Are you keen on learning the Greek letters but you find yourself struggling with remembering the sounds?
Whether you come from a Latin based script as the one we use in English, Portuguese or Turkish or from a completely different to Greek script such as Arabic or Chinese - to name a few - this post is for you!
I've asked Elena Gabrielli, who is an Italian teacher & an avid learner of languages, to share her tips about learning a different script. Elena blogs about her language learning and teaching journey at Hitoritabi. Having studied an entirely different script, she knows what she's talking about!
Hello! I’m Elena from Hitoritabi and I’m happy to be here on Alpha Beta Greek to give you a few tips on how to learn a language with a different script. You may wonder “What does she know about languages with a different script?”. I’m glad you asked!
I’ve been studying Japanese for many years now and it has not one, but three different sets of characters! I have been regularly using the three strategies I’ll tell about you in a minute and I hope they will help you with Greek, too.
Each strategy is best for one type of learner: visual, auditory or kinesthetic. This means that your learning style can be based on vision, sound or movement.
Most people actually show a mix of different styles and I recommend you use all three strategies for a balanced and effective study routine. On to the practical bit!
#1 Visual learner: use Spaced Repetition System
A spaced repetition system (SRS) is basically flashcards meeting technology. With SRS you review the information right before you would forget it, at increasingly long intervals. This helps your brain to keep the information fresh in your mind and, eventually, to remember it.
Two popular softwares based on SRS are Anki and Memrise. On both you can find shared decks made by other users or create your own decks. Taking some time and creating your own flashcards is great, as during this process you will already start building the foundations to memorise what you’re studying.
This way you can also decide how to structure your cards in the most efficient way for you. When studying a new script or alphabet, for example, you might want to have the sign / letter on one side, and the audio, pronunciation, or both on the other.
If you are a visual learner adding graphic mnemonics to your cards could be just your cup of tea. Mnemonics are cues or images you associate with a sign in order to remember it easily. You can find some examples online, but once again the most effective method is to create your own.
Why is this method great?
First of all, it’s a science-based system, especially created with the purpose of helping people memorising things. Second, it’s perfect for busy learners as you can practice on the go from your phone whenever you have a couple of spare minutes: on the bus, while cooking or when queuing at the post office.
#2 Auditive learner: read out loud
You are probably used to reading only in your head in your own language and maybe you do the same even in your target language. However, reading out loud is a useful exercise when learning a language and it can be one of your very first attempts at speaking when you’re just starting out.
A good way to practice a different writing system is to read out loud several times a bit of text, not longer than a few sentences. Choose a text you already read and analysed: it will allow you to focus only on sounds without worrying about the meaning. Read it over a few times until you can read it at a satisfying speed. Then you can move on to a new bit of text.
This way you will not only practice the alphabet, but you will also memorise new vocabulary and grammar structures. This exercise will train your brain to associate the signs and sounds automatically and after some practice you will start reading faster and making less mistakes.
Why is this method great?
This is only one exercise, but it’s like a full-body training for your language learning: of course you practice reading in a different script, but memorise vocabulary, expressions and grammar structures as well. You also speak and work on your pronunciation.
Moreover, it’s not too time consuming: you can easily fit ten minutes at the end of the day, right before going to sleep.
#3 Kinesthetic learner: learn it with your hand
Nowadays we write almost everything on a keyboard and rarely use pen and paper anymore. When you’re studying a new language though - even more so if it’s a language with a different alphabet - writing down vocabulary and sentences on a notebook is the way to go.
When studying a different writing system it’s beneficial to learn it with the muscles of your hand, too. After some practice you’ll be amazed to notice that your hand knows the characters and writes them down almost by itself. Using this method is quite like learning to go on a bike: once you learn how to write the characters by hand, you won’t forget it anymore.
First start by writing the whole alphabet, like you used to do as a child when you learned how to write in your own language. Then write simple sentences for every letter, and later copy short texts you have analysed and understood. Finally, test yourself with dictation: you can use Danae’s audio files for this!
Just like reading out loud, writing down can help you remember new words and grammar structures as well.
Why is this method great?
The benefits of keeping a notebook when learning a language are well known. Not only you’ll practice the alphabet, but you can also go back to your notes afterwards when you need to review your vocabulary. This is also another exercise that you can fit in your daily routine easily: you just need to bring your notebook around with you!
Bonus: Sing it!
Because who am I trying to fool? The one thing that helped me read quickly hiragana, katakana and kanji is karaoke. Reading while singing (and possibly dancing…) not only involves all three main sensory receivers, but adds tons of fun to the process. In no time you’ll be able to read faster than in your brighter dream, I promise.
And before you start saying that karaoke songs are only in Japanese, go on YouTube and search for Greek karaoke songs… you’ll thank me later ;)
What works best for you in order to learn how to write and read in Greek? Share in the comments!
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