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10 English Pronunciation Errors by Italian Speakers

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What are the main errors for Italian speakers in English pronunciation? Here we have highlighted the top ten experienced by Italian speaking students at Pronunciation Studio:

1. /h/ and silent ‘h’

Italian speakers often miss /h/ when they should say it:

house how horse hard

To compensate, an /h/ sometimes appears where it is not wanted – between two vowels:

go away, she isn’t

2. Adding a little vowel at the end of a word

When a word ends in a consonant, Italian speakers often add a little ‘a’ afterwards:

I like them a lot.

3. Open vowel /a/

Italian has only one open unrounded vowel ‘a’, whereas English has 3 – /æ/ in ‘cat’, /ʌ/ in ‘cut’, and /ɑ:/ in ‘cart’. Italian speakers often only use their own ‘a’ in English so these words become ‘cat’ ‘cat’ and ‘cart’:

I love that park.

4. /ɪ/ vs. /i:/

A similar problem in a different area of the mouth occurs with the vowels /ɪ/ and /i:/, which are often pronounced in the same way by Italian speakers, so ‘heat’ and ‘hit’ sound the same except for their length. In fact, the vowel in ‘hit’ should be a lower position:

Fit it in.

5. Sentence stress

Italian is a Latin language which stresses every syllable. English does not – some need to be weak:

I want to go to the cinema.

6. Spelling to sound

Italian is a phonetically written language, meaning you say what you see. English is not so much, so a word like ‘particular’ may come out all wrong:

particular

7. ‘th’

‘th’ words cause problems for Italian speakers, often being replaced by a dental t or d:

I think it’s the third thing.

8. Aspiration

When a /p/ /t/ or /k/ appears in English it is aspirated, so there is an audible explosion in pronunciation. Not so in Italian, where it is never aspirated:

Pass some time on the coast.

9. Diphthong ‘o’

Double vowels do not exist in Italian on a single vowel spelling, so when Italian speakers see words like ‘no’, ‘go’ and ‘don’t’, which should be double vowels, they often make a single ‘o’ vowel:

No, I don’t think so, Joe!

10. /r/ and silent ‘r’

The English ‘r’ sound is smooth, the Italian ‘r’ is rolled. Also watch out for ‘r’ after a vowel – it isn’t pronounced in British English, but Italians often pronounce it anyway:

Words with /r/: raw, right, wrong, red
Words with silent ‘r’: word, car, father, four
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