In the following article, I am talking about two things that allow you to talk Italian in a better way, the two basic rules of the Italian language: the pronunciation and the agreement. They can be taken for granted but, if you pay attention to them, you will see an improvement of your written and spoken Italian.
In order to learn and master Dante’s language must be taken into account the two basic rules of the Italian language: pronunciation and agreement.
For many of you, they may be trivial, perhaps even superfluous. But being familiar with these two aspects of the language will give you big advantages, in terms of speech and understanding skills. Let’s examine them one at a time.
As already written in the article 5 reasons for learning Italian, the Italian language is a phonetic language, which has a strong correspondence between phonemes and graphemes. This means that every word must be well articulated and every letter pronounced. If other languages, such as English, tend to join the letters together, to give them a particular sound, depending on their combination, and to emphasize the content words instead of to the function words, the Italian language works in a way a bit different.
In Italian, particular attention must be given to vowels. My students, especially the native English speakers, tend to pronounce incorrectly common and well-known words even in foreign countries. For example:
- Grazie (Thanks) = Grazi
- Auto (Car) = Ooto
A former Australian student of mine when he spoke about himself or the inhabitants of his country said: “Io sono ostraliano” (I am Australian), or “Noi ostraliani…” (We Australians). No. It is better to say australiano, australiani, taking particular care to pronounce every single letter, and in particular the vowels, especially when a word is made up of two or more vowels in succession such as aiuto.
The agreement is fundamental in the Italian language. Many of you will already know that unlike English, Italian distinguishes not only the number but also the gender. The agreement is a factor that should not be underestimated since it is a constant in our language and is used for almost all parts of the speech. One thing that can help you use gender and number in the right way is to pay attention to the endings of words.
Let’s take a practical example.
- La mamma è bella (Mom is beautiful).
We have nothing to complain about this sentence. It is a grammatically correct sentence. But if I said instead:
- La mamma è bello (Mom is beautiful).
Many of you would think that this sentence has something wrong. I am sure, in fact, that even those who have just started studying Italian would realize that this sentence is not entirely correct!
Agreement mistakes are more frequent with those nouns and adjectives ending with -e in the singular form, and it is not rare that beginners make errors by saying for example:
- La mamma è gentila (Mom is kind), wrong sentence built in this way thinking of respecting concordance instead of
- La mamma è gentile (Mom is kind), which is a right sentence.
Being able to master pronunciation and concordance will make you appear more prepared and competent.
With the word pronunciation, I do not intend to speak like the Italians or to mimic the Italians themselves, but to be articulate and to pronounce all the words in the best possible way.
In any case, it is good that you know that, despite the errors of pronunciation and agreement, we can understand what foreigners or language students intend to say, by the context and the similarity with correct words and sentences. What I recommend, however, is to pay attention to them, because although trivial, they can make the difference.
So, do not rush to speak. Learn well the sounds of the Italian alphabet and pronounce the sentences slowly, both to articulate every single terms and to have time to think about the finals of the right words. In this way, you could finally master the two basic rules of the Italian language.
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