English Pronunciation: Getting used to the English alphabet and sounds

Why do we Italians find it so difficult to get used to the English pronunciation? Good question … But the answers are there, and they are often right before our eyes. You just have to look at your own learning path:

– In classrooms a lot of time is normally spent on grammar, rules, forms … and very often less on listening

– 99% of English teacher are actually Italian graduates, who have, very often, never even visited London! As a result of this, they normally end up with a very Italian (and often wrong) pronunciation.

– many English words have become part of our everyday language, and are often mispronounced, and consequently, misleading.

How to get used to hearing English sounds

The English language has 44 distinct sounds, as opposed to the 30 in Italian; and more than 1000 ways to represent them graphically. Incredible!!! Trying to guess the pronunciation of a word from the way it is written is totally useless.

Do not give up, though, it is not impossible, even for an Italian, to the rhythm and pronunciation of words and complete sentences.

– read aloud it helps!

– listen to American or English songs, you’ll eventually get used to the pronunciation of the words

– watch films in their original language (for example the Twilight Saga)

– use audio books (one of the ones by Peter Sloan, for example)

– watch videos on YouTube (English Pronunciation)

Online Resources

You can find “mother tongue exchange sites”, where people who are native speakers of two different languages, let’s say Italian and English, can help each other learn and practise the language of choice.

iTalky, on this site you will be evaluated based on your level of English and then you will be put in touch with other users. It has attractive graphics and it is really very useful and well attended. You can also choose your favorite teacher, a mentor, who will follow you step by step in learning the language. All this can be done quite cheaply.

WeSpeke, where you can log in via email, linkedin or facebook; the site has been created for those who want to become familiar with the language, but also for teachers who send their students to practise. Join the community and find many friends to talk in English! There is also the related app for Android and iPhone

If you need to listen to the pronunciation of a specific word or phrase, you should go to Forvo.com, a great site that provides you with listening to the phonetics of a word. I could also recommend Wordreference.com, which is well-known all around the world.

For practice and training, go to the website: Manythings, which offers many lessons and exercises free of charge to help you become more confident in English sounds and pronunciation.


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