January 04 2023
We all grew up singing our favourite ABCD song in kindergarten. After all, that was our initiation into a lifetime of learning. But do you know that this song doesn’t sound the same when sung in another language? The reason is not all languages written with Roman characters share the same 26-letter alphabet as the English language.
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There's no denying that English is the universal language, and the alphabets are the same regardless of which version (American English, Britain English).
It has 26 letters that range from A to Z: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z.
Cool fact: Until 1835, the English language had 27 letters. The 27th letter after ‘Z’ was '&’ (ampersand).
There's a sublime beauty in the Arabic written word that lies in the uniqueness in which it is read: right to the left, that is, instead of left to right.
Its alphabets form a language traced back to the sixth century!
Cool fact: When travelling to an Arab country, you will find street signs without transliterations. Another reason to take a crash course in Arabic before you go!
Hola! The 27 letters that comprise the Spanish alphabet combine to create about 30 different phonemes. Mind you, and this number isn’t fixed on account of the ‘dialectical variation’, or in layman’s terms, ‘fluidity’, of the Spanish language. Trickier than it seems, this alphabet!
Cool fact: The Spanish alphabet, like English, is a variation of Latin. So, it has the same 26 letters as the English alphabet does (a to z alphabet).
If you don’t quite agree with the popular adage ‘less is more’, the Swedish language, with a whopping 29 letters, might catch your fancy! Besides the extra vowels, the first 26 letters of the Swedish language match the English a-z alphabet.
Cool fact: Some alphabets feature ‘umlauts’ that resemble double dots (Å,å, Ů,ů). Now you know where you’ve seen that character!
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If Paris is the most romantic city in the world, French is the most romantic language.
Note: The ‘accent marks’ that lend the difference between the French and English written words are mere ‘modifiers’ and not additional letters.
Cool fact: The ‘cedilla’ that appears under the letter c ( ç) when preceding a, o, or you indicate an ‘s’ sound.
Even though the German alphabet is similar to its English counterpart, having the same number of letters (26), it also contains 3 umlauts: ä, ö and ü.
Cool fact: The German language has an additional consonant: ß, called ‘Eszett’. Called a ‘ligature’, it is pronounced like the ‘s’ in ‘see’ and never stands at the beginning of a word.
Like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Italian language (Alfabeto Italiano) comes with a twist. Using a variation of Latin, it has 21 letters that are not pronounced in the same way as in English. The missing letters in the Italian alphabet are J, K, W, X, and Y.
Like its English equivalent, the Italian alphabet has 5 vowels (a,e, i,o,u). Out of these, only ‘a’ represents one good value during each of the other two.
Cool fact: Even though the Italian language loves double consonants, you’ll rarely find a ‘double q’s, as in ‘squadron’, meaning ‘shambles’.
There's just something about Chinese writing that is so aesthetically appealing! But would you believe it if you were told there was ‘no such thing as the Chinese alphabet’? Believe it or not, it’s true! The Chinese language is about characters that aren’t put together like letters to form a word because the characters are the words themselves!
Even though single characters form words, sometimes two or three characters do the trick.
Cool fact: Unlike other languages, the Chinese language is written as a series of characters with ‘meanings’ and ‘sounds’.
If the Chinese alphabet threw you for a loop, you wouldn’t know what hit you with the Japanese. This language is an amalgamation of 3 writing systems: Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji.
Japanese children, when starting, learn Hiragana first.
Cool fact: both Katakana and Hiragana are languages native to Japan, while Kanji was inherited from the Chinese ‘Hanzi’.
Unlike its Japanese and Chinese counterparts, the Korean language is far simpler. While the former has thousands of characters that each have 10,15, or more strokes, the most complex character in the Korean alphabet can be written using only five strokes.
The Korean alphabet has 14 consonants and 10 vowels. Also known as Hangul, it is one of the best languages for beginners, even those who don’t know Korean.
Cool fact: The old Korean writing system was created using classical ‘Chinese’ characters! King Sejong, the inventor of Hangul, created it so Koreans could have a practical way of reading and writing.
Do you ‘speak Greek’? Well, if you speak the Greek language fluently to a person who knows Greek, you do! This cool alphabet has 24 letters, but do you know what they are?
A no-brainer is that singing the ‘Greek song’ will be way harder than our cherished ‘ABCD’. One looks at the letters of the Greek alphabet, and a lot of them appear familiar. For instance, the letter pi (π) is the name and symbol for the popular mathematical constant.
Cool fact: When referring to something primary, we refer to the Greek letter ‘alpha’ (α), like in the phrase ‘alpha dog’. Greek letters find their places as names of fraternities and sororities, houses of ‘societies’ in American universities!
English isn’t the only language out there, and this is something you need to ingrain in your children’s minds early on to have them gain an appreciation of other wonderful languages and, subsequently, cultures. You can even teach them a thing or two you might have learned from this post!
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