Culture Discovery Vacations Blog

Speak Italian like a Local

Before traveling any place that speaks a different language, you should definitely take the time to learn some key words and phrases to help fit in and know what is going on. Although finding some english speakers isn’t too hard in big cities, once you get off the beaten path you will likely wish you studied a little bit, I know we did…

Last year, my fiancé and I went to France, we didn’t prepare for the language barrier at all, thinking that between speaking English and Italian, we were going to be mostly ok, plus, he did study french in high school. The very first day we sat down at a restaurant outside of touristy Paris and realized we couldn’t read anything on the menu. I went for a really safe dish – Caesar Salad, and he went for something that looked like it read “Andouille Sausage”. The waiter tried to warn us about something, but we couldn’t understand him.

Once our dishes came out we thought we were in the clear, but as soon as he cut his fork into the “sausage” a nauseating smell filled the air. What in the world had he ordered? I happily ate my safe and boring salad as he took a few bites and whispered “I don’t know what this is, but I can’t eat this”. Google to the rescue! after a quick search I learned that he had in fact ordered a colon sausage – which explains the smell,  and that it is a delicacy in Paris. All of this could have been avoided if we had studied a little bit of French before traveling there.

Now, I still can’t teach you French, but I can teach you what I know. There’s no way I can fit it all into one blog post, so I will start with pronunciation and grammar. Although Italian it is very phonetic, pronunciation can get a little tricky; here are some tips to sounding like a local!

 

Pronunciation:

Each vowel is pronounced clearly:

A as in father

E as in bent or ray

I as in police

O as in no

U as in noon

 

 

It’s not that easy. Diphthongs include:

Ai as in ripe

Ei as in play

Ia as in yarn

Oi as in boy

Uo as in war

 

 

Consonants generally sound similar to English, but of course, there are exceptions:

Ce or Ci as in church

Ge or Gi as in joy

Ch or Gh as in cat

Gli as in scallion

Gn as in canyon

Sce or Sci as in fish

Sca, Sco or Scu as in scout

 

 

Grammar:

All nouns in Italian are either masculine or feminine. There are, of course, exceptions, but in most cases, nouns ending in –o are masculine and those ending in –a are feminine.

 

When they are masculine, the articles il/lo (the) and un/uno (a) precede them. When they are feminine, la/ l’ (the) or una / un’ (a) precede them.

 

This is just a quick cheat sheet to pronouncing words, I will post words and phrases that you should be familiar with as well as their phonetic pronunciation next week! Stay tuned!

2 thoughts on “Speak Italian like a Local

  1. Lorenzo

    The “o” shouldn’t be pronounced like English “no” (nəʊ). It’s not a diphthong.
    The “o” is more like “hot” or “horse” (kind of…) depending if it is open or close.

    Pronouncing the “o” as a diphthong is the way Italians mock English accent 🙂

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