How to learn a new alphabet?
One of the most important aspects of learning a new language is learning a new alphabet. Learning the alphabet is an excellent place to start if you want to be able to read and write in a language rather than just speaking it.
The majority of language learners adhere to languages written in Latin script (such as French, Spanish, and German), which are more familiar and accessible if you already know how to read letters.
Around 30% of the world’s population is native speakers of a language having a non-Latin writing system. These alphabets span from the well-known Chinese, Arabic, and Japanese alphabets to lesser-studied languages like Armenian, Pashto, and Ojibwe’s various writing systems.
You have already learned an alphabet as a child. You started by speaking your native language, and later at school, you learned how to read and write the language. Although you have greater mental capacity to teach yourself a new alphabet as an adult, you have to learn it yourself. This may result in a lack of discipline to be consistent with practising.
Table of Contents
Tips for learning a new alphabet
Learning a new alphabet might sound very hard but with the tips described in this article, it is easier than you think.
1. Learn to speak the language first
As mentioned, when you were a little child, you first learned to speak your native language and later you learned how to read and write the language. When you are learning a new language with a different alphabet, you should focus on speaking the language first. Watch videos or audio fragments where the language is spoken, and translations are verbally described. Try to start with simple frequently used words and sentences. Like how to introduce yourself and how to ask someone how he or she is doing. You do not have to be fluent in the language you are learning before you continue to the next tip. The purpose of learning to speak a language first it to become familiar with the pronunciation of words and letters, and the definitions.
2. Learn to read the language
When you are familiar with the pronunciation of words and the definition of some of them, you can start learning to read the language. You should start by memorising the alphabet. Many experts claim that the most effective way to do this is by writing the characters of the alphabet down and repeatedly pronounce the character. Some of them even claim that you can learn reading a language in a few hours, but this of course depends on the amount of characters the alphabet counts.
You should focus on a few characters to begin with. Divide the alphabet into groups of six letters each and learn one group at a time. Before adding another group, make sure you are familiar with the first one. It is also crucial to continually go over the letters you have already learnt.
Repeatedly practising reading the language is key to successfully learn the new alphabet. Try to read every day to become completely familiar with all the characters.
Another effective way to learn reading a language is by listening to the pronunciation while reading the words. Or use Mnemonics to help you remember sounds. This works by associating a tale with each letter, prompting you to pronounce the sound it represents. The Mandarin alphabet, for example, consists of many characters where you can recognise something in, with a little bit of imagination.
Furthermore, setting an alphabet to music might help you remember it better since you can listen to it over and over while memorising the individual characters and phrases. When you search for alphabet songs on YouTube, you may get alphabet music for practically every language. Try to envision the characters in your thoughts while listening to the music so you can practice recognising them visually.
When you have learnt to recognise all characters, you move on to the next step.
3. Learn how to type
It is a good idea to start learning how to type in the new language once you have become used to listening and reading.
If you are reading this on a computer or smartphone, you already have all of the tools you will need to get started. All you have to do is:
- On your device, download and/or install the new keyboard layout.
- Learn the key layout and how key sequences are used to “construct” or “write out” the target script.
- Begin typing in as many diverse situations as you can.
Alternative typing systems may exist depending on the language, although learning to type on the native keyboard is typically the most efficient in the long term.
Typing is an important ability for learning a foreign script since it allows you to become comfortable with the letters and characters before having to write them out by hand. It will also improve your reading abilities and provide more context for linking foreign symbols to native sounds in your brain.
4. Learn to write the new language
Writing a language might be as important as being able to read a language. When learning how to write the new language you are learning repetition is again very important. It is recommended to have a daily session ranging from 5 to 30 minutes.
The more you practice your new script, the more natural it will seem in the long run, even if it is only a few letters scrawled on a notebook while on wait during a call or sketching the outline of characters on the wall while in the shower.
The previously mentioned tip, to learn characters in small groups can also be applied when learning writing in the language. Write a term that starts with that character for each one you cover. If possible, sound out the word as you write it. This has the added benefit of forcing you to repeat other letters you know (remember, repetition builds competence), as well as allowing you to practice vocabulary.
For learners of Japanese and Mandarin it is critical to master the proper stroke sequence so you can write them like a native speaker, because these languages employ pictographs.
The way strokes are structured has a logic to it, so after you have learned enough characters, you will be able to create new ones spontaneously without having to understand stroke order. If you don not follow the right sequence, your kanji will appear unbalanced, indicating that you are not a native speaker. Take the time to understand stroke order (we know it is difficult), and you will save yourself a lot of hassle later.
5. Interleave your activities
When you have mastered speaking, reading, typing and writing the language you should combine them. Interleaving is a scientifically established method of varying practice activities to improve overall skill acquisition. Having a conversation with someone verbally or email are great examples.
Though learning foreign scripts might be scary for any language student, I believe the tools to master them have never been more accessible.
The tips provided in this article, combined with an open, joyful mentality, will go a long way toward helping you master these scripts and utilise them like a natural speaker.