So, you’ve decided to learn Italian? I mean, who can blame you? It is just an amazing language, so passionate and beautiful. Italian is the language of melody and music. After all, the most beautiful opera masterpieces are sung in Italian and the music itself is written in the language. But you already know all of this! You are poetic, you feel the music living inside yourself and, what’s more, you love singing. If that is the case, you know that Italian is the perfect language for you to learn.
There is just one tiny problem. When you speak Italian, even now that you’ve mastered the tricky parts of separating feminine and masculine, you sound as you were speaking an entirely different language and Italians look at you as if ready to ask: “Scusa, che hai detto?” (“Sorry, what?)
Nothing is more frustrating than knowing all of those things about grammar, idioms, colloquial expressions and endless vocabulary but not being able to sound natural when you speak your second language. It must feel like a very desperate situation. Io mollo! (I give up!)
But there is good news for you. You are not the only one who is struggling with sounds, melody, and right pronunciation. To learn the secret of the Italian melody you just need to do some specific and funny exercises.
1. Watch your favorite singers singing
Pavarotti and Bocelli are your favorite Italian singers for this exercise. Va bene! They are world famous opera singers and their voices are incredibly beautiful. Right now, however, we are not interested in their voices but in the way in which they move their mouths while they are singing. There is something very important in these movements that you have to learn about. Now, find a video in which our favorite singers are singing and look carefully at their mouths. Did you notice it? Right, you got it! They open their mouths wildly when they pronounce the vowels. This is happening because the Italian melody is basically created by the correct long sound of vowels. For the sake of clarity (and beginner language learners), the best way to achieve that is to overemphasise your vowels. It might look a bit ridiculous but open your mouth wide and try to mimic the sounds.
2. Warm up the 5 vowels
It is incredible how big are Pavarotti and Bocelli’s mouths! In this easy and funny exercise, you have to pretend to be Pavarotti or Bocelli while they are having their warm up before performing. Open your mouth as wide as you can and start singing the 5 vowels. Make the sound as long as possible and make sure that your mouth is really open. A good idea is to take a small mirror and check yourself while you are singing each vowel. Don’t be shy! Pavarotti and Bocelli are not! It’s also a good idea to occasionally check in with an Italian pronunciation guide to make sure you’re practicing the right sounds.
3. Create your personal melody
Now that you feel comfortable with the new shapes and movements your mouth is capable of, it’s time to move on to the last exercise. By this time your mouth and tongue should be very elastic and you can sing each of the vowels for several seconds. Now it is high time you started creating your own melody using the five vowel sounds. Go back to the Pavarotti and Bocelli videos and look at the way in which they create a melody by modifying the shape of their mouths while they are singing. This is exactly what you have to do now. Take a deep breath and start to create a melody by combining the five vowels together. Are you melodic enough? A good idea is to record yourself while you are singing and check if you are as passionate and melodic as Pavarotti and Bocelli are. You might be even better!
These are all the exercises that you can do on your own. These practices are really effective and you will definitely improve your Italian vowel sounds and your Italian melody. However, if you really want to be sure that you are progressing, hire a professional Italian teacher who can really help you to improve not only your vowel sounds but also tackle the consonants. These can sometimes be very difficult to be learnt and produced. But for now, you just start singing the songs of your favorite singers. Have fun!
This post was written by Marzia P, our Italian teacher in Rome.