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Learn the Italian Alphabet from A to Z!

Learning to speak a new language is exciting; learning to write a new language is even more exciting! It will open new worlds for you. So, dig into these tips and advice for learning how to master the Italian alphabet easily - at ItalianPod101 we make it easy, fun and relevant for you!

Starting anything from scratch can be challenging, especially if you learn how to write in a language completely different from your own. It is really like navigating through a territory that is completely unknown to you.

However, this need not be a big hurdle or a problem! At ItalianPod101, we introduce you to Italian writing in simple, easy-to-follow steps, and you can ask for advice or help anywhere along the way. It is important to master the Italian alphabet completely from the start.

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Introduction

We write Italian using the Latin alphabet of the Roman Empire plus some acute and grave accents, such as the acute accent upon the vowel -e: for example, -é, as it happens for the word perché (”why”). On the other hand, we also use the grave accent on the -e, as in caffè (”coffee”), but even on the letters -a, -i, -o, and -u to mark the stressed vowel. These stressed vowels are always positioned at the end of the word to distinguish them from those words that don’t have any accent marks because they are automatically stressed in the penultimate syllable. For this reason, Italian differs from the Spanish and French languages in usage of the accents.

The Origin of the Italian Writing System

Written Italian first appears in some documents dating back to the tenth century. As we mentioned during the previous lesson, the language spoken by Romans was the vulgar Latin that differs from the literary Latin, the language of upper classes and scholars. This is the reason why the first documents that have been found are lawsuits, regulations, and poems in literary Latin: only these people used the written form of the language.

Because of the presence of many different dialects, the written language was the only form comprehensible in all of the vast Roman Empire. These dialects have changed into what is now called the New Latin or romance languages.

Over centuries, the Italian territory has seen many dialects that were influenced by the domination of each area. However, it was during the early Middle Ages that some writers tried to unify the language by popularizing their local dialects. Such writers as Dante Alighieri, Petrarch, and Boccaccio proposed the “Tuscan of Florence,” la lingua fiorentina, as a standard literary language. In fact, the first grammar of Italian was titled Regule lingue florentine (”Rules of the Florentine language”), which Leon Battista Alberti wrote in the fourteenth century. The old Tuscan dialect slowly became what now is the standard Italian, even if every region maintains its own dialect only in spoken form.

The Italian Alphabet

We write Italian using the Latin alphabet, and it is composed of twenty-one letters. In ancient times,the letters had just one basic form, as similar to our uppercase or lowercase, depending on our styles of writing. During the Middle Ages, people began to alternate two different styles while writing. One is called maiuscolo, which means “uppercase.” Maiuscolo was proper to use for the initial letters in titles of certain words. The other one is the minuscolo, which is “lowercase,” and people used it for the rest of the text. Eventually, people started to use maiuscolo and minuscolo together in text as it happens in modern Italian.

In the following table, we show you all the letters of the Italian alphabet, including their uppercase form, lowercase form, and pronunciation.

The Unification of Italians, in More Ways than One

Considering that the unification of Italy is dated in 1861, the phrase that the politician Massimo D’Azeglio said during those years is remarkable: fatta l’Italia ora bisogna fare gli italiani, which literally means “Italy is done; now we have to make Italians.” Every Italian learned this famous phrase that perfectly expresses the feeling of that moment.

What makes people feel they are of the same nationality? First of all: the language. Here the written national language helped Italian people build a unique way of being Italian, trying to impose the standard Italian on the dialects. It is only during the twentieth century, thanks to the influence of television and mass media, that the Italian language found its conformity not only in the written form. Today, dialects in Italy are used throughout Italy (due to the importance that Italian people give to their origins), but it only concerns the spoken language; the written languages in these areas conform to the standard Italian.

