Common English Pronunciation Issues for Native Italian Speakers
Proper pronunciation is essential to the understanding and communication of a language, and therefore it is an essential component of English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. Students of different nationalities and backgrounds will have different issues regarding English pronunciation depending on their native language. Their pronunciation issues often directly stem from the pronunciation of their native language because of differences between the two languages. This summative task will highlight the most common English pronunciation issues for Italian native speakers.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Lucrezia C. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
The main problem that many Italian students have with their English pronunciation is the pronunciation of certain phonetic sounds.
Many have problems with the 'h' sound because in Italian it is silent and not pronounced. Some will overcompensate and add the 'h' sound where it is not necessary, such as between two vowels or before a vowel at the beginning of a word. Another sound that many Italian students have issues with is the 'th' sound, which does not exist in Italian and is replaced by a dental 't' or 'd'.
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There are many vowels in English that Italian students commonly mispronounce.
With the vowel 'a', the Italian language only uses an open vowel sound, whereas in English there are different vowel sounds for 'a' depending on the word. For instance, in the word "mat", Italian speakers may pronounce the word with the pure vowel [a] rather than the mixed vowel used in English [ae]. Italian speakers also have trouble differentiating between the pronunciation of English words that use the phonetic sounds [I] or [i]. For example, they would pronounce the words "heat" and "hit" with the same vowel sound.
Another common pronunciation issue that native Italian speakers have with English is with words that end with a consonant.
Oftentimes Italian speakers will add a schwa [ə] at the ends of words which end with a consonant. For example, "stop" would sound like "stop-uh" and "speak" would sound like "speak-uh". This happens with Italian speakers because in their language there aren't any many words that end with a consonant, so they stress the consonant by adding another syllable, which also modifies the word's intonation.
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One final pronunciation problem that is common to Italian native speakers is the omission of double vowels.
In English, there are certain words with double vowels that elongate the pronunciation of the word, such as in the words "no" and "go". Italian speakers will often make a single [o] sound when pronouncing these words, cutting the word short, because double vowels do not exist in their native language.
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All foreign students, regardless of their native language, will have problems with their pronunciation as they learn English. While students learning English as a second language will inevitably run into pronunciation issues, knowing which ones are common to students of the country you are teaching in can prepare you as a teacher to deal with these issues when they come up in the classroom. With this knowledge, a teacher can better serve their students and can increase accuracy in the pronunciation of English spoken by their students.
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