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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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By | 2017-01-31T17:13:13+00:00 November 22nd, 2013|Accents, International Accents, Pronunciation, Teaching|8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Lisa Badocco March 9, 2016 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    marvellous, I’ve spent a life trying to teach Italian students how to pronounce correctly. This will be of great help to me

    Lisa

  2. Livio March 23, 2016 at 10:53 am - Reply

    You’re missing at least 3:
    -Pronunciation of W as V: example in english “write this”, and they pronounce “Vrite this”

    -A pronounced as open E: in english “crash”, and they pronounce “creeesh”

    -U pronounced as open A: in english “up, run”, they pronounce “aaahp, raaahn”

  3. carla November 6, 2016 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    And what about the plosive T: even though if the “Th” sound is the most difficult for Italian speakers, also the “double T” sound (or plosive T) should be generally more studied. usually is pronounced as a flat T
    Carla

  4. Fabiola February 27, 2017 at 6:44 pm - Reply

    The person who read isn’it Italian, he exaggerated a bit too much! I’M Italian and We don’t pronounce this way.Only the first one, with saying ‘go Haway he hisn’t’ is true but others… The second one too, is true, we add a little ə sound after a consonant but is not that stressed like whatAA.arA you doimgA like WTF, I don’t speak like that! ?

  5. Allie March 12, 2017 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    What is 8 even talking about? I have never heard of such a thing. The first pronunciation was fine.

  6. Sasha March 29, 2017 at 7:18 pm - Reply

    do they say ze or is that french?

  7. cb August 29, 2017 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    Number 8 is quite a subtle one. Aspiration refers to the puff of breath when you say the consonants ‘p’, ‘t’ and ‘k’. If you put your hand over your mouth, you’ll feel it. In Italian these consonants aren’t aspirated – there’s no puff of breath.

  8. Jessica September 18, 2017 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    no. 8 on aspiration is too general, /p/ /t/ or /k/ are not always aspirated, for example pin (aspirated) vs spin (unaspirated), stay vs stint

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