The early evidence pertaining to the development of phonological segmentation abilities and their relation to reading was collected with English-speaking subjects. Although data from other languages have been obtained, explicit cross-language comparisons have not been made. It was considered that since languages vary in their phonological structures, they may also vary in the demands they make on the beginning reader. The present study compared the segmentation abilities of Italian children with those of English-speaking (American) children using the same methods of assessment and the same subject-selection criteria. At the preschool level, though the Italian children manifested a higher level of performance overall, their pattern of performance paralleled that obtained earlier with American children. In both groups, syllable segmentation ability was stronger than phoneme segmentation. After school entrance, this pattern remained unchanged in American children but was reversed in Italian beginning readers. In both language groups, however, phonemic segmentation ability distinguished children of different levels of reading skill. The discrepancies between the language groups were seen as reflecting phonologic and orthographic differences between the languages.