How to crack the Italian pronunciation

//How to crack the Italian pronunciation
  • italian pronunciation - florentine menu - itsflorence

Italian is a beautiful language. But Italian pronunciation can cause more than some headache to English native people. Go on reading this post to learn some tips about Italian pronunciation… With a florentine twist!

Italian pronunciation for dummies

Maybe you already know that the Italian language is Made in Florence.

Dante Alighieri (1265 – 1321) wrote his “Divina Commedia” – the Divine Comedy, in Italian, between 1304 and 1321.

Yes: a different Italian indeed (lots of things happen to a language in seven hundred years…), and if your Italian is good enough you could read that seven hundred years old book almost with no problem.

But if you are planning a quick trip to Italy and you just want to avoid being mocked by your listener, just follow this fast Italian English-ization pronounce course!

First things first: that damned “c”…



Say it again. You sure?

You are wrong.

If you don’t already know the correct pronunciation, you have said something like:


But the Italian “ch” sounds always like “k”.

So you have to say:


And remember: when you see an “h” prick up your ears, because troubles are near!

In “cu”, “ca”, and “co” the “c” is always hard, like in cugino – cousin,  cavolo – cabbage and costa – coast.

Mind that, in Florence, the local accent tend to “kill” the “c” at the beginning of a word, even more frequently when preceded by a word with a vowel at its end.

In Florence cupola – dome – sounds like oo’pola, casa – home – like hasa and costa – coast – like hostah.

In making mess, the “g” is as almost as damned as the “c”.

In Italian the “g” followed by “e” sounds like in the English word genome.

But if the “h” comes up, and you have a “ghe”, it sounds like the English word guest.

Basically: in gelato – ice cream – you have the soft “g”, there isn’t anything like a ghelato, but you can find a gheriglio in a noce, the kernel in a wallnut.

When you have “ga”, “go”, “gu” in Italian you always have a hard “g” (like in galaxy, google or… Goonies – as the English “gu” sounds different)

The impossible “GL”

This sound is just… Impossible to explain, so listen up to this video at 2’10”:

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In words such as famiglia – family or aglio – garlic.

As if it wasn’t hard enough, the very same gli has a hard “g” when at a beginning of a word:

In glissare – skate over, glifo – glyph and glicine – wisteria the “gl” is hard as it sounds in glossy.

The “gn” is another big issue. An important one, as it comes out in lasagne!

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The elusive “z”

Another tricky one is the zeta.

Quite an important one, as you find it in Firenze!

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Another problem with the “z” could come out from the local accents: in… Firenze the pronunciation, as in the video, is – to an English ear – close to a “tz”, but in northern Italy the sound is softener and closer to the usual English one, like in Zelda.

And Lasagne, again: because it is NOT lazagne!

You don’t speak Italian until you don’t spot the doppie!

Big troubles come also with le doppie – the double consonants.

It is incredible how an English mothertongue can make a mess of them, putting a doppia where there isn’t one, like in the city of Siena (which is Siena indeed, not Sienna) or in a Risotto, which, actually, is neither a Rissoto nor a Risoto!

A typical Italian menu cracked for you

Italy, you know: it’s all about art and food.

And you need the second if you don’t want to starve while watching the first. So here it is an Italian menu, but written in a way that – hopefully –  should help you to… get it!

Antipa’ssto: krossteenee (Antipasto – starter: crostini).

Preemee Pia’ttih: penneh a’llarrabbia’hta (Primi Piatti – “first plate”: penne all’arrabbiata).

Secondi Piatti: beestehkka a’llah fiorenteenah (Secondi Piatti – “second plate”: bistecca alla fiorentina).

Dohlcheh: teeramesooh (Dolce – dessert: tiramisù – literally: take me up) .

Beva’ndeh: a’kkua, veenoh, kaffe’, amma’tzakaffe’ (Bevande – drinks: acqua – water, vino – wine, caffé – coffee, ammazzacaffè – literally coffe-killer, liquor or spirits after the coffee.)

Chee seeamoh capeetee..? 😉

By |2017-03-02T09:47:50+00:00January 10th, 2017|Discovering Florence|0 Comments

About the Author:

My passion for languages and travels led me to study languages, particularly English and German, first at the Language High School and the at the Translator and Interpreter School in Florence. I then graduated at the University of Pisa in Languages, with a specialization in History of Art. I have been active in the tourist sector for almost 20 years and since 1997 I have been working as a licensed tourist guide in Florence. I have lots of interests like, for example, travels, wines … and more…

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