Since making it a side hobby of mine, to help people speak Italian better, I have started to notice some common complaints among Italian language learners. There are certain things in Italian that are just harder for English speakers to make sense of, memorize and understand. Since I’ve worked with over 100 people, helping them through to get to speaking Italian, I thought I would share some common mistakes I see, so you can get better too.
- S sounds. Italian beginners often confuse the sound an “s” makes and the sound of a double s.” Take for example the word for House and the word for Cash register. House is CASA, the cash register is CASSA. Cassa has two ss the ss are softer sounding. Instead a single s, like in CASA, has almost a z sound to it. This distinction is important as it changes the meaning of the word, as we saw here.
- Double consonants. Speaking of the example Cassa, – those double consonants are so hard!
But, being able to speak and hear the difference is imperative. The Italian language doesn’t waste letters; the double consonants are there for a reason and —the meaning changes depending on whether a particular consonant is doubled. If you’re unsure how to pronounce i consonanti doppie (), try this trick I tell my students. Take the word and divide it in half where the double consonants are. Let’s use the word anno. Dividing it in half we get An and No. Do you hear the two ‘n’s now? By dividing the word, and saying it as two halves (practicing getting faster and faster) you can avoid the mistake of saying ano. This is one of the mistakes I hear most often. But did you know anno with two N’s is year but ano with one n is actually anus? To avoid telling people about your butt hole, master the double consonants ASAP.
- Espresso. That very small cup coffee? It’s an espresso not an expresso. I hear this all the time, and it’s an easy mistake to make. In the US and other countries, many people think the word is actually expresso, like a fast coffee. While Italians do drink it fast, they do not pronounce it with an x.
- Bruschetta. OK this last one is a pet peeve of mine. I actually had a waitress in the US correct me once when I ordered a Bruschetta. She said, “oh you mean a bruSHETa.” Um no, lady I mean a bruschetta. So, let’s set the record straight once and for all. It’s bruschetta with a kh sound.
Allora ragazzi, i hope this was helpful! A presto!