Learn to Speak Italian

You will enjoy your trip to Italy much more if you have some knowledge of the language. Although a lot of Italians can speak English, to a greater or lesser degree, they don't all. In any case, it is more polite - and more fun - if you can talk to the people in their own language. Italians can sometimes be a bit snobby about tourists and if you can show that you speak some Italian, they will be more inclined to take you seriously.

 

As foreign languages go, Italian is one of the easiest for native English-speakers to learn. There are a few conceptual leaps to be made, such as everything having a gender, but, in general terms, once you have grasped some basic ideas and rules, you will be able to say a lot in Italian in a relatively short time.

 

Italian e-course

If you are keen to get started on learning Italian, you will find everything you need in the instantly downloadable e-course Accurate Italian. It contains a workbook (with audio) that teaches you Italian in straightforward, clearly explained steps, from scratch to intermediate level. It also includes an e-book giving you advice about how to approach learning Italian and a thorough guide to Italian pronunciation.

 

If you are a beginner and serious about learning the language, you won't find a better course to help you learn to speak Italian accurately and confidently than Accurate Italian.

 

Italian dictionary

Although you can follow the Accurate Italian course without a dictionary, it is certainly a huge help to have one. I recommend you get yourself at least a Collins Gem. This little dictionary is handy for beginners and for keeping in your pocket or handbag when you're out and about in Italy. Once you get further into Italian, you'll get a lot of benefit from a bigger dictionary.

 

Italian pronunciation

Here is a guide to Italian pronunciation. The example words and phrases are spoken for you by a native Italian - click on the links to hear the audio. (Apologies for the rather scratchy quality of these recordings. The ones in the Accurate Italian Pronunciation Guide are professionally recorded and completely clear, whereas the ones on this page were recorded by an Italian teacher on the language-school iPod.)

 

The great thing is, once you have learnt the rules on this page, you will be able to pronounce every Italian word - it is much easier than English!

 

  is pronounced as in the English word Italian example
Listen
a a car casa (house)
e e pen inglese (English)
i ee meet vino (wine)
o o not spesso (often)
u oo soon uno (one)
ca ka cat cane (dog)
ce che chess centro (centre)
ci chee cheese cinque (five)
co ko cot come (how/like)
cu ku cool cucina (kitchen)
che ke Kent che (what)
chi kee key chi (who)
cia cha chat ciabatta (slipper)
cio cho chocolate cioccolato (chocolate)
ciu choo choose acciuga (anchovy)
ga gha gap gatto (cat)
ge je gentleman gelato (ice cream)
gi ji jeep pagina (page)
go go got gonna (skirt)
gu goo ghoul gusto (taste)
ghe ghe get spaghetti
ghi ghee geezer laghi (lakes)
gia ja jam giardino (garden)
gio jo John giorno (day)
giu
ju
juniper
giusto (right, correct)
sca
ska
scam
scarpa (shoe)
sce
she
shed
scendere (to go down)
sci
shee
sheep
capisci (you understand)
sco
sko
Scotland
sconto (discount)
scu
sku
school
scusa (excuse)
sche
ske
sceptic
schermo (screen)
schi
skee
ski
schiuma (foam)
scia
sha
shambles
lasciare (to leave, let)
scio
sho
shop
sciopero (strike)
sciu shoo shoe asciugamano (towel)
qu qu quiet questo (this)
gn nya new bagno (bathroom)
gl lya failure meglio (better)
z dz/ts pads, bits prezzo (price)
zucchero (sugar)


 

Note: There are very few exceptions to the rule that gl is pronunced lya. However, one exception is a word you will probably need to use a lot: inglese. Here, as you will have heard (second word in the list above), the gl is pronounced as it would be in English. Essentially, there are no exceptions to any of the other rules (only the odd word of foreign origin may be pronounced unexpectedly).

 

Here are some other pronunciation points:

 

Where there is an accent on the word, this shows where you put the emphasis.

 

città
lunedì

 

When there is a double letter, you pronounce both letters.

 

mamma secco
sonno zuppa
bello parcheggio
sette freddo
lusso nebbia

 

Notice how the doubling of the letter affects the sound of the vowel preceding it. The single letter gives a longer vowel and the double letter a shorter one.

 

pane - panna
bene - penne
fino - fisso
dono - donna
muto - muffa


It is very important that you pronounce a double letter in the correct way because, if you don't, you risk saying a completely different word.

 

For example: anno means year, while ano means anus!

 

The letter h has no sound of its own; it is used merely for spelling conventions. It has two functions: one is to distinguish between two words that sound the same but have different meanings.

 

a (at/to) - ha (he/she/it has)
o (or) - ho (I have)
anno (year) - hanno (they have)

 

The main function of h, however, is to make potentially 'soft' sounds 'hard'.

ci - chi


Practise saying these words and sentences and then click to check if you sound authentic!

 

sciogliere conoscere
pesce sciocchezze
chiacchierare orologio
giacca maglia
uscire cercare
ufficio faccio
fine spazio
cugino veloce
sogno traghetto
giornale qualche
piscina moglie
spiaggia giugno
macchina luglio
quando vorrei
chiesa bisogno
oggi scoglio

 

Mi chiamo Daniela.
Gli sportelli sono tutti chiusi.
C'è una farmacia qui vicino?
Vogliamo fare un giro a piedi.
Dobbiamo svegliarci presto la mattina.

 

You now know how to pronounce practically every word in the Italian language! Unlike English, Italian sticks to its rules and, once you know them, you can be confident that you are saying every word correctly.

 

To get your own, downloadable version (better recorded) of this pronunciation guide - and to learn how to use the words you can now pronounce correctly - buy our Accurate Italian course. (There's a money-back guarantee, so you've got nothing to lose.)

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