check this chart with possessive adjectives http://italian.about.com/library/fare/blfare132a.htm
In Italian the use of articles is more than the use of articles in English. You are right that you cannot directly translate. "al" is a combination of the preposition "a" and the definite article "il"
Here is a website on how to do the possessive in Italian which usually include articles, with exceptions: http://www.italianlanguageguide.com/grammar/possessive-adjective.asp
Here is a website on combined prepositions with articles: http://italian.about.com/library/fare/blfare153a.htm
Here is a website on usage of prepositions and examples that do not need articles: http://italian.about.com/library/fare/blfare114a.htm
and more: http://italian.about.com/od/grammar/
I suoi (di lui / di lei) amici sono simpatici. His (her) friends are amiable.
L'attore recita la sua parte (di lui). The actor plays his part.
Scrivi il suo numero (di lui / di lei). Write his (her) number.
loro is invariable and always refers to two or more people:
È il loro cantante preferito. It's their favorite singer.
I tuoi fratelli e i loro amici... Your brothers and their friends...
proprio and altrui are considered third-person possessive adjectives such as suoand loro:
Educa i propri (suoi) figli. Raise your children.
Pensano solo ai propri (loro) interessi. They only think of their own interests.
Non desiderare le cose altrui (di altri). Do not covet what belongs to others.
proprio acts to reinforce the modifier when combined with other possessive adjectives
I nostri propri desideri Our own desires
Con le mie proprie orecchie With my own ears
Note: proprio must be used:
in sentences which suo and loro do not clearly indicate the owner
Lucia, dopo aver parlato con Marta, salì sulla sua propria automobile (di Lucia). Lucia, after talking with Martha, got into his own car.
when the subject of the sentence is indeterminate, instead of suo and loro
Ciascuno di voi faccia il proprio dovere. Each of you meet your obligations.
in impersonal phrases
Si pensa solo ai propri interessi He only considers his own interests.
Ci si duole dei propri malanni One regrets their misfortunes.
altrui (di un altro, di altri) is invariable like loro; it indicates an unspecific owner and refers only to a person
I fatti altrui non m'interessano. I am not interested in other people's business.
Si sacrifica per il bene altrui. He sacrifices himself for the good of others.
As a rule, possessive adjectives are preceded by an article:
la mia auto my car
il tuo vestito your dress
il vostro lavoro your work
Note: The article is not used, though:
With the names of family members in the singular: marito, moglie, padre, madre, figlio, figlia, fratello, sorella
Mio padre è partito. My father left.
Mia sorella e vostro fratello sono usciti insieme. My sister and your brother left together.
There are two exceptions to this exclusion, though:
mamma and papà
la tua mamma your mom
il suo papà his dad
Names of family members preceded by loro (which always takes the article) or an aggettivo qualificativo (qualifying adjective)
il loro fratello their brother
il suo buon padre his kind father
la sua cara madre his dear mother
The possessive adjective usually comes before the noun. It is placed after the noun when intending to give more prominence to the possessor:
Mio padre si chiama Franco. My father's name is Franco.
È mia sorella. It is my sister.
La nostra casa Our house
Questa è casa nostra. This is our home.
In exclamations it often follows the word to which it refers:
Caro mio! My dear!
Dio mio! My God!
In Italian, the possessive adjective is not expressed:
When referring to body parts
Mi sono lavato le mani. I washed my hands.
La testa mi duole. My head hurts.
If the owner is evident from the context
Prima di andare prendo il cappotto. Before I go I'll take my coat.
I think the "ie" in camicie is supposed to be said fast so it sounds like that. Even if you slow it down a bit the "e" sounds louder than the "i" So if you were to say in tongue-twister way "camicie" and then "camice" it would be hard to distinguish for the untrained ear, as opposed to saying "camicie" and then "camici"...On the bright side, getting it wrong will help you spell it right next time.
I thought that you only put an 'i' in front of one of the 'hard' vowels, such as 'a','o', 'u' to soften it, so why isn't 'camice' the plural of 'camicia', since the 'e' is a soft vowel already?... and I agree about the pronunciation- I'm also studying French and German with this website and the pronunciation there is diabolical! It sounds as if the speaker is eating and swallowing her words as well as her food! I gave up the Spanish for the same reason.
Just for kicks I opened 2 DL windows and I am trying to take the same italian lesson from english and from french. DL does not like that. The modules are equivalent (same italian vocabulary, same questions in the same order) but the french module wants me to answer in english or else the answer is wrong.
So much for my comparative approach. The french one is harder (if you don't know that duck is both anatra and anitra, you get it wrong - multiple choice almost always have 2 valid answers, my books is "miei libri" and "i miei libri" they must both be selected to get it right). I thought that going from the french subjunctive tenses to the italian ones would be easier than from english since english essentially does not use the subjunctive. Oh well, this is going to be an interesting week...