In English, a native speaker learns to spell based on the way words sound. Correspondingly, one learns to pronounce a word based on its spelling, using phonetics. This involves rules learned when quite young, such as "I before E, except after C, or when sounded as A, as in neighbour or weigh." and the like. Most rules are simply absorbed as we grow up and obtain more vocabulary.

However, when learning another language, particularly as an adult, it can be more difficult to pick up these "rules" and it helps if they are explicitly stated somewhere. For example, in my Italian lessons, I have learned a couple, such as the "soft" G or C when followed by I (eg: Giacomo or città).

There must be many other grammatical rules such as these English and Italian examples. Does anyone know of such a list of rules for Italian, but in English so a beginner can understand?

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    Apologies for the double comment: a (maybe simpler) resource is the Italian wikibook en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Italian/Pronunciation
    – Denis Nardin
    Feb 1, 2016 at 22:29
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    I am a bit confused by all the downvotes. Is there any particular reason why this question is considered unsuitable for this site? It sounds as a perfectly natural question for a language learner [Maybe I should make this a meta question but I thought that this way I'd get more visibility]
    – Denis Nardin
    Feb 3, 2016 at 14:21
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    @DenisNardin: I also don't understand the reason of the downvotes.
    – Charo
    Feb 3, 2016 at 14:26
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    @Denis Nardin, you are right, but in other sections of stackexchange that are disgustingly strict this would have been shut down from the beginning... I like that here things are much more relaxed, but there are questions on hold because of the ease of googling for the answer and I don't find this question much different in that respect. That said I think it still should be kept because of the resources in the comments, which should fit the rules Feb 3, 2016 at 14:41

1 Answer 1


I am hoping that as I learn to read Italian, that my spelling will necessarily improve as well, since I will understand the phonetics better, and when to use all the accent marks, etc. that we do not really have in English, because I will have seen them written over and over while I am hearing them. If you can hear the words as you see them in writing, I am finding that my brain just begins 'sussing out' the rules behind the punctuation and spelling and punctuation. We are all different - but this is working for me.

  1. I like "Italian in 10 minutes a day" by Bilingual Books. This is paperback book that I bought to start off with. It has English phonetic spellings of the Italian words. It is VERY basic, but I found it to be very helpful in 'reminding' me what the words should sound like. I don't think it has much grammar in it, but I am trying to learn that with different books.
  2. Also, I have found that the site below has been helpful. The accent is questionable, I think (I have no reference, really, to make a judgement on the Italian accent, but I have heard the English one) but it helps me read a sentence or two and hear it at the same time, so I am gradually becoming better with the phonetics. I think (but do not know) that the examples are sentences that are actually in usage on Italian sites. http://context.reverso.net/translation/italian-english/Pronuncia
  3. Also, I use Google/Translate the same way. While the translations and accent are suspect, it IS useful, and I have been building up my phonetic understanding of speaking and comprehension speed this way as well, since I can read and hear at the same time. I find that it is an easy way to learn, and my "out loud" reading is becoming more accurate.
    • On the FULL site, (not the mobile one) you can actually highlight one word out of a sentence, see alternative translations, (suggested, I guess by anyone who cares to do so), and hear one word of a phrase over and over if you wish. The information that you can glean this way is interesting, in addition to being helpful in elementary phonetics. You are presented with different information depending on whether you are translating FROM or TO Italian from the English, so I often reverse the process, just to see what happens. Once I have refined and polished a sentence, I 'star' it, which saves it to a phrase book. This phrasebook, in turn, syncs with my phone, so I can review things while I am out and about, or I can have it printed out for me as a pdf.

Here is a picture of the kind of phonetic spelling that "Italian in 10 minutes a day" has. enter image description here

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    The worst of these “spellings” is pool-yah, but the whole idea of learning another language without leaving one's own is wrong. Feb 19, 2016 at 18:24
  • @WalterTross - I found those phonetic spellings to be VERY helpful in the beginning in learning how to 'read aloud' in my head. One of the biggest problems I faced was mentally decoding the new phonetic rules ~ how to pronounce what I was reading. It took me a while to remember how ci was pronounced, for instance. This book helped me a great deal, & allowed my brain to reprogram itself. Sometimes, I think that it is easy to forget what is was like to learn, from scratch, a totally new language. We all learn differently. In my case, I like to use a LOT of different approaches.
    – Msfolly
    Mar 4, 2016 at 1:22
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    @WalterTross: «the whole idea of learning another language without leaving one's own is wrong». I agree wholeheartedly: it is impossible to to get an understandable (let alone fluent or native-like) pronunciation of a foreign language by trying to formulate it with the phonemes of one's own. And pronunciation is only the most blatant case. It would be like trying to learn to drive a car by looking where to fit it the bridles or how to feed it hay.
    – DaG
    Mar 5, 2016 at 13:50

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