Free Course in Italian

Do you want to learn Italian? You can do it without any audio help, and without any expense, by using the following course. I will include exercises here, but exercises can easily be had. The important thing is to get the basic rules where you can reach them. Vocabulary can be increased with a dictionary or any sample of the language. Those can be had in soc.culture.italian

With very few exceptions, Italian words are pronounced according to simple consistent rules. There is no need to learn every single word’s pronunciation as in English. Once you learn the rules, you can read new words to yourself aloud. The exceptions are the following:

1) sometimes “s” is pronounced /s/ and sometimes /z/. 2) sometimes “o” is pronounced OH and sometimes AW (a short sound; don’t drag it out). 3) it is hard to know which syllables to stress in multisyllabic words.

#1 is not very important. #2 is not either, and is possible to guess at. Final “o”s are pronounced OH; it is only “o”s in the middle of words that may be AW. #3 is the tough one. Two syllable words always get the first syllable stressed, unless there is an accent mark on the second.

pero (PEAR-oh) is pear tree

pero’ (pear-OH) is but or however

amo (AH-mo) is I love

amo’ (ah-MO) is he/she/it loved

papa (PAH-pah) is pope

papa’ (pah-PAH) is daddy

But if there are any rules for stressing three and more-syllable words, I do not know or have forgotten them. (If anybody knows them, please inform me.)

In response to the above request, I have been repeatedly informed that the “rule” is to stress the penultimate, but that there are almost as many exceptions as there are cases which follow the “rule.” I have, however, also been given this information: Words ending in -zione are feminine and stress the penultimate. Words ending in -mento are usually masculine and stress the penultimate. Verbs in the infinitive usually stress the penultimate. And dictionaries often write words with an accent mark before the stressed syllable.

Where Italian is MORE difficult than English is in the area of verbs. Verbs change their endings for person, number, and tense. I highly recommend buying a copy of “501 Italian Verbs” which is even more useful than a dictionary. We will look at verbs below. Again, once you learn the rules, you can pick up new verbs without any trouble. The rules vary only very slightly for three types of verbs, those in which the infinitive form ends in -are, -ere, and -ire. Some verbs are reflexive (meaning roughly “One blanks oneself” rather than “One blanks”). And a few verbs (to be, to have, to go) are irregular and must be learned in all their forms. “To be” and “to have” are needed for conjugating other verbs, and so might as well be learned first.

Nouns are easier: nothing like German or Latin. We can learn the types together with the six Italian words for “the”:

singular: il, la, lo

plural: i, le, gli

Nouns that end in o use il (these are often called “masculine”).
Nouns that end in a use la (these are often called “feminine”).
Nouns that end in e usually take la but sometimes take il (you have to learn each noun). (Those that take il may be called masculine, those that take la feminine.)
But nouns that end in o and begin with z or sp or st or sm or any other “impure s” use lo. (These are masculine.)
And la becomes l’ before a vowel, and il can as well.

So, the masculine articles are:

il – i
lo – gli ( or l