Tips for Learning the Romanian Alphabet

By OptiLingo • 7 minutes read

Learn the Romanian alphabet easily

The first step of learning Romanian is learning its alphabet. Getting familiar with the letters and writing system of Romanian early on is crucial to achieving fluency faster. You can start reading and writing quickly. Luckily, learning the Romanian alphabet isn’t difficult. Find out everything about the writing, pronunciation, and history of the Romanian alphabet.

The Romanian Language

Not many people know that Romanian is a Romance language. Which means that it’s related to French, Spanish, and Italian. There are approximately 28 million native Romanian speakers. It’s the official language of Romania and Moldova, but it’s also a recognized minority language in Hungary and Serbia. But, you can find Romanian speakers everywhere in the world. Israel, Italy, Spain, Ukraine, and even the United States have their fair share of Romanian speakers.

Romanian was influenced by a number of other languages in its past. Unlike other Romance languages, Romanian still features a lot of Latin grammar. The surrounding Slavic languages also made their mark on Romanian. A lot of the vocabulary and therefore the writing style comes from them. Romanian was also influenced by Greek, Hungarian, and even Dacian. Dacian was an Indo-Romanian language from the 7th century spoken by the natives living in the territory that’s now Romania.

History of the Romanian Alphabet

The first record of Romanian writing is from 1521. This 16th-century letter from Neacşu of Câmpulung to the mayor of Braşov was still written in the Cyrillic alphabet. The Cyrillic alphabet, which was similar to Old Church Slavonic was used in Romanian until 1859.

However, a little after the 16th century, the Hungarian writing system was introduced to Transylvania. Since Hungarian uses the Latin alphabet (similar to English), Romanian had to adapt to that. It became widespread in the country. The modern Romanian alphabet as we know it was formed in the 18th century. This writing system features Latin letters and Italian spelling rules. Today, the modern Romanian writing system is the official Roman alphabet. Although you can still see the Slavic influence, Romanians today only use the Latin alphabet.

How Many Letters are in the Romanian Alphabet?

There are 31 letters in the Romanian alphabet. While the alphabet is based on the 26 Latin letters you know from English, some letters have their own variations. 

The Romanian alphabet or alfabet isn't hard to master

Romanian Alphabet Chart

Here are all 31 letters of the Romanian alphabet. See these Romanian letters in capital and lower case forms on the right side, and pronunciation guides on the left:

Romanian Letters Pronunciation English Example
A / a [a] “bar”
Ă / ă [ə] “father”
 / â [ɨ] no English equivalent
B / b [b] “boat”
C / c [k] “scanner”
[k’] “keen”
[t∫] “check”
D / d [d] “dad”
E / e [e] “elixir”
[je] “yes”
F / f [f] “feeling”
G / g [g] “gastronomy”
[g’] “gift” or “get”
[ dʒ] “jackal”
H / h [h] “happy”
[mute]  
I / i [i] “interesting”
Î / î [ɨ] no English equivalent
J / j [ ʒ] “treasure”
K / k [k] “keen” (used for loan words and foreign names)
L / l [l] “light”
M / >m [m] “matter”
N / n [n] “no”
O / o [o] “oyster”
P / p [p] “portal”
Q / q [k] “quick” (used for loan words and foreign names)
R / r [r] rolled r as in the food name tortillas
S / s [s] “safe”
Ș / ș [ʃ] “ship”
T / t [t] “tone”
Ț / ț [ts] like the double z in “pizza”
U / u [u] “loop”
V / v [v] “vector”
W / w [v] “Wagner” (used for loan words and foreign names)
[w] “William” (used for loan words and foreign names)
X / x [ks] “six”
[gz] “exercise”
Y / y [j] “yes” (used for loan words and foreign names)
Z / z [z] “zipline”

Notes on the Romanian Alphabet

As you can see, the Romanian alphabet is very similar to the English alphabet. Which will make your learning experience a lot faster and easier. But, there are still a few key features in the alphabet of Romania that you should be aware of:

  • K, Q, W, and Y are rare: These letters aren’t used in normal Romanian writing. However, you’ll definitely see them in loanwords from English and other languages.
  •  and Î are phonetically identically: You pronounce these two letters in the same way. But, you use them differently. You put  in the middle of the word, and you put Î in the front. The only way to have the Î in the middle of the word is if you put a prefix in front of it.
  • Different C pronunciations: You pronounce C as [ʧ] before i or e, but as [k] everywhere else.
  • Different G pronunciations: Similarly, g is [ʤ] before i or e, but [g] elsewhere.
  • Complicated I: The letter I in Romanian has two pronunciations: [i̯] before vowels, but [i] everywhere else. But, you gotta be careful, if “i” is at the end of a multi-syllable word, you don’t pronounce it. It does however make the consonant before it palatal. An example of this is “vorbiţi” (you all talk). However, there are also exceptions to this, for example “vorbi” (to talk).
  • Different U pronunciations: U is [u̯] before vowels, but [u] everywhere else.

How to Pronounce Romanian Letters

This handy video can show you exactly how to pronounce the Romanian alphabet. Learn the Romanian writing system quicker when you associate the sounds of Romanian with the letters. This video also features useful examples in Romanian words.

Does Romania use the Cyrillic Alphabet?

The short answer is no. While there’s a significate Slavic influence on the Romanian language, the Romanian alphabet uses Latin letters. However, this wasn’t always the case. The Cyrillic alphabet used to be the writing system of Romanian, and it was the only one until the late 16th century. 

Why Learning the Romanian Alphabet Is Important

Learning the Romanian alphabet is crucial to your Romanian fluency. That’s because the Romanian writing system is the basis of everything in the language. You read Romanian letters, you use them when you write, and you hear them when you listen. So, if you master the Romanian alphabet early on, all of these tasks will be easier. 

How to Learn the Romanian Alphabet

When it comes to the Romanian alphabet, learning it is pretty straightforward. But, there are a couple of tricks you can use to commit the alphabet to your long term memory successfully:

  • Divide and conquer: You don’t have to learn all 31 letters of the Romanian alphabet at the same time. You can use a method called chunking to divide the workload. For example, learn vowels first, then the consonants. This will help you remember them better.
  • Say it out loud: You can only reach Romanian fluency if you speak. While the alphabet is also crucial for Romanian writing, you can learn the pronunciation quickly if you practice it.
  • Sing a song: Learning the Romanian alphabet from a song will help you remember it faster.
  • Associate with words: If you associate a Romanian letter with a word, you don’t just learn the Romanian alphabet quickly. You also enhance your Romanian vocabulary. Use the video below as an example.
  • Write it by hand: While technology is a wonderful tool in language learning, handwriting still has its magic. In fact, writing by hand helps you remember better.

    Learn the Romanian Alphabet in Context

    You can also just learn the Romanian alphabet by seeing the letters in context. Read them in common Romanian words and sentences to master their writing and pronunciation at the same time. If you want a convenient app that lets you do exactly that, you should download OptiLingo.

    OptiLingo gives you the most useful Romanian words and phrases. With this app, you can learn to speak Romanian just like the locals. Don’t waste your time trying to learn useless expressions. Make your Romanian language learning successful from the start with OptiLingo!

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