Italian Alphabet Chart

Alphabet

The people of Italy are good at keeping things sweet and simple. The Italian alphabet is no exception to this. There are 21 letters found in the alphabet, however there are five further Italian letters that you will find only on foreign words which are common in everyday Italian writing. These letters are j, k, w, x and y. The Italian alphabet is derived from the Latin alphabet. The Italian language itself is derived from Latin and is the closest match to Latin of any language spoken today.

Letters In The Italian Alphabet

Italian Letter

Italian Name

English Approx.

Italian Example

Memorization Tips

A, a

a car
aria
The pronunciation of the vowel "a" never changes; it corresponds exactly to the "a" sound in the English word car.

B, b

bi black
bello
Identical to its English counterpart.

C, c

ci sketch
ciao
The /t/ sound is employed only and exclusively when "c" is followed by either "i" or "e".

C, c

ci customer
chiaro
The /k/ sound is used only and exclusively when "c" is followed by: 1) any consonant, including the letter "h" 2) either "a", "u" or "o". It keeps this pronunciation also in rare cases where "c" is the word last letter.

D, d

di dodge
radio
Identical to its English counterpart.

E, e

e traine
erba
It can be pronounced either with an "open" or "closed" accent. Both are acceptable, the former characterizes the southern talking, the latter the northern one.

F, f

effe Fig
fortuna
Identical to its English counterpart and the "ph" diphthong.

G, g

gi judge
giardino
The /d/ sound is employed only and exclusively when "c" is followed by either "i" or "e".

G, g

gi gag
grillo
The /g/ sound is used only and exclusively when "c" is followed by: 1) any consonant, including the letter "h" 2) either "a", "u" or "o". It keeps this pronunciation also in rare cases where "c" is the last letter of the word.

H, h

acca hole
bicchiere
The Italian "h" is always mute. Being a mere graphic sign, it serves the only purpose to define the pronunciation of the letters "c" and "g" (see above). In any other position, it causes no sound whatsoever.

I, i

i creed
isola
The Italian pronunciation of 'i' is identical to the 'ee' sound in English, except it is slightly shorter.

J, j

i lungo jazz
jazz
Identical to its English counterpart. Words that include this letter are mostly foreignisms, i.e., Italian words borrowed by foreign languages.

K, k

kappa crisis
kilo
Identical to its English counterpart. Words that include this letter are mostly foreignisms.

L, l

elle long
lino
Identical to its English counterpart.

M, m

emme mother
mare
Identical to its English counterpart.

N, n

enne nurse
nonno
Identical to its English counterpart.

O, o

o horse
ora
The sound /o/ is always closed, that means identical to the group "ou" in the word "course", except it is slightly shorter.

P, p

pi priest
palla
Identical to its English counterpart.

Q, q

cu steak
quadro
Always followed by the letter "u". The group "qu" is pronounced as the letter "k".

R, r

erre not presen
re
Similar to its English equivalent, the 'r' is in Italian 'rotic', that means it is pronounced touching the upper part of the of the mouth's roof with the tip of the tongue.

S, s

esse song
serenata
It is always soft, it never makes the sound /ts/, such as in the English plural forms (ex. "pets")

T, t

ti train
tetto
Identical to its English counterpart.

U, u

u blue
uccello
Always identical to the 'oo' sound of ' booze' (/u:/), but slightly shorter. It never changes its phonetic form.

V, v

vu vacation
vista
Identical to its English counterpart.

W, w

doppia vu wealth
webcam
Identical to its English counterpart. Words that include this letter are mostly foreignisms.

X, x

ics exaggerate
xilofono
Identical to its English counterpart. Words that include this letter come mostly form Greek, Latin and foreign terms.

Y, y

ipsilo yell
yogurt
Identical to its English counterpart.

Z, z

zeta cats
zaffiro
Identical to the "ts" sound in English

Students who take on Italian as a second language are always pleased to discover that Italian is for the most part a phonetic language. This means that Italian words are read and sound exactly how they appear in writing. This makes pronunciation and spelling in Italian letters much easier to learn than with some other languages. Those who learn Italian by listening find learning the Italian alphabet and Italian writing later on a breeze.

