English, and many other languages, have alphabets, wherein each symbol stands for a discrete sound. Other languages have glyphs, wherein each symbol stands for an idea. Still others have syllabaries, wherein each symbol stands for a syllable. The only language I am familiar with which uses a syllabary is Japanese. And I don't speak Japanese, so I can't read their various writing systems: hiragana, katakana, and kanji. If you're interested in this, go to the Japanese Language Meta Node, which can tell you much more than I can.
The reason why I found it useful to know that Japanese uses a syllabary is that it explains some pronounciation quirks characteristic of Japanese English, or Nihonglish, as I've heard it called. For example, Japanese tend to pronounce hot "hot-toe" and ice "ice-su". Nihonglish can sound a little weird, until you realize that it's a function of the assimilation of English into the Japanese paradigm. The extra sound is a function of the difficulty for the Japanese of producing a consonant sound without a vowel attached.