Starting anything from scratch can be challenging, especially if you learn how to write in a language completely different from your own. It is really like navigating through a territory that is completely unknown to you.
However, this need not be a big hurdle or a problem! At GreekPod101, we introduce you to Greek writing in simple, easy-to-follow steps, and you can ask for advice or help anywhere along the way. It is important to master the Greek alphabet (alpha, beta, etc.) completely from the start.
This Greek Alphabet Guide is a MUST-HAVE for all Greek learning beginners!
The Greek alphabetic scripts has been in consistent use since the 8th century BC. The classical Greek alphabet and modern Greek forms are extremely similar, both featuring 24 letters. Alpha and omega, the first and last letters of the alphabet have significance to many, particularly the Judeo-Christian religions. These letters are often used to refer to the Supreme Being, who was said to have described himself as “the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end”. While the sequence of letters has remained the same since the official “Classical” period until contemporary usage, pronunciation of the alphabet has changed dramatically due to gradual modifications in the way in which the language was spoken.
Even outside of the Greek culture the Greek alphabet has many applications. Often the letters are used as technical symbols or for abbreviations within the medical field. Those that are learning Greek will most likely build their Greek vocabulary not through initial use of the alphabet, but through transliterated words, meaning the words are taken out of the original script and spelled phonetically using the alphabet of the English language. This is a practical application for those only interested in learning how to speak Greek, but not necessarily needing to understand how to read the words in context. In fact, if you are using a Greek dictionary it is likely that the words will be transliterated, not written in the alphabet, though the letters will probably be outlined in an appendix of the dictionary. Understanding the Greek alphabet text can not only help you to build your vocabulary further, but will let you read these words contextually, and develop an appreciation for such things as religious texts, original literature, and even inscriptions on historical locations as you are able to read and interpret the language as it was intended.
Greek has its own writing system using the Greek alphabet. The Greeks adapted their current writing system from the Phoenician alphabet.
Linguists believe that ancient Greek originated from the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, which consisted of twenty-two acrophonic glyphs, dating all the way back to the Late Bronze Age (from about the fifteenth century B.C.). It is the first and oldest alphabet to use vowels. The Greek alphabet as it is known today emerged after the Greek Dark Ages (circa 1200 B.C.). Before that, the Greeks used a script called Linear B for several centuries, but it eventually died out with the fall of the Mycenaean civilization. The most notable change with the adaptation of the Phoenician alphabet was the introduction of vowel letters, without which Greek would be illegible.
The ionic alphabet of Greek became the standard for Athens in 403 B.C., and as a result of Athens’ vast influence, it slowly became the standard for all other Greek-speaking areas as well.
The direction in which Greek is written has evolved from its original right-to-left orientation to a back-and-forth, or boustrophedon, system in which each line is written in the opposite direction of the previous line. Sometime around 500 B.C., Greek adopted its current orientation of left-to-right writing.
The Greek alphabetic scripts are used today mainly in Greece and Cyprus, but it is also widely used within mathematics, astronomy, and science.
2) Greek Alphabetic Systems
The Greek alphabet symbols consists of twenty-four characters, of which seven are vowels and seventeen are consonants. See the uppercase letters and lowercase letters below.
Words are formed by combining a consonant letter and a vowel. The Greek language also forms words by using two-letter consonants, which together form one sound. Linguists assume that the two-letter consonants were introduced to the language to cover the lack of specific Greek alphabet sounds such as [b], [d], and [g].
Just by knowing the Greek alphabetic scripts (e.g. alpha, beta, etc.), you can survive in Greece because many words in English originate from Greek: this will allow you to survive with limited knowledge of the language. Furthermore, you will have an easier time understanding mathematics and science as they use the letter of the Greek alphabet.
When writing in modern Greek alphabet, unlike English and other European languages that use a question mark (”?”), the Greek question mark is a semicolon (”;”) in English.
We will be using the Greek question mark in our Greek examples. Now there will be no more confusion.
A language’s alphabet is its building blocks. Trying to learn how to write in modern Greek without first learning its alphabet is a bit like trying to build a brick house without touching the individual bricks! It is impossible to do a good job that way. So don’t believe language schools and methods that try to teach you otherwise. You will regret it later.
