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How to Remember the Greek Alphabet: teacher's Tips

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Hello, my name is Ksenia, I have been living in Greece for several years and teach Greek on Skype at Skype-Language.com. You can read the information about me here

 

While teaching I have often seen learners experience some difficulty with the Greek alphabet. You may also have the same problem of memorizing the stubborn Greek letters and confusing them with the Latin (English) ones. My experience in dealing with it forms the basis of this article. I hope my tips will help you learn the Greek alphabet.

 

So how can we memorize the Greek alphabet?

 

First of all, remember that you are not alone, do not take it to heart or even despair! The problems with the Greek alphabet are temporary, you will stop confusing the letter soon, you just need more practice. Some people learn faster, other people learn more slowly. Exercise more patience and put more effort, and reading in Greek is not going to cause any difficulty!


While working on the Greek alphabet, use different video- and audio materials, for example this one:

 

 

Or the following examples of words:
а)  ΦΩΝΗΤΙΚO ΑΛΦΑΒΗΤO ME ΠΑΡΑΔΕΙΓΜΑΤΑ

 

 

b) 

 

To make things clear let us divide the letters into the following groups:

 

The first group - the letters that do not normally cause any difficulty.

Such letters prevail:

 

Letter

Name

Transcription

Α, α

Alpha

[а]

Β, β

Vita

[v]

Ε, ε

Epsilon

[е]

Ι, ι

Iota

[I]

Κ, κ

Kappa

[к]

Μ, μ

Mu

[м]

Ο, ο

Omicron

[о]

Π, π

Pi

[p]

Τ, τ

Tau

[t]

Φ, φ

Phi

[f]

 

 

The second group - the letters that are often confused with the Latin Letters:

 

Letter

Name

Transcription

Η, η

Eta

[i]

Ν, ν

Nu

[n]

Ρ, ρ

Rho

[r]

Χ, χ

Chi

[h]

Υ, υ

Upsilon

[i]

 

To deal with this confusion, you need to practise reading in Greek. 

 

This group - strange, unfamiliar letters:

 

Буква

Русское название

Звук в русской транскрипции

Ζ, ζ

Zeta

[z]

Ξ, ξ

Xi

[ks]

Ψ, ψ

Psi

[ps]

Σ, σ, ς

Sigma

[s - sh]

Ω, ω

Оmega

[o]

 

These squiggles either merge with the other letters or weave with each other, you need some practice to remember! 

 

Attention! Please note the letters that give "special" sounds!


Letter

Name

Sound Description

Γ, γ

Gamma

In most cases it is similar to the Ukranian [g] without aspiration. Before  [i] and [e]  gives [j]

Λ, λ

Lambda

It is between the soft [l'] and hard [l]

Θ, θ

Theta* (a dental sound)

A dental sound like in «three»

Δ, δ

Delta

A voiced dental sound like in «this»

 

 Let us take another look at the Greek alphabet: 

 

892ddbdc72a16976109db57f88195f32

 

As you can see, most of the Greek letters are familiar to you, you just need to have a little bit more practice.

If the Greek alphabet is not memorized logically, try to remember your childhood. Your positive attitude and good mood are two ways to success!

 

Tip №1: Use songs

Here are some songs about the Greek alphabet:
а) ΕΝΑ ΓΡΑΜΜΑ ΜΙΑ ΙΣΤΟΡΙΑ | Το Τραγούδι της Αλφαβήτου

  

 

b)  «Το τραγούδι της Αλφαβήτας» with subtitles 

 

 

c) ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΟ ΑΛΦΑΒΗΤΟ  

 

 

d)  Μια τρελή τρελή Αλφαβήτα  

 

 

You need not only listen to the songs but also sing and learn by heart.

If children's songs are not very interesting, here is a philosophical song about the alphabet (the video is subtitled):

 

 

The lyrics:

Άλφα, βήτα, γάμα, δέλτα
σκόνη γίνεται κι η πέτρα – becomes dust and stone
έψιλον, ζήτα, ήττα, θήτα
μοιάζει η νίκη με την ήττα – a victory resembles a defeat

Βι, γα, δε, ζι, θι
κα, λα, μι, νι, ξι
πι, ρο, σίγμα, ταυ
φι, χι, ψι

Γιώτα, κάπα, λάμδα, μι
πόσο αξίζει μια στιγμή – how precious one moment is
νι, ξι, όμικρον, πι, ρο
φεύγω μα σε καρτερώ – I am leaving but waiting for you

Σίγμα, ταυ, ύψιλον, φι
μοναξιά στην κορυφή – loneliness on top
με το χι, το ψι, το ωμέγα
μια παλικαριά `ναι ή φεύγα – courage or flight

 

Tip №2:


To memorize the alphabet better, print out its visual version and hang the sheets in a conspicuous place. In the beginning you could also write the translation but remember that not all the Greek letters have correspondences in your language.

 

Tip №3:


Try to visualize the letters. Think what the most challenging Greek letters look like and  make a funny picture for each letter. Ideas can be taken from Greek cartoons about the alphabet: even if you may not understand the whole text of the cartoon, you are sure to remember a flying and singing letter!

 

(the cartoon picture)

070ea6a176c0b4b6a0f9558bedca9307

 

A cartoon about Ζ:

 

A cartoon about ξ and ψ:

 

Tip №4:


Use special programmes for learning the alphabet. A good resource for learning the alphabet is here

 

By clicking on the link above, you will find programmes aimed at Greek pre-schoolers. They can be used in your browser. There are such exercies as "Match Pairs", "Make a Word" and others.

http://24dim-ioann.ioa.sch.gr/24i_taxi-A-glossa.html

http://users.sch.gr/cosmathan/ab/ab.htm 

http://users.sch.gr/cosmathan/ab/acb1_intern.htm

 

Tips №5:

 

Finally you can use textbooks:

a)      write each letter several times;

b)      write the dictated letters in alphabetical or random order.                 

 

The alphabet and pronunciation rules have been learnt, now it is high time you started reading. How to practise reading is going to be another article.

 

If you need a professional's help for learning Greek, sign up for a trial lesson with one of our teachers of Greek at skype-language.com!

 

P. S. How were you trying to remember the Greek alphabet and how long did it take you? Please leave the comments about your own experience and what you think about the article! 

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