Italian and English are full of cognates. To demonstrate, read this little story with some Italian words and see how easy it is for you to understand.
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It seems impossibile eem-pohs-see-bee-leh to him that he is now at the aeroporto ah-eh-roh-pohr-toh in Rome. When he goes out on the street, he first calls a taxi tah-ksee. He opens his bag to see if he has the medicina meh-dee- chee-nah that the dottore doht-toh-reh gave him. Going through this terribile traffico tehr-ree-bee-leh trahf-fee-koh , he passes a cattedrale kaht-teh-drah-leh , some sculture skoohl-tooh-reh , and many palazzi pah-laht-tsee.
He knows that this is going to be a fantastico fahn-tahs- tee-koh journey. Popular expressions Every language has expressions that you use so often that they almost become routine. Italians use this expression every time they cross a threshold entering a house or when passing through a crowd. Mouthing Off: Basic Pronunciation Italian provides many opportunities for your tongue to do acrobatics.
This is really fun, because the language offers you some new sounds. In this section, I give you some basic pronunciation hints that are important both for surfing through this book and for good articulation when you speak Italian. Next to the Italian words throughout this book you find the pronunciation in parentheses.
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In the following sections, I give you some help- ful hints about how to read these pronunciations — that is, how to pronounce the Italian words. The deal is that you and I have to agree on which letters refer to which sounds. You have to follow this code all through this book. In the pronunciations, I separate the syllables with a hyphen, like this: casa kah-zah house. Furthermore, I italicize the stressed syllable, which means that you put the stress of the word on the italicized syllable.
If you learn the correct pronunciation in this chapter, starting with the alphabet, you may even forego the pronunciation spelling provided, and read it like a real Italian. The Alphabet What better way is there to start speaking a language than to familiarize yourself with its alphabet! Table shows you all the letters as well as how each sounds. Listen to and repeat the CD as many times as you need to in order to get down the right sounds.
In the long run, this will help you be understood when you communicate in Italian. Note that there are only 21 letters in the Italian alphabet: missing are j, k, w, x, and y which have crept into some Italian words now used in Italy. The sounds are not that new, but the connection between the written letter and the actual pronunciation is not quite the same as it is in English. The following sections tell you how to pronounce each of them. Think of the sound of the a in the English word father. The Italian a sounds just like that.
To prevent you from falling back to the other a sounds found in English, I transcribe the Italian a as ah , as shown earlier in casa kah-sah house. This sound comes very close to the Italian e. In this book, I transcribe the e sound as eh. I therefore list the pronunciation as oh.
Therefore, I use ooh to transcribe the Italian u.
You pronounce most of them the same way in Italian as you pronounce them in English, but others have noteworthy differences. Examples include xenofobia kseh-noh-foh-bee-ah xenophobia and xilofono ksee-loh-foh-noh xylophone. Now, on to the consonants that are pronounced differently than they are in English. I transcribe this pronunciation as k. Examples include casa kah-sah house , colpa kohl-pah guilt , and cuore kwoh-reh heart.
Examples include che keh what , chiesa kyeh-zah church , and chiave kyah-veh key. Examples include cena cheh-nah dinner , cibo chee-boh food , and certo chehr-toh certainly. Here I present it in another way, which you can take as a little memory support: I transcribe this pronunciation as g.
Examples include gamba gahm-bah leg , gomma gohm-mah rubber , and guerra gweh-rah war. Examples include spaghetti spah-geht-tee spaghetti , ghiaccio gyahch-choh ice , and ghirlanda geer-lahn-dah wreath. Examples include gentile jehn-tee-leh kind , giorno johr-noh day , and gelosia jeh-loh-zee-ah jealousy. The i serves only to indicate the proper sound; you do not pronounce it.
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Examples include giacca jahk-kah jacket , gioco joh-koh game , and giudice jooh-dee-cheh judge. The q is pronounced like k , and qu is, therefore, pronounced kw. Examples include quattro kwaht-troh four , questo kwehs-toh this , and quadro kwah-droh picture. You have to practice it. In the beginning, you may not find this pronunciation manageable, but practice makes perfect!
In this case, I give you the pronunciation s. Examples include pasta pahs-tah pasta , solo soh-loh only , chiesa kyeh-zah church , and gelosia jeh-loh-zee-ah jealousy.
Building on Verb Conjugations in the Present Tense in Italian
Just try it. When the z is doubled, you pronounce it more sharply, like t-ts , as in tazza taht-tsah cup; mug. Furthermore, when z is followed by the letter i, it also has a ts sound, like in the word nazione nah-tsyoh-neh nation. Double consonants When you encounter double consonants in Italian, you have to pronounce each instance of the consonant or lengthen the sound.
Doubling the consonant usually changes the meaning of the word. So, to make sure that your Italian is understandable, emphasize doubled conso- nants well.
You should not say anything like the English g. It is pronounced as in the English scooter when it comes before a, o, u, or h — that is, as in scala skah-lah scale , sconto skohn-toh dis- count , and scuola scwoh-lah school. Before e and i, it is pronounced like the sh in cash. Examples of this pronunciation include scena sheh-nah scene , scesa sheh-sah descent , and scimmia sheem-mee-ah monkey. Stressing Words Properly Stress is the audible accent that you put on a syllable as you speak it. One syllable always gets more stress than all the others.
A reminder: In this book I italicize the syllable to stress. A rough tip is that Italian tends to have the stress on the penultimate the next-to-last syllable. But there are too many rules and exceptions to list them all here! Using Gestures Italians love to emphasize their words with gestures. Needless to say, a flood of rude gestures exist as well. Unfortunately, describing the gestures in words is too difficult, because Italian body language is a science and is hard for non-Italians to copy.
You also have to make the right facial expressions when performing these gestures. Greeting and saying goodbye, for example, are accompanied by a common gesture — hugging and kissing. Italians seek direct contact when greeting one another. Consider these blocks as challenging scaffolding that helps you to construct your sentences, piece by piece. In this chapter, I walk you through gender and number, as well as how to conjugate enough verbs to get you immediately on the road to communicating in Italian.