you see here to the left is called Inglese per viaggiare in 21 giorni (Improve your English on the move in 21
days.). It has just been published by Sperling & Kupfer (ISBN
978-88-200-5978-1, 228 pp.) and costs 12,90 euros. The authors, Massimo De
Donno, Giacomo Navone and Luca Lorenzoni, are not linguists or phoneticians but
public speaking experts.
aimed at Italians intending to understand and communicate clearly and
successfully with native English speakers, is divided into 21 chapters which
deal mainly with how English is spoken in the UK and around the world. The
authors describe the pronunciation of RP – as they still call it –, Scottish
and Irish English, American English, South African, Australian and New Zealand
English. They do so by providing transcriptions in IPA (as well as in a kind of
simplified 'phonetic' spelling system) of all the words
and expressions that they present. Symbols and their use are discussed at pp.
38-48. The book also has a companion website which, at the time of writing,
contains no resources related to it.
authors must have written the book in a hurry because the whole work is riddled
with inaccuracies and false statements. It is not just a question of possible
typing errors or misprints such as jeləu
(yellow) instead of (ˈ)jeləʊ (p. 59) or teik advais (take advice) instead of teɪk
əd(ˈ)vaɪs (p. 66). What we have here is serious mistakes about the 'phonemic spelling' of English words as well as phonetics in
general. There isn't a single page which doesn't contain at least one error.
On page 40,
for example, we find this:
pronunciations they give are for RP (= General
British (GB)), which they claim is only spoken by 2-3% of the British
population (p. 3). This is totally untrue. Please read here. As you can see,
the transcriptions for learn, see and blue are wrong: in GB learn
is always lɜːn not lɜːrn; see is siː or sɪi, not sɪː; and blue is never blʊː but bluː or blʊu. (On page
98, though, crew is given as kruː, not krʊː, and tree is both trɪː and tʃriː on page 44, which seems to suggest that the authors are unaware of the difference between the sounds uː and ʊ(ː), and between
iː and ɪ(ː).)
On page 41,
nose is transcribed nɒʊz, and on page 42 gnome is both nəʊm and nɒʊm. As you
know, nose is nəʊz and gnome is nəʊm: the ɒʊ diphthong is used in GB only before dark l, as in cold: kɒʊɫd. See here.
And what do
we make of the pronunciations of dad,
feet, bag, horse, universe, piano, serpent, tree, cheese, teeth, and rose on pp. 42-43?
completely wrong and never to be heard in GB.
examples of incorrect transcriptions in the book include the following: pence (p. 60) is penz instead of pen(t)s
(penz = pens); to get the gist on
p. 86 is transcribed as tʊ ɡet ðə ɡɪst
rather than tə ɡet ðə ʤɪst; Blood Alcohol Content (p. 109) is blʌd ælkəhɒl kəntent instead of blʌd ælkəhɒl kɒntent (kənˈtent = happy); comprehensive (p. 123) is given as kəmprəhensɪv rather than (GB) ˌkɒmprəˈhen(t)sɪv
~ ˌkɒmprɪˈhen(t)sɪv; natural gas
(p. 158) is transcribed nætʊrəl ɡæs
instead of næʧərəl ɡæs; preservative on page 188 is given as prɪsə(r)vətɪv rather than (GB) priˈzɜːvətɪv ~ prəˈzɜːvətɪv; dauntless (p. 202) is transcribed dɒn(t)les, but you know that in GB this
is ˈdɔːntləs; to follow suit is given as tʊ
fɒlɒʊ sʊt rather than tə fɒləʊ suːt
(sʊt = soot)… I could go on.
On page 43,
the phrase that thing is transcribed
as ðæ(t) θɪŋ and hot day is hɒ(t) deɪ. The t is in
brackets because – the authors stress – in these cases it may not be sounded. Of course that's false. In that thing and hot day, t can never be
omitted, but it can be replaced by a glottal stop, ʔ.
On page 45,
ŋ is described as a sound produced
with your tongue low in the mouth. Please see this picture from
Cruttenden's Gimson's Pronunciation of English (Routledge, 2014, p. 216) which clearly shows that the back of the
tongue is raised towards the velum when you articulate ŋ.
to the authors, GB /r/ is typically realized as ʋ
or ɰ (pp. 44-45) not ɹ, and /æ/ = eə or ɛə (p. 40) rather than a; American English has got vowels
which are more open than BrE (p. 103); and Australian and New Zealand English father contains a vowel more open than
GB ɑː, so in these accents it can be
pronounced both fʌðə(r) and fɑðə(r) (p. 224).
speech and stress are also extremely problematic: p. 128 has aɪ kʊd hæv kʌm bʌt aɪ dɪdnt fɪːl laɪk draɪvɪŋ
(I could have come but I didn't feel like
driving), instead of, for example, aɪ
kəd əv kʌm bət aɪ dɪdn fiːl laɪk draɪvɪŋ; Does she attend your school? (p. 52) is transcribed as dʌs ʃɪː ətend jɔː(r) skʊːl rather than,
for instance, ˈdʌz ʃi ətend jɔː ˈskuːl;
the modal going to is given as ɡɔɪŋ tʊ on page 95; and on p. 79 police is pɒlɪs in IPA and pòlis in
the authors' 'phonetic' spelling system. This seems to indicate that de Donno,
Navone and Lorenzoni pronounce police
wrongly in GB as ˈpɒlɪs (or possibly ˈpɒliːs) rather than p(ə)ˈliːs. The 'phonetic' spelling
system they use is also hopelessly inaccurate. In their previous book, for
instance, the authors give lady as 'ledi'
(p. 42) and bus as 'bas' (p. 47): a monophthongal
eː in lady is not GB but a feature of many regional accents spoken in the
UK; bus is bʌs or bɐs in GB, not bas, as this latter pronunciation corresponds
to bass, a sea or freshwater fish
that is used for food.
And what do
we make of p. 82?
pronunciations given are in Irish (English), the authors say – once again, most of the transcriptions
are entirely wrong.
this from p. 92?
know where De Donno et al. took this from – the book contains no references.
information provided about English grammar is also at some points fairly inaccurate, as
when, on p. 192, we read this:
know, in Standard English hope is
always followed by to + infinitive,
never by to + verb + ing.
also describes some technical phonetic terms such as, for instance, intrusive r (pp. 55-56), non-rhotic (p. 193), up-talk
[sic] (p. 117) and yod-dropping (p. 207).
For the latter, the authors provide a chart showing the 'loss' of j in Australian English:
All of the pronunciations indicated are wrong.
I very much hope that all these oversights and errors will be sorted out by the authors before the second edition of their Inglese per viaggiare in 21 giorni comes out.