Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Transcript

Laura: "Buongiorno a tutti!" "Hi, everyone!"
Marco: Marco here! Pronunciation Series Lesson 4 – Specific Italian Consonants
Marco: Hi, this is Marco, and I am joined here by Laura.
Laura: So we're progressing quickly with our pronunciation lessons, isn't that so?
Marco: Yes, we can almost say anything we want now in Italian.
Laura: After this lesson, you'll know how to pronounce specific Italian consonants and consonant groups.
Marco: Today, we're going through those consonants we skipped in our previous lesson's overview.
Laura: Remember we said that a consonant might change its usual sound depending on which letter follows.
Marco: Okay, so let's think about phonemes rather than letters.
Laura: To put it simply, a phoneme is the sound unit of which spoken words are made of.
Marco: Eh?
Laura: You just emitted an utterance, or a phoneme. Alone, it didn't mean much, but a sequence of phonemes will make a word. If you only could articulate more, Marco, you would say a word.
Marco: Anyhow, you answered my question already.
Laura: We are getting a bit too theoretical here.
Marco: Yes, let's move on to practice the Italian phonemes!
Laura: Let's start with [k]. "Casa," "coda," "cubo."
Marco: "Casa," meaning "home," "coda," meaning "tail," and "cubo," meaning "cube."
Laura: So when "-c" is followed by "-a," "-o," or "-u," it is pronounced [k].
Marco: Where else do we find the [k] sound, Laura?
Laura: For example, whenever "-c" is followed by "-h."
Marco: Yes, "acca" is never pronounced in Italian, but it can modify the meaning of a word or its sound.
Laura: For example, "-che," "-chi."
Marco: Written "-c-h-e" and "-c-h-i." "-Che" and "-chi."
Laura: Correct. Do you know any words with "-che" and "-chi?"
Marco: "Perché," meaning "why," and "chi," meaning "who."
Laura: That's a bit confusing, maybe because if there's a "-c" and an "-h" in English, it's pronounced in a totally different way.
Marco: Any tips here?
Laura: Well, just think "-k" when you see a "-c" + "-h."
Marco: It should become automatic after a little practice.
Laura: There's another consonant that is pronounced as [k].
Marco: That's the "-q." Is that right?
Laura: Yes, you will only find it before a "-u" and another vowel. "Qua," "que," "qui," "quo."
Marco: Is there any difference in pronunciation between the "-c" and "-q" when followed by a "-u?"
Laura: It sounds exactly the same…[ku]. You'll just have to learn when to use which, but you'll get there, don't worry. For now, let's concentrate on the pronunciation.
Marco: Shall we practice some "-q" words together?
Laura: Okay, so try this…"quaderno."
Marco: "Quaderno," meaning "notebook."
Laura: "Questo," meaning "this."
Marco: "Questo quaderno," meaning "this notebook."
Laura: "Bravo." "Quindici," meaning "fifteen."
Marco: "Quota," meaning "share."
Laura: So to recap, we will find the [k] sound in the following cases.
Marco: When "-c" is followed by another consonant including the "-h," or by the vowels "-a" or "-u," and whenever we have a "-q."
Laura: Not so difficult after all. Remember to put an "-h" in between "-c" and "-e" or "-i," otherwise it will be pronounced "-ce" or "-ci."
Marco: That's called "ci dolce," isn't it so?
Laura: Yes, literally meaning "sweet -c." In fact, "-ci" and "-ce" are rather sweet to the ear.
Marco: "Cibo" meaning "food," and "cena" meaning "dinner."
Laura: Thinking about eating, for a change?
Marco: "Certo!" "Sure."
Laura: Anyway, it's too early for dinner. We still have to see quite a few phonemes.
Marco: Oh yes, I remember that the most difficult ones to get were "-gn" and "-gli." (Marco practices his "-gn" and "-gli"). "-Gn"..."-gli"...
Laura: So, as Marco just pointed out, the "-gn" and "-gli" sounds are very challenging. There are no such sounds in English.
Marco: I tried hard to learn those sounds so that I could order one of my favorite Italian dishes.
Laura: What is it, Marco?
Marco: "Gn-,""Gnocchi."
Laura: That was pretty impressive, you sounded really Italian. So let's have a closer look at the consonant "-g," which can be modified into a bunch of sounds.
Marco: So what happens if "-g" is followed by a vowel?
Laura: As with the "-c," the sound can be hard or sweet depending on the vowel. We will have "ga," "go," "gu," and "ge," "gi."