Like English, the appearance of two letters at the same time can indicate a change in pronunciation. In your Italian lessons you will learn that there are few variants of this occurrence, and with a bit of practice you'll have no problems picking up on these irregularities.

Italian letters use an accent system. An accent on the word means that pronunciation should be stressed in a different way. Italian accents can seem complicated at first, but once you get started, you'll find the Italian writing system is easy to understand. Don't worry, Italian grammar is much easier than English. You'll pick it up in no time!

Why is Learning the Italian Alphabet Important?

AlphabetA language’s alphabet is its building blocks. Trying to learn how to write in Italian without first learning its alphabet is a bit like trying to build a brick house without touching the individual bricks! It is impossible to do a good job that way. So don’t believe language schools and methods that try to teach you otherwise. You will regret it later.

Also, once you start recognizing symbols and words, you will be encouraged by your own progress and motivated to learn even faster. Even just learning the basics of the alphabet will allow you to start recognizing simple Italian words, and it will feel great!

Furthermore, knowing the alphabet even helps with pronunciation, as learning the individual letters of any language will start uncovering nuances and intricacies that are not always apparent when you’re simply listening to the words.

Completely mastering the Italian alphabet, no matter how long it takes, will give you an excellent head start in learning how to write and read the language. It will offer you a solid foundation on which to build the other language skills, so set a goal to learn the alphabet so well that you’re able to recite it in your sleep!

Read on for helpful tips and secrets to learning the Italian alphabet quickly and effectively.

How to Download Your Free Guide to Beginner Spanish

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3 Reasons to Learn Spanish Through PDF Lessons

Let’s now take a closer look at how studying Italian lessons in PDF format can help you reach your dream in up to half the time of normal video or audio lessons!

① Saves Minutes on Your Data Plan

Learning Italian through PDF lessons can dramatically reduce your data use. Once a lesson or tool is downloaded, you can then access it offline via your computer or smartphone any time or place regardless of Internet access. And once you’ve download the Italian lessons in PDF format, you can actually access them faster than logging in and trying to do so via a live site. So not only will learning Italian using PDF lessons save minutes on your data plan—it will save you some significant time as well as the lessons add up!

② Print and Take All Italian Lessons and PDF Tools With You Anywhere

Sometimes, a tiny smartphone screen just isn’t adequate, especially when you are trying to learn something new. The great thing about PDF lessons, tools or files is that they can be quickly printed and taken anywhere after you download them. In fact, printing out Italian lessons in PDF format can actually save you time when compared to going through the material on a smartphone with a small screen—even with the extra printing time!

③ Great Study Tool to Boost Retention and Mastery

Studying video or audio lessons online is a great way to learn a language because students can play and rewind sections as many times as needed until the lesson is mastered. But when you review the same Italian lessons again in PDF format, an incredible thing happens: your retention dramatically improves! Thanks to Time Spaced Repetition, seeing the information again in written format helps reinforce the information in your mind and improves both retention and recall. The benefits of learning Italian using PDF lessons quickly add up to significant time savings for you, your data plan, and your dream of learning a new language!

Why are we giving it away?

Learning to read and write is a must for all beginners. Although you get video lessons on how to write in Italian at ItalianPod101, you’ll still need physical worksheets to practice on. That’s why you’re getting this printable tutorial PDFs as a gift.

Secrets to Learning the Italian Alphabet Fast

SecretWith a language, like with anything you have to learn from scratch, having a few mnemonic devices handy are key to learning it fast. A mnemonic device is basically any method or technique that helps you to retain or commit something to memory more easily.

Here are a few mnemonic devices to memorize the Spanish alphabet so you can speed up learning how to write in Spanish.

