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How to learn a new alphabet

by Gabe Wood
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Learning a new alphabet is one of the fundamentals to learning a new language. If you want to be able to read and write in a language and not just use it orally, learning the alphabet is a great place to start.

A new alphabet can be intimidating at first, especially if it uses characters you don’t recognize. But with a few resources and practice tips, you’ll become familiar with it in no time!

The best ways to learn an alphabet

Practice a few characters at a time

Learning an entire alphabet is a lot of material to remember. Even languages with smaller alphabets, such as German and Arabic, usually have 20 to 30 characters to memorize, and some languages like Hindi have alphabets with more than 50 characters. 

Instead of trying to learn a whole alphabet at once, break it into smaller pieces of three to five characters, and focus on those until you’re comfortable with them. After you move on to the next group of characters, circle back and review previous sets while adding the new knowledge you’ve gained. By the time you reach the end of the alphabet, you’ll be confident identifying a large number of its characters. Depending on the language, you may even be able to read simple words now.

Associate new characters to English letters

The new alphabet you’re studying probably has at least a few characters that make sounds similar to letters in the English Alphabet. Identifying those characters and their English equivalents will give you a mental shortcut to memorize them faster.

Rosetta Stone’s comprehensive Alphabet feature makes this easy to do, as it lets you see and listen to the characters of a language. You can go through the characters of the language you’re learning, listen to the sounds they make, and note down any that sound like English letters. 

The alphabet feature also lets you hear each character in the context of several different words. Depending on the language you’re learning, this can be extremely helpful since single characters may have different sounds in different contexts.

Create mnemonic devices

A mnemonic device is a memorization technique that helps you learn new information by associating it with something you already know or find memorable, such as an image or event. Mnemonic devices are especially useful when the alphabet you’re trying to learn has characters you’re unfamiliar with. 

What you do is assign a symbol or short story to the characters you’re trying to learn. For example, if you’re learning Russian and you’re trying to remember the character Ф makes an ‘f’ sound, you could tell yourself that the character looks like the eyes and nose of a funny face. That way you think “funny face” whenever you see Ф, and your brain will have some connection between the sound ‘f’ and Ф.

Listen to an alphabet song

Setting an alphabet to music can help you retain it better, since you can listen to the song repeatedly and memorize the different characters like lyrics. You can find alphabet songs for almost any language by searching for the language you’re learning plus “alphabet song” on YouTube. While you’re listening to the song, try to visualize the characters in your mind to practice identifying them visually.

Write out the characters

Even if you’re primarily studying using a computer or mobile device, try writing out the new characters you learn by hand. Studies have shown that writing notes on paper helps you recall them better when compared to typing them on a computer or smartphone. Writing out the characters of a language will force you to think about how they look, helping you to recreate them.

While you’re writing characters, you can do exercises to aid in other aspects of language learning at the same time. For instance, you could practice writing words in English using the characters of your new alphabet to learn their sounds, or make flashcards so you can run quick character drills when you have a few minutes.

Next steps

Once you’re comfortable with the images and sounds of a language’s alphabet, you’ll have a good foundation to practice pronunciation and learn basic sentences. The Alphabet feature can be a key resource for this growth period, since it gives you an easy way to see and hear any character you’re focusing on. Keep up the learning and you’ll soon be able to have short conversations in another language!

Having a guide can speed up that process. Rosetta Stone will walk you through your entire language learning journey. Our Dynamic Immersion method eases learners into building knowledge intuitively, and tools like TruAccent speech recognition give you real-time feedback and a safe place to practice.

Use Rosetta Stone to quickly and effectively learn a new language. Try it out now at www.rosettastone.com.

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