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Italian Pronunciation: How to Sound Like a Native

Did you know that Florentine Italian is actually considered the official spoken Italian language? This is mostly due to the city’s role as the first Italian capital (under the reunified Italy).

Florence is probably the best place to pick up Italian, but if you want to sound like a native you need to brush up on your accent! It can be hard to transition from an English accent so, as a native Italian, I have put together a few pronunciation tips for you:

Bruschetta

There's nothing better than a bruschetta and caprese.
There’s nothing better than a bruschetta and caprese…

This is a common appetizer in the U.S. but people often pronounce it wrong. It is Brü-sket-tah. There’s no “sh” in the word and it is important to pronounce every letter, even when you spot a ‘t’ twice in a row.

Lasagna

Please refrain from saying ‘la-sag-nee-ya’, ‘la-zan-yay’, or ‘la-zag-na’. Every time I hear this, my heart breaks a little. The ‘gn’ sounds like the ‘ny’ in ‘canyon’ and the word flows as much as the food’s melted cheese as it comes out of the oven, ‘la-za-nya’. Remember that lasagne, with an ‘e’ at the end, is plural. Unless you are eating multiple lasagne at once, make sure you use ‘lasagna’, with an ‘a’. Then again, if you are eating numerous lasagne I can’t blame you, they are delicious.

Espresso

Another fantastic drink to try: cappucino!
Another fantastic drink to try: cappuccino!

Espresso to Italians is like a smooth liquid gold. It interrupts the work day with a brief break and energy boost, it starts one’s morning off on the right foot with a pastry or side of cookies. Just like its easy-going contributions to an Italian’s daily life, it is effortlessly pronounced es-press-oh. That’s right, there is no hard ‘x’ to throw off your morning or the end of your lunch break. 

Grazie

It’s not ‘grat-see’, nor is it ‘grat-ze’, it’s grazie (grats-ē-ā). Make sure the final ‘e’ sounds like a cross between a long ‘a’ and the first ‘e’ in elephant. This is a common mistake I have noticed among English speakers, and it can be hard to get the hang of using the right pronunciation, but it’ll really impress any fellow Italians out there!

For more tips on sounding like an Italian, take a look at our blog on 5 Essential Italian Expressions!


Intern Teaches Italian Hand GesturesAbout the Author:
Sara is interning with ISI Florence through ISI Abroad as part of her gap year experience. As an aspiring English major and experienced traveler, she will be your guide this fall to help you plan for a semester in Florence, Italian style.