Also, once you start recognizing symbols and words, you will be encouraged by your own progress and motivated to learn even faster. Even just learning the basics of the alphabet will allow you to start recognizing simple Greek words, and it will feel great!
Furthermore, knowing the alphabet even helps with pronunciation, as learning the individual letters of any language will start uncovering nuances and intricacies that are not always apparent when you’re simply listening to the words.
Completely mastering the Greek alphabet, no matter how long it takes, will give you an excellent head start in learning how to write and read the language. It will offer you a solid foundation on which to build the other language skills, so set a goal to learn the alphabet so well that you’re able to recite it in your sleep!
Read on for helpful tips and secrets to learning the Greek alphabet quickly and effectively.
This Greek Alphabet PDF is a MUST-HAVE for all Greek learning beginners!
We’re giving this eBook to ALL GreekPod101 members. You learn to read and write the letters in 1 hour or less. With this eBook, you get…
Why are we giving it away? Learning to read and write is a must for all beginners. Although you get video lessons on how to write in Greek at GreekPod101, you’ll still need physical worksheets to practice on. That’s why you’re getting this printable tutorial PDFs as a gift.
Here are a few mnemonic devices to memorize the Greek alphabet so you can speed up learning how to write in Greek.
Can you still remember your childhood alphabet song in your own language? The best way to commit it to memory so you can recite it is still your mom or first teacher’s way - with music, a song and/or a poem! Find a recording and learn to sing the song, or recite the poem along as best as you can. Ask your GreekPod101 teacher to help you understand exactly what you are singing or saying, and soon you’ll have reciting the alphabet under your belt! Repeat it out loud as often as possible.
However, you still need to learn how to write it.
Remember when you were young and learning to write for the first time? You didn’t start with words or sentences; you started with letters, one at a time!
Decide on tackling only a few letters each week, and then don’t move on from these till you are completely familiar with them. Don’t take on too many at once, or you may become discouraged. Also, remember to ask your teacher at GreekPod101 if you have questions!
Learn to incidentally spot the letters in books, road signs (If you’re living in the country), magazines, on TV, anywhere you encounter written Greek. Remember to write them out!
Make it a goal to write out your week’s letters at least once a day, and commit to this goal. You can also do it every time you have a free moment. Get yourself a special notebook for this purpose that you can carry with you anywhere you go. Sitting on the train or bus? Waiting for someone somewhere? Whip out your notebook and write the letters of the Greek language, or the letters you are learning. Aim for about 20 repetitions, while silently saying the letter in your head as you write it out. This way, you will soon be able to form and write words all by yourself! Exciting, isn’t it?
Writing something down with a pen also seems to engrave it in the brain in a way that nothing else does. As an added benefit, it gives you the satisfaction of seeing a new language in your own writing!
Once you’ve mastered the whole alphabet, commit to writing it out in its entirety at least once a day, for at least one month. More repetitions are obviously better.
Research has shown that the more senses and actions we use to learn something, the quicker the new information sticks in the memory and becomes habitual. To apply this principle while learning the Greek alphabet, write out huge letters by tracing them in the soil, or with chalk on the floor. Now, while saying the letter out loud, walk on the lines you have just traced. In this way, you ‘write’ the letter by moving your whole body!
Having fun just makes it even easier to learn something, so why not ‘write’ the letters out with dance steps while moving to your favorite Greek music!
This is a simple trick that seems silly, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you will commit intricate letters to memory this way. It really works!
This technique would involve saying the Greek letter out loud, and then thinking of a word in your own language that sounds the same as the letter. That would then create a phonic association that should make it easier for you to remember the letter. Better even if the association is something you can draw or picture.
If the script of the new alphabet is very different from your own, look at it closely, and see if you can find an image that the letter reminds you of.
Try to write words from your own language in Greek, and ask your friendly GreekPod101 teachers for feedback! Or post them on the forum and see if anyone can read them. You will be so pleased with yourself when you start writing words that are readable and recognizable by native speakers.