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Most Popular Mispronounced French & Italian Words and How To Say It Right

Updated on January 20, 2017

Learning From Native Speakers Not From Monolinguals

Language is a tool for expression. For centuries, language continuously evolve to suit contemporary times. Learning another language besides English, gives that person a greater advantage in culture and education perspective. A person interested in learning another language correctly is also more flexible in understanding the native people of that language, their culture, way of life and so on. A person who wants to dig deep into absorbing another language has to fall in love with that language. But for some, a sputtering of this and that can help manifest a more enjoyable conversation with a local when visiting another country. Countless people appreciate the gesture and will be kind enough to rebuke you if you bastardize foreign words unintentionally. Because some English speakers have "stiff tongues," they would have to invest more effort in saying simple words correctly.

I compiled a list of constantly mispronounced words that happen to be French and Italian. Because of advancing technological innovations, our planet Earth has become a tight-knit global mixing pot. Even though English has achieved the lingua franca status, it is best to arm a native English speaker to learn a few smatterings of foreign words correctly. You will be proud of yourself when a native speaker does not have to furrow those brows on you.

There are several sites in the internet who teaches others how to pronounce certain words . I checked on a Japanese word, 'gyoza' that I was debating with an English-speaking monolingual who insisted that on his pronounciation. So, even though I have always known how to pronounce the Japanese word correctly, I had to research and 'voila' (vwa-lah) says it 'gah-yoh-zah .' Wrong. Japanese people say it as 'gyoh-zah .' That does it, not everything in supposedly reliable resource are correct.

When I was working in Seattle several years ago, while I was in a meeting with the rest of the management team for this cafe/bakery company, a question was raised on "how to pronounce 'puglia' properly because the customers want to know." So, I opened my mouth and said "pool-yah ." The monolingual general manager instructed the questioner that "it would be easier to tell the customers to pronounce puglia as 'pahg-lya .' I was dumbfounded on this atrocious conclusion. The dumb leading the dumb. So be it. The staff has learned a new way to butcher an Italian word.

Reading on are the words that inflames my ears, and so does the native speakers.

Parlez- vous Francais?

Non .

But it helps to say these popular words the French way, not the ignorant way. We do come across French words and it helps to say, especially when ordering food, that you are cultured.

Remember these pointers in the French language:

When a word ends with ....’oise ’ pronounce the the last consonant which will sound like a szh . For example: ni ç oise - nee-swahz .’ When the ni ç oise is written as "salade ni ç oise ," it's pronounced as 'sah-lahd-nee-swahz .' When it is written as ni ç oise salad, pronounce as 'nee-swahz-salad ." In French, the 'oise ' followed by the consonant "s" is called an linking together.

Do you also know that "h " is not pronounced? A typical native French speaker would omit "h " on Harry or Hercules. Sounds funny to your ears? Try asking them when you pronounce their language. Here are more common and popular words that we have to stop butchering:

chef - pronounce 'shef .' In French 'ch ' is sh + vowel. Literal definition - chief or 'jefe ,’ (heh-feh) Spanish for the big kahuna.

sous chef - pronounce 'soo-shef .' Literal definition of sous is under. When a word ends with ‘s’ followed by a word that begins with another consonant like ‘c’ or ‘h’ , this is what is called linking together.

croissant - 'krwah-song' . Go ahead and say it. But I bet you the person behind the counter would say, "you mean 'kroh-sant?" C'est malade .

vichyssoise - ‘vee-shee-swahz’ (Remember the 'oise ' rule.). Vichyssoise is a creamy pureed leek potato soup.

bon appétit - ‘bohn-apeh-tee’ (When the word DOES NOT END IN 'E", do not pronounce the last consonant.

entrée - 'ahn-tray .' "En " is pronounced as "ahn ."

crème brûlée - 'krehm broo-lay ’’ It’s your favorite dessert, so pronounce it right.

crème anglaise - 'krehm-awhn-glez' You can make this dessert soup from scratch or the secret of thawing your vanilla ice cream is the" lazy-short cut-don't mention-what-I just-did."

chèvre – ‘chev-reh’ Goat. Also referred to as goat cheese or goat milk.

pâté - 'pah-tay' It's cooked liver made from poultry or meats.

bonjour - 'bohn-zhooh ' Good morning. Good day. The French people say it with such melody!

Parla Italiano?

The Italian language pronounces the vowels with distinction much like the Spanish language. The tone of a native Italian spe;ker is musical and dramatic. When your ears are attuned to hearing languages, the Italian language can be obvious. By the way, Italy is pronounced as 'ee-tah-lee ,' and Italian is 'ee-tah-lyan .'

