A Letter and From Patrizia

Dear all,

I don’t know where else to start this discussion so I will post it here and would be happy to read your opinions.
I would like to bring your attention to their perfect pronunciation when all the three of them perform in English. I must say that I had never, never heard a singer, of any nationality, sing with such perfect pronunciation, accent, intonation and fluency in a foreign language. I grew up in France and England so I can be considered a native speaker in both languages, and I’ve taught linguistics and foreign languages in schools and universities for over 20 years, so as a linguist I have always been aware that one can never get rid of his/her native accent unless he/she grows up in the country from a very young age. This has to do with the way the brain works. Research has shown that children’s brains are developmentally ready to accept and learn a foreign language, and fluency comes easily, rapidly, and without accent. Between ages 8 and 12, a child loses the ability to hear and reproduce new sounds as they did when they were younger. That’s why I was truly astonished when I heard them sing in English. The amazing thing is that they have an Italian accent when they speak but not when they sing. A Spanish friend has told me that they sound native when they sing in Spanish as well. This calls for a case study! But it also shows how much work and proficiency they put into their craft.

Patrizia (trishadria)

Patrizia’s website ~ https://italiariunita.com/

44 thoughts on “A Letter and From Patrizia

  1. Thanks for your posting. It clarifies some questions I had. I left my birth country at 9. Lived in Austria and Germany till 15 and the rest in the US. For some reason I did not have an accent while speaking German but at 81 I still have a slight accent speaking English.
    I am constantly asked “do I hear and accent” and “where are you from”.

  2. Hello Pat, I am certainly not a Linguist.  In fact I had to have help spelling the word.  Of course I have listened to the Boys hundreds of time and I hope I’m not confusing their spoken English with their singing in English, but  I can hear the Italian accent sometimes especially from Ignazio.  Even occasionally I smile when I hear a little Italian accent coming from Piero while singing.  Never from Gianluca.  His English pronunciation, for me, is just about perfect to my untrained ear.  However I am awestruck by all three’s command of the English language.  I don’t remember them ever talking about English lessons.  How did they get so good at it?  I do remember in an earlier interview Gianluca stating that one of his goals was to study languages.  Anyone else remember that?  I think part of what makes their English songs seem so perfect has to do with the emotions they are capable of bringing to their music in any language. It may just be me, but I listen for that tiny Italian accent shift when they sing in English.  I adore it!

    • Me, too, Marie!I love their accents! What we are dealing with here is a group of three highly intelligent, extremely motivated, young creatures the likes of which most of us have never been exposed to!! They never cease to amaze! Their command of the English language is truly wonderful! I could go on and on!! I forgot where I was going with this, but you understand!! ❤ ❤ <3. I'm " il Volofied"

    • when i was new to Il Volo which was just 8 months ago, and first heard Gianluca sing in English, i thought “OMG! he sings in perfect English!” (accent, intonation, pronunciation)

    • I have to agree with Marie. Of the three, Gianluca has the best command of the English language both in grammar and pronunciation although from time to time he does struggle a bit with the selection the correct preposition to use. (I say that with all due respect after having spent time learning both German and still stuggling wirh Italian, I still get my prepositions wrong! It’s an ongoing challenge for the best of non-native speakers.) If ever you have a doubt about Piero and Ignazio’s Italian accent surfacing when singing and or speaking English, just listen for their pronunciation of the word, “world.” That said, all three have an amazing talent for singing and speaking in foriegn languages. They have accomplished so much at such a young age.

    • I also agree with you, Marie. I Can still hear their Italian accent when I hear Piero and Ignazio sing. I’ve noticed when they saying words that have an “i” in them they pronounce it as an “e”, as in the word “river”. They say it like “reever” and now I realize why after learning Italian. The Italian “i” it’s pronounced as “e”. Gianluca doesn’t seem to do this and I also think his English pronunciation is near perfect. I remember hearing an interview with them where they were asked how they learned English. They said it was just from listening to movies and just speaking it. If you watch some of their earlier interviews when they were younger they all had heavy Italian accents when speaking English. They have all improved so much over the years!

    • Yes, as I specified, they do have a strong Italian accent when they speak but when they sing almost none. GIanluca’s pronunciation is perfect but in Ignazio’s version of Memory his is too, as far as language is concerned. And as I said it’s not just the accent, but the fluency. It’s not easy to have such an ease and fluency in a foreign language. I’ve listened to many other artists perform in a language which is not their own and they lack fluency and you can hear how they struggle to keep the right pronunciation and accent. I think these boys are amazing in everything they do.

