Why is English pronunciation so difficult for Italian speakers to master?

Italian is a strictly phonemic language - it is pronounced as it is written. Every syllable in a word is pronounced and generally is given equal stress. So the word vegetables is often mistakenly pronounced 've-ge-ta-bles' by Italians. English is stress-timed - nouns and verbs are given emphasis, while auxiliary or linking words such as prepositions are dropped or elided together. For your spoken English to sound fluent and not awkward and stilted you need to develop an ear for the stresses and rhythms of the English language. The correct pronunciation of vegetables is 'vegtables'. The first syllable is stressed and the second 'e' is not pronounced.

In addition, Italian has seven vowel sounds.

Phonetic chart showing the placement of the seven Italian vowel sounds in the mouth, from front to back.

From Rogers & d'Arcangeli (2004:119)

British English has 20 vowel sounds. So that's 13 vowel sounds that as a native Italian speaker, you will not be used to making and will find difficult to hear.

Don't worry too much about the phonetics chart as in our English pronunciation training video we will put you through a series of exercises that will train your ear without your having to study phonetics, unless you choose to.

English has eight diphthongs, which are sounds formed by the combination of two vowels in a single syllable. In Italian diphthongs, both vowels would be pronounced individually, but to speak English you need to train your ear to pronounce them as one sound.

English consonants also differ considerably from those in Italian and are not regular. For example, the 'sh' sound is pronounced the same way in ocean, sugar, shoe and frustration!

You can see how many pitfalls there are for an Italian who wants to speak English well. In our first training video we address the challenges of vowel sounds in English and in the second we will look at consonants and stress rhythms.

You will have fun learning to distinguish sounds that previously were difficult for you to hear, and finding the right mouth position to make them accurately!

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