When you begin to learn Italian, it helps to learn about vowels first. Vowels in the Italian language are what actually make each word sound almost musical.
Before I teach you the sounds, make sure to eliminate your "idea" of what Italian words should sound like from your mind. This is not an episode of the Sopranos.
So, let's sing! I mean: let's practice Italian vowels!
A, E, I, O, U....forget the sometimes Y.
Italians don't need it the way we do.
They also pronounce their letters the same way they sound...always.
Begin with the letter A. One good phrase to think of is the common "Ah-ha!" (when discovering something you maybe had a hunch about...)
But I don't want you to focus on the first "ah" but rather the "ha!"
Notice that when you say that last part, it is almost an open-a sound. That is the sound of the Italian "a". It's an open "ah" or "ha!" (without the h).
Here is an Italian word with an A in it:
Yes, even in Italian, pasta is pasta. But try to say it with an open "a". Pah-stah! Very good!
Remember E never sounds like the way we pronounce the letter in our own language. E always sounds like "eh".
Start to say the word "leg" but don't attach the "g". Just let your mouth stay open on the "eh". That's the way an E should sound in the Italian language.
An Italian word with an E in it:
In Italian "peppe" means pepper. Keep your mouth very open when you pronounce this word: Pehp-peh!
Now comes I. Here is where you might start to get confused. The letter I sounds like the name of our letter E. Got that?
"I" sounds like E....E as in "ee". Like "bee" or "tree" or "flee". Now make it shorter and sweeter and leave that mouth open when you say those words...do not do the swoop thing we like to do in English.
Italians don't hesitate on the ends of words like we tend to.
An Italian word with an I in it:
Is it all starting to make some sense now?
Just remember that "i" in "pizza" should be short and sweet. Not drawn out, or held onto. And while you're at it - don't forget the open-ah sound at the end!
Let's put these three vowels together, shall we?
With the word... Spaghetti! Say it like a true Italian..here we go! Spah-gheht-tee! Be enthusiastic! ...if you know each piece to the language puzzle.
And unlike learning English, to learn Italian is merely to follow a few simple rules that almost always stay the same.
Before we get too excited let's finish up our lesson with the O and U.
O is not too hard, it's just a matter of getting out of a bad habit. Again, it is an OPEN sounding letter. And it is very easy to remember. It always sounds like "oh!" Keep your mouth in the round shape and say "oh!" If you can do that, you've mastered the letter O.
U is not too bad either. It is always pronounced "oo" like "boo!" or "Pooh"....and it is always lighter and more open than our oo sounds normally are.
A word with an O:
Remember it is not Opera like we say in English. It is OH-peh-rah! Doesn't it sound so much prettier?
And then a word with U:
Verdura, meaning vegetables, is pronounced Vehr-doo-rah. Bravissimo!
Knowing the vowels is about 75% of the battle to learn Italian, and is the difference between being an American speaking Italian and just plain speaking Italian - like the natives do.
So practice your vowels and you'll be golden. Start around the kitchen... you'll be surprised how fast you'll learn Italian words you might already know!