    • Hi Marie, thanks for posting my enquiry. Yes, I was only talking about their pronunciation when they sing not when they speak. Of course they have a slight accent when they pronounce a few words, but their ease and fluency is amazing. I agree that Piero is the one who’s less fluent from a linguistic point of view, and I can detect some of Ignazio’s slight mispronunciations when he sings “Unchained Melody”. But I’ve never heard other singers perform in a foreign language with such ease and proficiency. You are also aware that English has many different pronunciations, depending on the country and even the State. Long time ago I worked for an American company based in Paris, the American manager used to speak French to the British one because they couldn’t figure out what the other was saying when they spoke English.  So maybe it also depends on their teacher, because they definitely have someone telling them how to pronounce the lyrics they sing, would be impossible to work that out by themselves.

      • Thank you, Pat. Interesting discussion. I’ll bet you that if you asked a “normal” person the same question, they wouldn’t hear the slight Italian accent. We are not “normal” here. We know every nuance, every slight shift of any syllable, every word of Italian, French, German or English that comes out of their mouths. We have been Il Volofied and we are proud!

    • I remember Gian saying that in school his favorite subjects were Latin and Greek. So maybe Gianluca is one of those truly fortunate souls who has a excellent ear for other languages ( and of course music!)
      I wish I had his gift!

  3. I only recognize a pronunciation problem when Ignazio sings ” Tonight ” from West Side Story- the speed of the song / lyrics in one section appears to trip him up …

  4. Patrizia, your last sentence says it all. Hard work. Dedication. For that they have my total admiration. They deserve all the rewards coming their way!

  5. As Patrizia says, in what refers to their Spanish, there is no accent at all. However, when they sing Granada, in a word or two, Piero forgets where to roll his Rs. He rolls them perfectly but not always in the right place. I find it lovely, anyway!

  6. I sometimes hear the Italian accent when Gianluca or Piero sing a song like “My Way” but it is only when they first begin to sing a new song. The more they sing it the better they get. I did see a video of them learning and recording “Tous Les Visages” and they had someone with them helping them to each perfect their pronunciation.

  7. Of the many things i admire about Il Volo, the seriously hard work they obviously put in and proficiency they achieve is the most awesome. They are gorgeous, immensely charming young men with lovely personalities and fantastic voices, but those voices are trained and controlled very precisely. That didn’t happen without hard work. Piero said that they practise every day without fail.
    Their mastery of other languages is stunning. i have been lucky enough to have spoken to them and i forgot Gianluca was Italian. Did i see them do a chat show lately in Portuguese , and someone mentioned they were learning German, totally awesome.
    These guys deserve every success they achieve. Everything about them means they should be the biggest stars in the world.

      • To me they are the biggest star’s in the world!
        In one of their interview’s they were asked how they speak English so well, and they said it was just from working with so many people that spoke English. They said they had not had any English lesson’s. They also said that German is the hardest language for them to learn. I still love it when Ignazio speak’s English with a real pronounced Italian accent, on stage. I think it is funnier than his Godfather routine!

  8. I get a kick whenever Ignazio sings the song on their “Buon Natale” Christmas album, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”. In that song, he pronounces the word “naughty” as “knotty” – – and that amuses me as I pronounce the “au” vowel -combination very differently, having learned English in the metropolitan New York City area (as in ‘the Queen’s’ (British) English, so to speak, re/ the word “naughty”). He also was taught(??) by someone who didn’t correctly pronounce the word for a “bough” of a tree, which is pronounced as “bow” as in ‘to” bow” down’); he says, instead, “boh,” ( as in ‘a hair “bow” ‘). Small things, but they make me smile whenever I hear him sing those words. I think, over all, that they do very well with the (general) American accent and pronunciation of the English language. I agree with those who describe their laudable determination to speak the foreign language as well as they can. They’re endearing in all ways.

  9. Most of the time you are right and their pronunciation is perfect. Gianluca’s is the best. Occasionally Ignazio falters. He does not pronounce “miracle” correctly in Tonight, for example. But who cares? I love the little Italian-izations of the English words when they occur!

  10. Many of the words mentioned as mispronounciations are not. Their mouths are not equipped to make the necessary sounds. As an aside, Ignazio speaks very good English when he decides to. Almost no accent when we talk. Yes, they have native speakers in the studio when they record so that their pronounciations are as spot on as possible. Also, they learn the songs phonetically. Hope everyone is having a great week.

  11. I think they need to spend more time in the US to perfect their English. Their Spanish is impecable. Ignazio seems to be the one that has a little more difficulty with English but it is so sweet when he sings “whad” instead of what.

  12. They also listen to a lot of American music in Italy. I can get the “Italy” music on my cable and half of it is in English! And I imagine, like us, they try to get the accents just right when they sing along. As much as I adore Igna, his English is the worst in Tonight! But I love their pronunciation of the word “river” in several songs, it’s so cute…Igna and Gian both say “ree-ver…” And I do think Igna should say “miracle” correctly. I never even knew what he was singing, until someone pointed it out to me. Now every time I hear it, I cringe. But who cares, his voice is awesome! And when any of them roll their “rs”, I just melt! 🙂

  13. just another well deserved feather in their cap. they never stop amazing me with their talent and I am looking forward to their concert at the Albert Hall London in May. x x x

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