① Find and Learn an Alphabet Song or Poem in Spanish

Can you still remember your childhood alphabet song in your own language? The best way to commit it to memory so you can recite it is still your mom or first teacher’s way - with music, a song and/or a poem! Find a recording and learn to sing the song, or recite the poem along as best as you can. Ask your SpanishPod101 teacher to help you understand exactly what you are singing or saying, and soon you’ll have reciting the alphabet under your belt! Repeat it out loud as often as possible.

However, you still need to learn how to write it.

② Study a Few Letters At a Time

Remember when you were young and learning to write for the first time? You didn’t start with words or sentences; you started with letters, one at a time!

Decide on tackling only a few letters each week, and then don’t move on from these till you are completely familiar with them. Don’t take on too many at once, or you may become discouraged. Also, remember to ask your teacher at SpanishPod101 if you have questions!

Learn to incidentally spot the letters in books, road signs (If you’re living in the country), magazines, on TV, anywhere you encounter written Spanish. Remember to write them out!

③ Write Out the Letters of the Alphabet By Hand

Make it a goal to write out your week’s letters at least once a day, and commit to this goal. You can also do it every time you have a free moment. Get yourself a special notebook for this purpose that you can carry with you anywhere you go. Sitting on the train or bus? Waiting for someone somewhere? Whip out your notebook and write the Spanish alphabet, or the letters you are learning. Aim for about 20 repetitions, while silently saying the letter in your head as you write it out. This way, you will soon be able to form and write words all by yourself! Exciting, isn’t it?

Writing something down with a pen also seems to engrave it in the brain in a way that nothing else does. As an added benefit, it gives you the satisfaction of seeing a new language in your own writing!

Once you’ve mastered the whole alphabet, commit to writing it out in its entirety at least once a day, for at least one month. More repetitions are obviously better.

④ Involve Your Whole Body

Research has shown that the more senses and actions we use to learn something, the quicker the new information sticks in the memory and becomes habitual. To apply this principle while learning the Spanish alphabet, write out huge letters by tracing them in the soil, or with chalk on the floor. Now, while saying the letter out loud, walk on the lines you have just traced. In this way, you ‘write’ the letter by moving your whole body!

Having fun just makes it even easier to learn something, so why not ‘write’ the letters out with dance steps while moving to your favorite Spanish music!

This is a simple trick that seems silly, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you will commit intricate letters to memory this way. It really works!

⑤ Use Associations To Memorize Letters

This technique would involve saying the Spanish letter out loud, and then thinking of a word in your own language that sounds the same as the letter. That would then create a phonic association that should make it easier for you to remember the letter. Better even if the association is something you can draw or picture.

If the script of the new alphabet is very different from your own, look at it closely, and see if you can find an image that the letter reminds you of

⑥ Now Have Fun Trying To Write Words!

Try to write words from your own language in Spanish, and ask your friendly SpanishPod101 teachers for feedback! Or post them on the forum and see if anyone can read them. You will be so pleased with yourself when you start writing words that are readable and recognizable by native speakers.

Related Lessons

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How to Introduce Yourself in Italian
Can you introduce yourself in Italian? Don’t worry! Check out the 10 Italian Lines You Need To Introduce Yourself with this free Review Sheet. From “My name is…“ and “I live in…” down to “My hobbies are…” Just review the 10 lines. It will only take you 2 minutes. Then, introduce yourself in the comment section below!

Top Italian Phrases
How good is your Italian? Care to put it to the test? Here’s the deal! We’ve come up with this must-know Italian Phrases List. Learn the top 25 Italian phrases, hear the native pronunciation and put your Italian to the test. Did you know them all? If not, review the list and master these easy phrases!

How to Say Thank You in Italian
Has anyone thanked you today? We will. Thank you for reading this article and learning with us! In fact, today, you’ll learn the many different ways to say “Thank You” in Italian. It’s one of the most important Italian phrases. Check it out and watch the video too to practice your pronunciation.

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