Italian pronunciation tips for non-traditional learners

With 150 million people (and counting!) using Duolingo, the online language learning market is set to grow 8% by 2021. More people than ever are studying languages using digital tools, and there are plenty of resources to help you work on your reading, writing, and listening skills. The hardest part to iron out over the internet, however, is getting into the habit of good pronunciation.

Trial and error is a great strategy if you’re lucky to live in the midst of native speakers, but here are some workarounds if you’re studying Italian and rooted outside of the peninsula:

1. Read poems aloud. There’s plenty of Italian poetry online – check out this and this link, for example. Even if a poem doesn’t rhyme, you can still pick up on its rhythm and meter, helping you fall into good pronunciation habits if you can’t find any Italian poets to hang out with.

2. Mimic what you hear in instructional videos. Dialog is fast-paced in Italian films and TV shows, but instructional YouTube videos are illustrated with action, and the narratives tend to be more leisurely. Try this link to see if you can follow someone talking you through a focaccia recipe; this one for tiramisù; or this one for penne all’arrabbiata.

Italians have a lot to say about food

3. Go for the tongue twisters. Take the pressure off of proper pronunciation and enjoy your mistakes. Called a scioglilingua in Italian, a tongue twister is not really about getting things right: the point is to try your best and see what comes out:

Eva dava l’uva ad Ava, Ava dava l’uva ad Eva. [Eva gave the grapes to Ava, Ava gave the grapes to Eva.]

Un limone, mezzo limone. Due limoni, mezzo limoneTre limoni, mezzo limone.
Quatro limoni, mezzo limone. [One lemon, half a lemon. Two lemons, half a lemon. Three lemons, half a lemon. Four lemons, half a lemon.]

Il Papa pesa e pesta il pepe a Pisa, Pisa pesa e pesta il pepe al Papa. [The Pope weighs and mashes the pepper in Pisa, Pisa weighs and mashes the pepper for the Pope.]

Se sei gnomi magnano sei gnocchi con gli occhi, con gli occhi quanti gnocchi magna ogni gnomo? [If six gnomes eat six gnocchi with their eyes, using their eyes how many gnocchi does each gnome eat?]

Li vuoi quei kiwi? E se non vuoi quei kiwi che kiwi vuoi? [Do you want these kiwi? And if you don’t want these kiwi, which kiwi do you want?]

And of course, if this is the kind of learning you like to do, pick up a copy of Italian Through Food!

© 2017

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