Marco: And again, we will need an "-h" if we want to say "ghi" and "ghe."
Laura: Yes, just sandwich the "-h" between the "-g" and the "-i" or "-e," and you will have a hard "-g."
Marco: So that's exactly what happens with a "-c."
Laura: Yes, let's see some examples. "Gatto," "gorilla," "gufo," "geco," "giraffa."
Marco: "Gatto" means "cat," "gorilla" means "gorilla," "gufo" means "owl," "geco" means "gecko," and "giraffa" means "giraffe."
Laura: "Ghepardo" means "cheetah," and "ghiro" meaning "dormouse."
Marco: So it's all about animals today.
Laura: We talked about a lot of food the other day when we were practicing doubled consonants, remember?
Marco: That's fair enough. That will distract me from food for a while.
Laura: Okay, so our "-g" is [g] when followed by most consonants. But some groups of consonants will have the difficult Italian sounds you mentioned before.
Marco: "Gn-,""Gnocchi."
Laura: There we go. First of all "-g" + "-n" becomes that weird [gnnnnnnnn] sound.
Marco: [gggnnnnnn]..."gnocchi."
Laura: "Gnu" means "wildebeest." "Gnomo" means "gnome."
Marco: "Gnu," "gnomo," "gnocchi."
Laura: Then, when "-g" is followed by "-li," we have the other weird Italian sound.
Marco: [glllllllliiiii]...
Laura: Sometimes it's difficult to pronounce it, even for Italians. Have you ever heard that "-gli" tongue-twister? "Sul tagliere gli agli taglia..."
Marco: Oh yes! "...non tagliare la tovaglia..."
Laura: "...la tovaglia non è aglio..."
Marco: "...e tagliarla è un grave sbaglio!" What did you just make me say?
Laura: "Chop garlic on the chopping board, don't chop the tablecloth, the tablecloth is not garlic, and cutting it is a terrible mistake."
Marco: Not a very useful tip! That's quite obvious.
Laura: That's just for practicing your "-gli" sound, Marco, it's not a cooking lesson.
Marco: Okay, the good news is that once we get these "-gn" and "-gli" sounds out of the way, it's all downhill.
Laura: Yes, except for these two, all other sounds are not so difficult to reproduce.
Marco: So what do we have now, Laura?
Laura: Now we're looking into the [shhhhh] sound, as in "shower."
Marco: [shhhh]
Laura: When we have "sc-" followed by "-e" or "-i," we have the [shhhh] sound.
Marco: Very soothing..."sciroppo."
Laura: "Sciroppo," that's "syrup," sweet and soothing.
Marco: Other than that, when "-sc" is followed by any other vowel, you pronounce it like [sca], as in "scatola," [sco], as in "scorza," and [scu], as in "scuola."
Laura: "Scatola" means "box," "scorza" means "peel," and "scuola" means "school."
Marco: Not so complicated.
Laura: We have just a few more sounds left. They are "-cia," "-cio," "-ciu," and "-gia," "-gio," "-giu."
Marco: We write those as "-c" or "-g" + "-ia," "-io," or "-iu." But we don't pronounce the "-i"…it's just there to modify the sound. "-cia," "-cio," "-ciu." "-gia," "-gio," "-giu."
Laura: "Ciabatta," "cioccolata," "ciuffo."
Marco: "Ciabatta" means "slipper," "cioccolata" means "chocolate," and "ciuffo" means "tuft." So no more animals, Laura?
Laura: Oh, these are all animals.
Marco: What?
Laura: "Ciabatta" and "Cioccolata" are my two cats, and "Ciuffo" is my white poodle.
Marco: Oh well...I'm almost scared to ask you for any words for "-gia," "-gio," and "-giu."
Laura: "Giacomo," "Giovanni," and "Giulia."
Marco: These are all Italian names, right? Are these your pets too?
Laura: No, these are my relatives. "Zio Giacomo" is my uncle, and "nonno Giovanni" and "nonna Giulia" are my grandparents.
Marco: "Zio Giacomo" is the one of the secret baccala recipe? I'm still waiting.
Laura: No, sorry, that was another uncle. By the way, we learned about "zeta" last time, didn't we?
Marco: We did. [dzzzzz] "zeta"...[tzzzzz] "zio"
Laura: Good, since we got the "zeta" sounds out of the way in our previous lesson, it's time to wrap up.