You too can learn Italian!
This page is being provided to me, Tyler Jones, by Lucio Chiappetti to hopefully be of value to
people using the Web. These pages are provided by Lucio Chiappetti in his spare time, more or
less following the template and cadence of the Spanish pages by Tyler Jones. However the author
does not guarantee to provide compilation of new pages regularly.
This page is only meant to
be viewed through Mosaic, for Mac, Windows, or X. Foreign language characters
will not show up correctly under a text-based viewer like Lynx.
I'm still working this
thing out, so the format may change in the future. Any comments, requests, or
problems may be mailed to me, Tyler
My name is Lucio Chiappetti. I saw the Spanish pages by
Tyler Jones, and thought I could provide some basic Italian for
this Web-course. Italian is my mother language, so
I do know enough to be giving these basic lessons. For the
first few weeks, I plan on only using nouns and simple phrases, words that
you're likely to run into (and should know what they mean). Later, I'll get
into verbs and sentence structure.
This Week's New Words:
The Italian alphabet is fairly similar to our own
(English, or depending on where you're from, American).
The letters K,J,W,X,Y occur only in foreign origin words.
Each lesson will
explain a few more letters. This week, I'll explain the interesting letters
(or combinations thereof) from this week's words (above).
- The gli (followed or not by another vowel) in Italian is pronounced
more or less as ll in Spanish
However there are words like glicine (flower name), negligente,
anglicano in which, for etymological reasons, g and l are pronounced as two separate
sounds as in English.
Thus, the Italian word coniglio
(rabbit) is pronounced like conihlyo.
and the word conigli
(rabbits) is pronounced like conihli.
- The gn is the same sound as Spanish ñ i.e.
is the same sound as the ny pair in the word
Thus, signore is pronounced like
- The Italian h is always
silent and as such an Italian speaker won't pronounce it when it occurs in foreign origin words (e.g. hotel).
Moreover the letter h in Italian occurs only in the groups ch and gh (see below) and in
the present tense of the verb "to have".
Thus, ho ( [I] have ) is pronounced o and hanno ( [they] have) is pronounced
anno, the same as the word anno (year).
- a, e, i, o, u
- The Italian vowels
have only one sound,
regardless of what letters they precede or follow, or
accent marks on the vowel, with the (minor) exception of e and o.
- The a is always pronounced as in the English word car.
- The e has the sound of the e in bed.
Actually there are two sounds of e :
Note however that such accents are NOT normally written (unless they are required for tonic reasons), and
appear only in dictionaries. Moreover, dictionaries report an "ideal" Tuscan pronunciation which is
subject to ample regional variations. For instance the words perché (why) and
stélla (star) are usually pronounced in the North as perchè and
stèlla. In general a mispronunciation at this level won't be noticed, or if it is
noticed (for instance méla (apple) is pronounced everywhere like that, and if you
pronounce mèla it will sound funny) you will be understood.
- an OPEN one, indicated with the grave accent : è
- a CLOSED one, indicated with the acute accent : é
There are words in which a difference in accent causes a different meaning, as in pèsca
(peach) and pésca (fishing), but in the North we pronounce both words as the first one
and are understood everywhere.
A note on accents : dictionaries indicate the tonic accent, i.e. put an accent on the vowel in the
stressed syllable in the word (this is in the vast majority of cases the last but one, so called "plain"
or "flat" words).
This accent is not used and not required in normal writing. In normal writing the accent is required
ONLY if the word ENDS with an accented vowel (i.e. the last syllable is accented, so called "truncated"
words), e.g. perché. In handwriting do not bother to use the acute or the grave accent,
just put any little sign over the vowel. On typewriters with Italian keyboards there are accented keys.
On computer keyboards we usually prefer to use ASCII keyboards without accented keys, and just use an
apostrophe instead of the accent, e.g. perche' : it is simpler and more portable.
- The Italian i is the same as the English long e or ee as in see.
- The o is always pronounced as the o in the word cold or dog.
Here too actually there are two sounds of o :
The same comments made above for the letter e hold.
- an OPEN one, indicated with the grave accent : ò (similar to dog)
- a CLOSED one, indicated with the acute accent : ó (similar to cold)
- The Italian u has the sound of the English oo as in too
or the English ue as in blue.
- As opposed to the English r, which is formed in the
back of the mouth with the back of the tongue, the Italian r
is formed using the tip of the tongue on the upper palate, behind the
front teeth, more like the English d.
Being the first lesson, this week you're just learning some of the basics.
The main emphasis is on pronouns (io, lei) and
numbers (zero through dieci). Also, you're
being introduced to some of the most common greeting and short phrases, such
as salve ("hello") and spiacente ("I'm sorry").
Without knowing any verbs, there aren't many sentences to be made with the
words we have, but here are some (short) examples with what we know:
And yes, that's about all we can do right now, but these are still good
examples of Italian grammatical structure. Notice how similar the above
sentences are to English - salve comes first, and then the subject,
signorina. You can form the same kinds of sentences using
addio and grazie, and signora, in
addition to the example sentences above. However, you can't
make a sentence like this:
- Salve, signorina. - Hello, miss.
- Spiacente, signore. - I'm sorry, sir.
What the above sentence literally says is "hello, you", and while it may be
possible to think of times in English when you might say that, in Italian the
sentence is meaningless, and people will look at you funny if
you say Salve voi! in the middle of a group of Italian-speaking
people. You could however say Salve a voi! (literally "hello to you"),
although it sounds slightly unusual.
- Salve, lei.
Numbers. Numbers, as you should all know, are important.
That's why I've included some in the first lesson. For the moment, you only
know the numbers between 0 (zero) and 10 (dieci), but that
will change. What can you do with the numbers zero through
dieci? Count your toes! Uno, due, tre, quattro, cinque, sei,
sette, otto, nove, dieci.. Recite your phone number! cinque, cinque
cinque, otto, sei, zero, due (555-8602); note that however in Italian it is usual to
pronounce phone numbers by group (i.e. as it were five-hundred-and-fifty-five eighty-six
zero-two) but you'll wait for another lesson for that. Tell someone how many sisters
you have (due). What you can't do with the numbers
zero through dieci is make numbers bigger than dieci
by stringing them together. Due zero is not the
same as 20, although if you were in a pinch, you might be able to make someone
understand that 20 was what you meant. Don't worry, we'll get to the rest of
the numbers (1-1000) in the next few lessons.
Pronouns. Pronouns (io, tu, Lei, egli,
ella, noi, voi, essi, and loro) aren't anything that
you can actually use yet, because I haven't given you any
verbs. But as we progress, pronouns will be very important, so I'm
introducing them now. The Italian pronouns are used almost always exactly the
same way they are in English. In English, you would say
In Italian, you would just substitute io for I in the sentence above
(we'll pretend that the rest of the sentence is really in Italian) and end up
- I went to the store.
Trust me, how one uses these pronouns will make much more sense when we learn
- Io went to the store.
Well, I think that about wraps up Lesson 1. Learning any foreign language
requires a lot of memorization, and unfortunately this course
is no different. One thing that I find helpful is to mix in Italian words in
my everyday English, so long as the situation can handle it (i.e. don't start
calling the businesspeople in your board meeting voi next time
you get together). So try and memorize the new words for this lesson, and how
to pronounce them. When you're ready, you can go on to Lesson 2!
original Spanish lesson by Tyler Chambers, 4-15-94
refurbished for Italian by Lucio Chiappetti, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Copyright Lucio Chiappetti 1994.