”Bine ai venit în România!” – ”Welcome to Romania!” These words probably greeted you when you first arrived in Romania, whether you read them on a billboard or heard them from those who welcomed you. And as you started walking around, you noticed for sure that, although you don’t understand what it says, you recognize most of the letters in texts written in Romanian. Well, this is no accident, because you most likely already know the Romanian alphabet. Well, not all of it, but that’s what we’re here for 🙂

What alphabet does the Romanian language use?

Well, if you had the same experience some time ago, say by 1860, you may not have recognized anything from a text written in Romanian. And that’s because, officially, until that time the alphabet used in writing was Cyrillic or Slavonic. The reasons for this are historical and geographical and have no relevance to our subject. What is certain is that until 1860 Romanians spoke Romanian, a language of Latin origin, but used an alphabet completely alien to their roots, to write and read. Since then, after a certain period of transition, the Romanian language has used a much more appropriate alphabet, given that Romanian is part of a family of languages (along with Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French) that share a common ancestor – Latin. 

The Romanian alphabet with diacritics

That’s why today you can easily recognize the graphic signs – the letters – in Romanian because it basically uses the Latin alphabet, plus 5 special letters. That’s why the Romanian alphabet today has 31 letters: 26 Latin characters plus the 5 mentioned above.

Here they all are, including the name of each letter (in brackets):

  • a, A (a)
  • ă, Ă (ă)
  • â,(î din a)
  • b, B, (be)
  • c, C (ce)
  • d, D (de)
  • e, E (e)
  • f, F (fe)
  • g, G (ghe)
  • h, H (he)
  • i, I (i)
  • î, Î (î din i)
  • j, J (je)
  • k, K (ca)
  • l, L (le)
  • m, M (me)
  • n, N (ne)
  • o, O (o)
  • p, P (pe)
  • q, Q (kü sau chǐu)
  • r, R (re)
  • s, S (se)
  • ș, Ș (șe)
  • t, T (te)
  • ț, Ț (țe)
  • u, U (u)
  • v, V (ve)
  • w, W (dublu ve)
  • x, X (ics)
  • y, Y (i grec)
  • z, Z (ze)
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Special letters in Romanian

The 5 special letters I mentioned above are Ăă, Ââ, Îî, Șș, Țț. These are actually basic letters, but with an additional graphic element added, indicating that they each make a different sound.

The way the letters  and Î are pronounced does not have an exact English equivalent. But that shouldn’t scare you if you are an English speaker and want to learn Romanian. Our teachers will help you and explain how these letters are used and pronounced, when one is used and when the other is used so that the Romanian alphabet will no longer be unknown to you in no time. And if you’re wondering where to find Romanian language courses near me, well, you’re just a click away from probably the best Romanian language courses online. You’ll find everything you need here (https://romanianonline.com/romanian-class/)

Coming back to our letters, Ă is pronounced the same as the indefinite article “a”, or as the sound in the second syllable of the word “summer”. Ș is similar to the first sound in the word “shop”, and Ț is similar to the last sound in the word “darts”, or the first sound in the word “tsunami”.

How to read in Romanian

Unlike other languages where the way words are rendered in writing follows etymological principles (related to the origin of the words) Romanian is a phonemic language. In short, this means that every word is transcribed taking into account the sounds that make it up. At the same time, every letter that is written will also be read or pronounced. Of course, there are some very small exceptions, but in general, this is the case, which makes it very easy to read and pronounce any word once you have learned how to pronounce each letter. In fact, the first sessions of the Romanian language course are dedicated precisely to learning the pronunciation and writing rules, which are very important when you start studying Romanian.

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Finally, a brief mention of the letters k, q, w, and y. These 4 letters are not specific to Romanian. In fact, they have been added quite recently to the Romanian alphabet, and you will find them in words borrowed from other languages, or in proper names, whether they are foreign names or Romanian names written according to a foreign pattern.

These were some basic facts about the Romanian alphabet. We hope they will be useful to you. For a complete introduction to studying Romanian, we recommend a one-to-one course with a native speaker teacher. This is the best way to learn – directly from the source – and make the fastest progress.

Romanian language courses from 15 €/hour. Cursuri de limba romana de la 15 €/ ora.