Error Type 1: Adding a schwa sound

One of the major errors for Italian learners is adding a schwa sound after words ending with consonants.

This results in adding a syllable to the word and consequently in distorting the overall intonation and rhythm of the learners’ speech.

Stop(ə); Speak(ə); Snake(ə); Cheese(ə); Bob(ə) etc.

Error Type 2: Substituting the schwa sound /ə/

As it is the case with Spanish learners, Italians substitute the schwa sound (as in the case of most vowels) for another vowel based on spelling. They pronounce the English letters as in Italian.

Unlike English, Italian is written as pronounced and so the learners are not confused with the difference between spelling and sound in their mother tongue.

Since, in spoken English, the schwa sound is the most common vowel in English, mispronouncing it has a severe impact on the learners’ intelligibility.

For example in words such as [available], the first two schwa sounds are represented by letter [a], which is normally pronounced as vowel /a/ or /ɑː/ in Italian.

Responsib(ə)le; Personality; Vegetab(ə)les; stationary etc.

Error Type 3: /æ/

Again, the confusion between sound and spelling causes the Italian learner to substitute vowel /æ/ for /a/ or /ɑː/.

Even when corrected, the learners could produce /æ/ as /e/ which is an even shorter and more relaxed (lax) sound.

Although /æ/ is categorized as a short vowel, it sounds slightly longer than /e/ especially before the voiced consonants /b/ and /d/ as the jaw opens wider and the tongue falls lower inside the mouth.

Have; Cat; Fat; Rat; plaid; apple; advertising; address etc.

Error Type 4: /i/ & /ɪ/

Italian learners replace the /ɪ/ with /i:/ due to spelling and melodic reasons.

The impact of the Italian music is usually quite strong on the learners’ ability to hear and produce the vowels as they truly are, and /i:/ & /ɪ/ are not exceptions.

Teachers should spend a considerable amount of time explaining the concept of tensed vs. lax (relaxed) as well as long vs. short vowels and reminding the students of the importance of isolating sound from spelling.

/i/: Need; read; treat; believe; meat; wheel; receipt etc.

/ɪ/: Knit; rid; tit; live; mitt; will; sit etc.

Error Type 5: /ɑː/

In the Italian language, the open [o] is fairly similar to the American vowel /ɑː/ but shorter.

However, once more, the spelling poses a great problem for Italian learners who commonly replace vowel /ɑː/ with /ʌ/ /ɔ/ or /oʊ/ depending on the region.

Robot; caught; call; mall; fought; stop; wall etc.

Error Type 6: /u:/ & /ʊ/

Please review TYPE 6 error for Spanish learners./u:/: Room; tooth; food; mood; rude; wooed etc./ʊ/: Book; put; foot; hood; could; would etc.

Error Type 7: /oʊ/

Please review TYPE 7 error for Spanish learnersWrote; old; boat; coat; mode; road; showed etc.

Error Type 8: /eɪ/ & /aɪ/

Please review TYPE 8 error for Spanish learners./eɪ/: Name; date; wait; train; great; same; wage etc.

/aɪ/: right; fight; side; light; tried; hide; night etc.

Error Type 9: /θ/ & /ð/

Please review TYPE 9 error for Spanish learners.  Please note that Italian learners could also sometimes replace /θ/ with /f/, not only /t/./θ/: thin; wrath; moth; thigh; Ruth; truth etc. ð/: weather; loathe; then; writhe; scythe; rather etc.

Error Type 10: /m/

Please review TYPE 10 error for Spanish Learners. Dream; rhyme; fame; William; sitcom; some etc.

Error Type 11: /n/ & /ŋ/

Italian learners can normally pronounce consonant /ŋ/ but they add either /k/ or /g/ right after it.

For example, the word [thing] could contain /k/ at the end, while the word [think] could sound as [thing] instead.

The learners need to be reminded to bring the back of the tongue into contact with the soft palate while nasalizing the consonant without adding /k/ or /g/.

On the other hand, because Italian /ŋ/ is an "allophone" of /n/ before velar stops, the word [keen] for example can sound like [king].

Words with /ŋ/ + k: Think; link; sink; wink; hunk; punk; monk etc.

Words with /ŋ/ alone: thing; sing; wing; playing; song; thong; ding dong etc.

Error Type 12: /d/ & /t/

In general, in Italian, the /h/ doesn’t exist and thus is always silent.  /h/ is only rarely used to distinguish between two similarly pronounced words such as [anno] meaning [year] and [hanno] meaning [to have].

This means that most Italian learners delete /h/ in English in words such as [have] [hate] [home] but strangely enough they sometimes add it before a vowel in the beginning of the word.

Words with /h/ in the beginning: hunting; hug; hers; heart; hall; hate; halt etc.

Error Type 13:/r/

Please review TYPE 13 error for Spanish learners.Right; over; cartoon; bird; there; service etc.

Error Type 14: /l/

Please review TYPE 14 error for Spanish learners.Like; love; call; fallen; sold; deal; field etc

Error Type 15:/s/ & /z/

As a general rule, when Italian learners see the letter [s] + voiced consonant such as [sleep] [snack] [smart], they pronounce it as /z/ but when it’s followed by a voiceless consonant such as [stop] [school] [spoon], they pronounce it as /s/.

Teachers also need to bear in mind that in Italian, there are two affricates that are not part of the English phonetic system and those are /dz/ and /ts/, and both of these symbols are spelled with letter [z], which means that mistakes with /s/ and /z/ are very likely to occur.

/z/: zero; please; is; rise; hazard; hazel; he’s ill etc.

/s/: snake; smirk; spa; smile; sport; skirt; store etc

Error Type 16: Confusion with /ʃ/ & /tʃ/

First of all, please be aware that in Italian the letters [ch] is pronounced as /k/, and this leads to a lot of confusion when it comes to pronouncing /tʃ/.

Consequently, Italian learners use /ʃ/ & /tʃ/ interchangeably and teachers must explain the difference phonetically and make sure they mention to the students that most of the time (as there are many exceptions) the spelling [ch] is pronounced as /tʃ/ in English.

Words with /ʃ/: shower; shy; shame; tension; facial; rush; harsh etc.

Words with /tʃ/: cheap; choke; chest; catching; matcher; watch; ditch etc.

Error Type 17: /j/ & /ʤ/

Please review TYPE 17 error for Spanish learners./j/: yes; yell; yet; you; University etc./ʤ/: John; germs; job; gel; jewelry etc.

Error Type 18: /w/

Italian learners sometimes replace the consonant /w/ with /v/ at the beginning of the word. This occurs as their lower lip touches the upper teeth.

The pronunciation of English /w/ involves the forward movement of both lips to form a very tight circle without touching each other or the teeth, which seems to be slightly challenging for Italian learners.

/w/: would; water; west; wall; when etc.