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Lesson Transcript

Welcome to Introduction to Italian.
My name is Alisha and I'm joined by...
Hi everyone! I'm Marika.
In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of Italian writing.
The Italian Alphabet
Both English and Italian uses the Latin alphabet. Unlike English however, Italian only uses a select number of letters.
The Italian alphabet has 21 letters. 5 of them are vowels and 16 are consonants.
Compared to English's 26, you have 5 fewer letters to worry about.
Missing are the letters J, K, W, X, Y. They're all considered to be foreign letters in Italian, and are used only for words borrowed from other languages.
So you'll seldom see words that use these letters. The most common examples are: "jeans", "password", "relax", "yoga", and "extra".
Italian Accent
An accent is a marker that is used to indicate some additional quality. That being said, accents aren't as intimidating as they look. They actually help you more than anything.
There are two types of accents used in Italian:
The grave accent, which looks like a line falling from left to right.
And the acute accent, which looks like a line rising from left to right.
The grave accent can only appear over vowels. Any vowel that appears at the end of a word, can have a grave accent.
When you see a word where the stress is marked by the accent, it takes away the ambiguity and you don't have to guess where to place the stress.
città - “city”
caffè - “coffee”
lunedì - “Monday”
falò - “bonfire”
giù - “down”
All that the grave accent indicates, is that you must stress the syllable. The grave accent then, actually takes away the ambiguity from where to place the stress. It's essentially telling you to 'stress this vowel'.
So whenever you see the grave accent in Italian, just stress that syllable.
If the vowel at the end is an E and it has the grave accent on top, it's indicating that we should pronounce it as an open E, and of course, we must stress the syllable.
tè - “tea”
caffè - “coffee”
è - “is”
The other accent, is the acute accent, and it's used to indicate that we should pronounce it as a closed E.
perché - “why,” “because”
finché - “as long as"
The acute accent can only appear over the vowel E, and only when it's at the end of a word.
Its only function is to indicate a closed pronunciation of the vowel E.
Vowels that are not at the end of a word are rarely marked with an accent outside of dictionaries.
When this does happen, however, it's used to help the reader distinguish between two words which would otherwise appear the same.
àncora - “anchor”
ancòra - “again”
prìncipi - “princes”
princìpi - “principles”
Now you know the function of accents in Italian.
Capital Letters
Another important element to Italian writing is learning when to use capital letters, as they differ from English quite a bit.
Generally, words in Italian aren't capitalized nearly as much as English.
For example, days, months and languages are capitalized in English, but not in Italian.
So we simply write:
lunedì, martedì (“Monday,” “Tuesday”)
aprile, maggio (“April,” “May”)
inglese, italiano (“English,” “Italian”)
Capital letters are only generally used at the beginning of a sentence, or with proper nouns.
A proper noun can be the name of a person, like Rita, but also the name of a place, like Venezia or Monte Bianco.
OK. Let's wrap up this lesson by recapping what we've learned.
In this lesson, you learned that the standard Italian alphabet consists of 21 letters.
You also learned that the grave accent can appear over any vowel at the end of a word, and is used to indicate that the syllable must be stressed.
When the grave accent appears on the letter E, you must use an open pronunciation.
When the acute accent is used, it'll only appear over the letter E, indicating that you must use a closed pronunciation.
Finally, Italian only uses capitalization at the beginning of a sentence and with proper nouns.
In the next lesson, you'll be entering Italian boot camp, where you'll learn useful beginner phrases to get you speaking Italian right away!
See you in the next lesson. Bye!