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O.D. - U.K. said:
english Pronunciation Problems italian LearnersI was born in Romania but moved to Italy when I was a child. I lived and studied there until four years ago, when I moved to London. I first studied english in an italian environment and with italian students. This made me realise how much their english pronunciation is influenced by their native language. I have made some research on this matter during my university years. I have outlined below how some aspects of the italian language and pronunciation interfere with the english pronunciation. First of all, the relationship between spelling and pronunciation in italian is generally very simple, with one letter corresponding to one sound. In contrast, english spelling often bears very little relation to how the word is pronounced. In italian, for example, the letter ‘a’ is always pronounced /a/. In english it can be pronounced in different ways, like /eI/ as in “fate” or /A:/ as in “fast”, for example. It is, in general, very difficult to determine which pronunciation is correct for any given word. italian students have to accept this when studying english and practice the language long enough to be comfortable with differences in the english pronunciation of single letters. Another problem for the italian students is the letter ‘h’. This letter is silent in italian. It usually creates confusion when it has to be pronounced in english. For example, several italian students will pronounce the word “hate” with a silent “h” and this might create confusion when talking to english people, who might confuse it with the verb “ate”. Furthermore, with the exception of ‘h’, all written letters are pronounced in italian. english has numerous ‘silent’ letters, or letter pairs/triples that are pronounced as one. The ‘l’ in walk (/w?:k/), for example, is pronounced [w?lk] by italian learners. Or the letter combination ‘gu’ is pronounced [gw], so guards (/gA:dz/) is pronounced [gwardz] by several italian learners. In italian the letter “s” followed by a consonant is usually pronounced [z]. Therefore when speaking english, Italians have a tendency to replace word-initial /sm/ with [zm], e.g. small [zm?l]. Another difficulty for italian learners when pronouncing in english is due to the fact that the italian language does not have dental fricatives. Therefore voiceless /?/ may be replaced with dental [t?] or with [f]. Voiced /ð/ may become a dental [d?]. And since /t/ and /d/ are typically pronounced as dental stops anyway, words like there and dare can become homophones. A quite well known pronunciation problem of italian speakers is their tendency to pronounce consonant-final english words with a strong vocalic offset. The word “dog”, for example, is pronounced [dog?]. This problem is due to the fact that italian words almost always finish with a vowel, so Italians are not used to pronounce consonants at the end of a word. Italians also have a different pronunciation for the letter /r/. In italian it is pronounced as a trill. Therefore they pronounce it as a trill in english as well. Many Italians also produce /r/ wherever it is spelled (e.g. star [star]), resulting in a rhotic accent. This is also due to the fact that Italians have this tendency to pronounce all the letters in a word and all the words as they are spelled. As a consequence, italian learners will also pronounce double letters in english when they read them, with a longer, stressed sound (example: words like “kettle”, “apple”, “Russell”). The last, but very well known problem for italian learners of english is the production of vowels. The italian language has less vowels then the english language. Italians are therefore unable to differentiate words distinguished in english solely by the vowel (e.g. sheep-ship, bag-beg, etc). This often leads to intelligibility problems. I met several italian people who had an excellent pronunciation in english. This was generally due to the fact that they had lived in an english speaking country for a long time. I believe that the solutions to the english pronunciation problems for italian learners are years of practice and experience and the ability to carefully listen to english speakers’ pronunciation.

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