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Talk to my face

Lingo School - Talk to my face!

Lingo School – Talk to my face!

Buongiorno a tutti!

I have been asked by my students to put together some helpful tricks on pronunciation so they can better understand what NOT TO SOUND when they speak Italian. So, I will do my best to make it concise and entertaining and reach all of you, even if you are not a student of mine but you wish to have a minimum knowledge about Italian.

ALLORA, I will start talking about the use of the VOWELS.

In case you didn’t pick it up by now, in Italian we LOVE vowels. Do you know that most of Italian words end in vowels? We love them so much that we even manage to put a vowel at the end of English words. Have you ever heard an Italian saying: I like Sport(e) or I am coming with my Boyfriend(e)?

Why do we do that? I think it is because we like the idea of “resting” on a beautiful comforting vowel at the end of the word. That is why we often think English sounds like an “unfinished” business.

How about if I tell you that there is only 1 word in Italian that contains all the 5 vowels? It is an absolutely useless word for you to learn in terms of practicality and you will never use it when you travel but it is an absolutely exquisite word to know in case you want to brag with other Italian language connoisseurs at a dinner party.

PRONTI? READY? Signori e Signore, I would love to introduce you to the word:
A-I-U-O-L-E, pronounced AH EE OO O LEY meaning flower beds.

If you can open your mouth wide enough to say this word properly, you will never go back to the old fashion English way of speaking when you release paramount information, without moving your face. This should lead you to the realization that Italians don’t just speak with their hands but with their entire face.

So, now that you got introduced to the Italian vowels, you should refrain, once for all, from making the plural of BAMBINO and say BAMBINOS. Finishing your words with a CONSONANT is a typical thing to do in Spanish or in French or in your made up language called “Italienglish”.

As a nation, we know we may not be famous for consistency but linguistically speaking, we stick to our rules. That is how you should approach vowels:

The vowel “E” will always be pronounced like the “E” for EGG and never like E for coffee
BENE……MESE….RAGAZZE….PIZZE…..
The vowel “I“ will always be pronounced like the “I” for ITALY and never like I for I DO
ITALIA….. PANINI…. COME STAI….MAI….

The best wake up call for you here is the word LINGUINE – lee gwee neh. Per favore, stop ordering LINGUINEEE at an Italian restaurant. This mistake hurts as much as when you order “bolognaise” pasta. First of all, if you want to speak Italian, you should say BOLOGNESE – bo lo nyay zeh – and not BOLOGNAISE. Then, be aware that we don’t even actually use this word in Italy. We would rather say ragù, using the original French word ragout and spelling it our own way.

By the way, ragù is the perfect word to make you understand how the vowel “U” is pronounced in Italian. Even the Irish music band U2 has got it by now, since it has been called “OO dooh-eh” by us. I would love to know what the singer Bono thinks about this. Moral of the story: our “U” is always pronounced as “00”.

And now, we are only left with 2 vowels to explain, then.

The “A” for apple.

Stick to that, it is a good example and don’t confuse it with R ( Ar)
AMORE…..ALLORA….ANDIAMO…. CASA….

Finally the “O”.

If you speak South African English, you may have some hopes to succeed in pronouncing the Italian “O”, thanks to your Afrikaans background. If you are British English, I would suggest you put a few months on the side to get rid of your posh “OW”. So, no more: ALBERGOW but ALBERGO or MOLTOW but MOLTO.

Once your mouth and face are used to all that, you can upgrade yourself and attempt to pronounce those words with more vowels next to each other. For example: AU…. (AAAA OOOO) in the words PAURA (fear), SAUNA, AUSTRALIA and AUTOBUS (bus). To imagine you are a wolf and pretend e you are howling is a good tip: AAAA…OOOO…TOOO BOOO SSS.

Hope you enjoyed my explanation of vowels and learnt to move your face a bit more.

I will leave you today with a super cute word, which, if pronounced it the right way, is a very expressive and onomatopoeic word:
NOIOSO…. (NOOO …YOOOOO…ZOOOOOH…- boring.

Have you moved your jaw? Do you agree that the English word BORING is not as nice as the Italian one?

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