The English alphabet has twenty-six letters:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P R Q S T U V W X Y Z
Many other languages use the same alphabet, so you may already know some of the sounds that the letters make.
Children learn the letters by singing a song that makes the letters rhyme. It is easy because most of the letters end with the same sound, ee. In the end, you sing a rhyme about the alphabet song:
Now I know my A B Cs
Next time won’t you sing with me.
There are two kinds of letters: vowels and consonants. The five vowels are A E I O and U. All the other letters are consonants, but sometimes Y acts as a vowel too. Most words have vowels and consonants, like every word in this sentence. Some very short words may just be a vowel, like I or a. Some words have consonants y, like fly and try.
Many letters make only one sound, like B D F H K L M N P R Q S T V W and Z.
Some make two sounds, like C or G. These two sounds are usually called hard and soft. The case has a hard c sound (like a k) and the circle has a soft c sound (like an s). Goat has a hard g sound and the giraffe has a soft g sound.
Sometimes letters make no sound at all, like E at the end of some words (like make!). K is also sometimes silent, like in knee or knight.
Some letters also make different sounds when they are together, like CH SH or TH.
Vowels usually make two sounds each. These are called long sounds and short sounds. The long sound usually sounds like the name of the letter. For example, the cat has a short a sound and cake has a long a sound. Met has a short e sound and meet has a long e sound. ‘Pin’ has a short ‘i’ sound and ‘pine’ has a long ‘i’ sound. Pot has a short o sound and ‘boat’ has a long o sound. Fun has a short u sound and tune has a long u sound.
Spelling may seem confusing, but don’t worry—Americans have to practice spelling too. They have competitions called spelling bees where the children try to spell words out loud without making any mistakes. You can practice by reading and writing in English and reading about spelling rules.
One game to help learn the alphabet is to think of a word that begins with each letter. You can draw a picture of all the things to help you remember the letters. This is one way that American children learn the alphabet. Let’s start: apple, balloon, cat, dog, elephant, fruit…You can use a dictionary if you get stuck. It is a fun way to learn new words!