This program in David Alan Stern’s Acting with an Accent series teaches the placement, inflections & pronunciation of several styles and intensities of the Italian accent.


Learning an Italian Accent


The download contains sixty-one (61) minutes of systematic instruction in MP3 sound files. You’ll also get a printable PDF of the instruction manual. It contains summaries of the audio lessons and full transcripts of the drill words, phrases, and passages.


You will first learn the resonance (placement), inflection/rhythm, and pronunciation of a general Italian accent. You’ll go on to learn different styles and intensities of the speech pattern. Here’s a brief summary of the training.

  • Lesson 1 teaches you the resonance or voice placement of the Italian accent. In other words, it shows you how to shape your mouth to create that voice quality.
  • Lesson 2 shows you how to embed target Italian vowels into the placement you learned in the first lesson.
  • Lesson 3 deals with this accent’s pitch and rhythm traits. This recognizable combination of melody and stress occurs to different degrees among Italian-accent speakers. It is particularly strong in the southern Italian and Sicilian accents.
  • Lesson 4 teaches you the consonant changes that are related to the accent’s muscularity/resonance.
  • Lesson 5 puts it all together with several drill passages. Firstly, it reminds you about the voice placement and speech rhythm. Further, it walks you through the pronunciation phrase by phrase before leading you into a normal speaking pace.


The Italian accent has often been stereotyped in settings such as Vaudeville skits and stand-up comedy. The southern and Sicilian varieties of the accent often have strong inflection/rhythm traits—sometimes accompanied by an intrusive vowel following some final consonants. These characteristics are easy to exaggerate, especially if actors “perform the rhythm” and ignore the specifics of characters’ intentions. Volumes could be written about whether stereotyped Italian accents (think Chico Marx) are now either funny or acceptable. They clearly interfere with the truth of a real character in actual human circumstances.


  • When should you use an Italian accent? Many might think that every character whose native language is Italian should have its accent when speaking English. But what about characters who’d speak Italian in “the real world,” such as those in Ugo Betti’s Corruption in the Palace of Justice? Perhaps English with an Italian accent would not artistically represent Italian with no foreign accent in such cases. As such, what brand of English would best represent the Italian of native speakers”?
  • In such cases, directors often prefer “no accent,” i.e. the standard English of the performance location. Occasionally some request light accents to maintain both a flavor of characters’ real-world Italian and the impression of fluency. The same artistic choice applies to using French accents for Molière, Spanish for Lorca, Norwegian accents for Ibsen, etc.
  • The full accent is more often wanted/needed when, in the script, first-language Italian speakers are conversing in English. An example would be the immigrant brothers Rodolpho and Marco in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge. In such cases, most directors would want to distinguish the sound of these non-native speakers from that of the others.