For example, "jacopo" or "jazz."
Marco: "Jacopo" and "jazz." Same "-j," different pronunciation.
Laura: The "kappa" is pronounced like the English "-k." No difference. Like the Italian "-c" of "casa" and "-q" of "quadro."
Marco: [kkkkkk]…crystal clear.
Laura: The "-w" or "doppia vu" is pronounced sometimes like a normal single "-v." Same as in the "-j" case. For example, "Walter," an Italian name of German origin, or "whiskey."
Marco: "Un dito di whiskey, per favore."
Laura: Not before we finish our alphabet.
Marco: We still have the "ics" and the "ipsilon."
Laura: Yes. So the "ics" sounds pretty much like the English "-x," [xxxxx]...for example, "xilofono."
Marco: Meaning a "xylophone." It was in my Italian book also.
Laura: That’'s because words starting with "-x" are very rare.
Marco: What about the "-y?"
Laura: That's an easy one. Same pronunciation as the Italian vowel "-i." [iiiiii].
Marco: Ah, I remember. "Yoga," "yogurt."