Home Italian Language 8 Italian Sounds English Audio system Battle to Pronounce Accurately

8 Italian Sounds English Audio system Battle to Pronounce Accurately

8 Italian Sounds English Audio system Battle to Pronounce Accurately


All of the world’s languages are made up of phonemes, or in different phrases, distinctive models of sound that assist us distinguish one phrase from one other. A letter in any given alphabet could symbolize a number of phonemes. For instance, the way in which the English letter A sounds within the phrase ‘apple’ is totally completely different to the way it sounds within the phrases ‘bake’ ‘father’ ‘ball’ and ‘many’.

Regardless of having a really related alphabet, the Italian language has far fewer phonemes than English: 28 versus 44 to be actual. Nevertheless, a handful of those Italian phonemes don’t exist in English, making them a problem for us to pronounce once we first begin studying the language.

On this article, we check out eight Italian sounds English audio system wrestle to pronounce accurately, even after years of talking the language. Tell us which sounds journey you up within the feedback under!

Italian sounds English speakers struggle to pronounce

1. The letter R

IPA (Worldwide Phonetic Alphabet): [r]

Let’s begin with the phoneme that defines the Italian language, the alveolar trill, or trilled / rolled R. In English, pronunciation of R has many variations in numerous dialects, however none of them (besides that in Scottish English) correspond to the Italian [r], which consists of a collection of vibrations of various lengths.

In unstressed syllables and the intervocalic place, it’s possible you’ll hear only one or two vibrations, whereas in a geminate trill, consisting of two Rs side-by-side, anticipate to listen to three or extra. If there is only one vibration, the [r] turns into a tapped [ɾ] sound.

burdened syllable (a few contacts)

inter-vocal, unstressed syllable (just one or two contacts, could sound like a tapped [ɾ])

germinate trill (three to seven contacts)

With the intention to produce the Italian R, place your tongue immediately behind the higher entrance tooth, just under the alveolar ridge. Together with your tongue in a very flat and relaxed place, permit the air to move over the centre of the tongue. It’s this airflow that enables the tongue to vibrate, so do your finest to keep away from tensing or curling your tongue.

Should you actually wish to grasp the trilled R, we recommend watching this beneficial video by our pals at My Italian Circle:

2. S + voiced consonant

IPA (Worldwide Phonetic Alphabet): [z] + voiced consonant

When the letter S is adopted by any one of many following voiced consonants in Italian – B, D, G, L, R, M, N, V – it transforms from an [s] right into a [z]. These consonant clusters by no means seem initially of a phrase in English, to allow them to be uncomfortable to pronounce at first.


(to lie down)



(to yell at)




3. The letter Z

IPA (Worldwide Phonetic Alphabet): [t͡s] or [d͡z]

You’ll be forgiven for assuming that the letter Z in Italian is pronounced like its English counterpart, however in precise reality, it represents two completely different phonemes referred to as alveolar fricatives, written as [t͡s] or [d͡z] in IPA. The previous sounds just like the ts in “bits” whereas the latter sounds just like the ds in “heads“.

Sadly, there aren’t any clear minimize guidelines about when to make use of [t͡s] versus [d͡z]. When the primary letter is Z, very often the voiced [d͡z] prevails, however in any other case, the distribution seems to be fairly random. The identical applies to phrases with a double Z. For instance:

Z phrases with [d͡z]

zanzara (mosquito)

mezzo (half)

Z phrases with [t͡s]

grazie (thanks)

pizza (pizza)

4. Open vs Closed E and O

IPA (Worldwide Phonetic Alphabet): [ɛ] and [e] / [ɔ] and [o]

The letter E in Italian might be pronounced both as an open E (written as [ɛ] in IPA) or a closed E (written as [e] in IPA). The open E is just a bit extra open than the English quick E, seen in phrases like bet or met. The closed E isn’t produced as a single vowel in English – it all the time slides into one other vowel (normally an [ɪ]) to create a diphthong as in phrases like say (written /seɪ/ in IPA) and make (written /meɪk/ in IPA).

The principles that apply to the letter E in Italian additionally apply to the letter O. As soon as once more, we have now two sounds: the open O (written as [ɔ] in IPA), which sounds just like the vowel in English phrases like paw and awe, and the closed O (written as [o] in IPA), which in English virtually all the time slides into an [ʊ] as within the phrase no (written as /noʊ/ in IPA).

In spoken Italian, an E or O that seems in an unstressed syllable is all the time closed (e.g. mare, entrare, caro, orecchio). In any other case, there are very few guidelines that govern the distribution of the 2 Es and Os, to not point out that their pronunciation varies from area to area. Should you’d wish to know extra about when to make use of open and closed E and O, we encourage you to take a look at our full article about Italian vowels.

As a result of the closed sounds don’t exist in English as particular person phonemes, English audio system have the tendency to remodel the pure Italian [e] and [o] into the diphthongs [eɪ] and [oʊ]. Examine the proper pronunciation of the Italian speaker with the wrong pronunciation of the English speaker under:

fase (section)

elefante (elephant)

mago (wizard)

telefono (phone)

5. Double consonants (Le consonanti doppie)

Double consonants in Italian are the bane of each learner’s existence, a minimum of initially! In essence, a double consonant is pronounced with an extended sound (or a pause relying on the phrase) than a single consonant. By doubling a consonant, you possibly can fully change the which means of a phrase, and if you happen to aren’t cautious, you would possibly make some embarrassing errors! Be aware that every one consonants might be doubled in Italian apart from the letter H.

Take into account the next minimal pairs:

papa (pope)

camino (fire)

ano (anus)

observe (notes)

pappa (meals)

cammino (stroll / stroll)

anno (12 months)

notte (night time)

In English, we would use double consonants in writing – take for instance the phrase “swimming” – however we all the time pronounce them as if there have been just one consonant, by no means two.

6. The Unvoiced Stops: [p] [t] and [k]

It is a minimal distinction between the 2 languages, however if you wish to make it simple for an Italian individual to determine the place you come from, all you need to do is aspirate your [p] [t] and [k] sounds.

What we imply by aspiration is the forceful expulsion of air that happens when these consonants seem initially of a phrase or a burdened syllable in English. Take heed to the next examples. (Be aware that [k] represents each the exhausting letter C and the letter Okay.)

In Italian, these consonants are usually not aspirated, making them sound virtually like their voiced equivalents [b] [d] and [g] to English ears.

7. GN

IPA (Worldwide Phonetic Alphabet): [ɲ]

The GN sound doesn’t exist in English, so it may be wrestle to pronounce it accurately at first. It’s stated that the Italian GN resembles the NY within the phrase canyon, however this isn’t precisely true. With the intention to make an genuine [ɲ] sound, the tip of the tongue must be involved with the again of your backside tooth. Attempt saying a few of these phrases to practise your pronunciation:

8. GL

IPA (Worldwide Phonetic Alphabet): [ʎ]

Right here is one other sound that doesn’t exist in English. If you wish to try the GL sound in Italian, strive saying the English phrase million whereas touching the tip of your tongue to the again of your tooth.

Be aware that GLI isn’t all the time pronounced on this approach. In sure phrases, equivalent to glicerina (glycerin) and glifo (glyph) for instance, it’s pronounced as it’s spelled: [gli].