The confusing 'c' s' in Italian language is explained as:

c + a, o, u = k; c + e, i + ch = ch; 'cc + i' = 'cheeh' Example 'Gucci" = 'goo-chee'

ch, cch + vowel = . Hint on sch + vowel = k + vowel

ci + a, o, u = ch Example 'Luciano ' = 'loo-chah-noh'

'sch + vowel (a,e,i.o.u) = pronounce 'k' + vowel Example 'bruschetta' = 'broos-keht-tah'

The following words should retire from the butchering travesty of monolingual-English speakkers:

bruschetta - 'broos-keht-tah' (sch +vowel = k +vowel)

puglia - 'poohl-yah' ( gl = y) A type of bread from the type of town in Italy.

ciabatta - 'chah-baht-tah' In Italian, if the words starts with a (c + vowel, pronounce as 'chee ,' 'cho ', 'cha .' ) A type of bread.

cioppino - 'choh-pee-noh' A stew composed of a variety of meats and vegetables.

gnocchi - 'nyoh-kee' '(gn +vowel = ny +vowel = 'nyoh' or 'nyah .) Remember chi + vowel = k +vowel.

bongiorno, buongiorno - 'bohn-jyor-noh' Good morning. Good day.

ciao - 'chaow ' Hi or sometimes an informal okay, bye.

We Can Rise To That Level

Always check and recheck the right way to say it because we owe to ourselves a favor to learn something from others.

Immerse in renting out foreign films with subtitles from your library. A lot of people find those subtitles intrusive, but to hear how the French and Italian native speakers say and express their language is the best free foreign language lessons on my couch.

Take a hint from MOST immigrants and foreigners who painstakingly learn and absorb the English language before coming to America.

Translating the Pronounciations

My Disclaimer: Maybe not the exact symbols, but I have been around enough to hear how people can understand it phonetically.


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    • Glass-Jewelry profile image

      Marco Piazzalunga 

      6 years ago from Presezzo, Italy

      I realize that it is very difficult for a non-Italian, pronounce words correctly in Italian because they are quite complicated. But I also believe that the only way to get familiar is to speak directly with a native, possibly in Italy.

    • donmanual profile image


      6 years ago from Playa del Carmen, Mexico

      Merci! Very useful article. I didn't know how to pronounce some words. Now I know. :)

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 

      6 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi :)

      But there is a small error here, daisynicolas.

      It should be:

      'Parlez-vous français?'

    • Natashalh profile image


      6 years ago from Hawaii

      This is so useful and easy to follow! Thank you. Bookmarked and voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Wonderful Hub. I love words and I especially love foreing words. :) And it is a shame that we don't take a little time to pronounce them correctly the way native speakers do.

      I am not fluent in any language, but I picked up a little Latin and Greek from my mother, a little Polish from my father, and then I learned to translate in German and French during graduate studies.

      I just did a Hub you might enjoy, Etymology, no not entomology, Etymology! Looking forward to reading more. Lots of votes and sharing. :)

    • daisynicolas profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Alaska

      Ah....the most recent example over the airwaves about the Toulouse massacre. That is (too-loose), I just heard an English-speaking American broadcaster pronounce it as (too-loo). LOL It's irritating (an understatement) to give people a"mic" to announce their ignorance. Open ears and learn the beauty of another language and another culture.

    • daisynicolas profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Alaska

      Welcome aboard the Francophile train!

    • 2patricias profile image


      6 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      An entertaining and informative hub. We live about 4 miles from a Channel Port, so often hear French spoken, but not much Italian. (Although Pat is learning Italian.) Even though we hear so much French, we often hear English speakers butchering French words. Both French and Italian are beautiful languages, and it is lovely to hear these words that have been integrated into English given their proper pronunciation.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 

      6 years ago from The English Midlands

      Parlez-vous francais?

      I love the French language.

      I enjoy learning it; hearing it; using it.

    • daisynicolas profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Alaska

      Right on. I am proud of people who know the value of words in any language. And you just gave me another idea.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Great hub! I wish more sites/books etc. would give the proper pronounciations of languages they are using within their text. I'm not speaking so much of language books/courses that should teach you how to pronounce properly anyway, but for example cookery books, crafts and so on. I think to pronounce another language anyway we see fit is not only arrogance in the extreme, but destroys the beauty of language and speech on the whole.

      A great hub + voted up!


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