My original idea for the alphabet post started with two questions for quizclub.com. They asked how many letters were in the English and German alphabets.
I was curious so I asked a search engine, DuckDuckGo. My source said about a thousand, but they were based on a hundred alphabets that could be boiled down to nine. After writing about each one, I never got back to the two original questions. Tonight I tried again, but the post grew once more. I found eleven languages. Here’s that world map to help you locate each one. They include:
English, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Italian, French, Greek, and German
My Source: https://wordcounter.net/blog/2015/11/24/10950_how-many-letters-alphabet.html
Do you recognize the English alphabet, and do you know the importance of this phrase?
It uses all 26 letters.
Did you know two hundred years ago there were 27? The dropped letter is still used today. Curious? It’s &!
Phrase Source: By No machine-readable author provided. Moyogo assumed (based on copyright claims). - No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=701210
Can you read this? Me neither! It’s a sample from the Arabic alphabet.
عندما يريد العالم أن يتكلّم ، فهو يتحدّث بلغة يونيكود. تسجّل
It has 28 letters, but, they’re all consonants. Arabic has vowels, but you add them with a mark beside the consonant, like this – ‘a.
You read and write Arabic from right to left, and it’s all done in cursive. English is the exact opposite. It’s printed from left to right.
Arabic has contextual letterforms. That means a letter is shaped by its position within a word, depending on if it’s first, in the middle or last. If it stands alone, it may have yet another shape.
I’ll stick with English, but I love how Arabic flows across a page!
OH NO! There’s something harder than Arabic – Chinese! It doesn’t have a letter alphabet representing sounds. They use ideas and pictures, i.e. ideograms or pictograms.
I read that if you want to have functional literacy, you need to know three to four thousand characters. Would you believe there are TENS of THOUSANDS of Chinese characters? Thank goodness for English!
Ancient Chinese was even harder. It ran in columns from top to bottom, like that green sign with orange letters. It also ran from right to left, like Arabic.
Today it’s a little more like English, running across the page from left to right. It still goes from top to bottom. The Bus Stop sign reads 2E 6C 6F. Then 41 45.
If you’d like to try reading a little Chinese, click on this link, I picked up a teeny tiny bit! https://www.forbes.com/sites/bruceupbin/2013/04/25/learn-to-read-chinese-in-eight-minutes/#56ff63a2179
Picture Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Written_Chinese
By Maloongkai - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8004756
4. The next alphabet is a little easier than Chinese, and it also comes from Asia. Do you recognize it? It’s Japanese. I know – it looks a lot like Chinese, or Korean. That’s probably because they come from the same part of the globe. To read basic Japanese, you need to recognize about 2000 symbols from three different alphabets.
The first is called Kanji, and it’s based on those Chinese pictograms. The other two alphabets are phonetic. Both hiragana and katakana have 46 letters each, 92 total. Only 1908 more Kanji symbols to learn. Easy Peasy!
Long ago you read Japanese from top to bottom in columns. It was called vertical writing. You started on page right and moved left.
Today there’s horizontal writing. It moves from left to right. It’s more like how we read English. There’s still one big difference. Japanese book spines are on the right. The book cover is on the back, and the back cover is on the front. To read Japanese, you start at the back and read to the front.
5. This could be Chinese or Japanese, but supposedly it’s easier to read than the other two. Did you recognize it as Korean? South Korea uses Hangul, and the North uses Chosan’gul. Modern Hangul has 14 consonants and 11 vowels, 24 total. Chosan’gul has 19 consonants and 21 vowels, 40 total.
The hardest part of reading or writing Korean is that it’s written in syllable blocks. I see 2 symbols to the left, then 3 and 3. I might be right, but there might be more symbols that I don’t see.
Korean was once written vertically, but now it’s horizontal, going from left to right. Looking at that red sign again, I’m not sure if there are three syllables or three words because Korean has space between its syllables, and its words, if I read correctly. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hangul
6. Drive down this highway, and you’ll need to read, write, and speak Russian, but you can keep going. Explore Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and the rest of the former Soviet Union too.
The Russian alphabet is based on Cyrillic. Modern Russian has 21 consonants, 10 vowels, and 2 extra symbols, or 33 total. It’s phonetic so you can learn the letters and sounds at the same time. Best of all you can still read from left to right, from top to bottom.
7. This alphabet is golden! It’s Greek to me, but it’s one of the oldest alphabets still in use. Did you know the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets came from Ancient Greece? They only had capital letters. It was the Romans who later developed lower case letters for the Latin alphabet.
The Greek alphabet has grown and changed over the centuries. Now it has 24 letters that match up with English. No Greek J’s or V’s.
If you want to learn Greek, you’ll have to learn to write in syllables. Start with 1, 2, or 3. Then you can move into longer words with more syllables. Greeks like to make l-o-n-g words!
Today the Greek alphabet is still used in technical symbols and labels. If you go into some fields, you must master Greek.
8. Can you read the sign? I can, but it’s not in English. It’s Spanish. I’d mangle every single word on those signs except for Valencia. That’s because there’s one in California. The Valencia below is near Madrid, in Spain.
Spanish doesn’t belong to just Spain. Thanks to the conquistadors, it’s the official language for most of Central and South America, who are also called Latin America.
My original source said there are 29 letters in Spanish, but if they have 4 extra letters (ch, ll, ñ and rr) shouldn’t there be 30?
The letters look like our English ones, except they have accent marks. (papá or güero) Those marks change the pronunciation, even the meaning. Letters in Spanish sound different. For example, their “h” is always silent. In our English word ‘house,’ it’s voiced, but not in ‘hour.’
9. Here are more signs that look English, but they’re actually Italian. My only clue, Roma. Americans always write it as ‘Rome.’ If you want to see and hear Italian, take a trip to Italy, San Marino, Vatican City, Slovenia, and Croatia.
Yay! The Italian alphabet has 21 letters, only 21! It matches up to our alphabet, but it uses foreign letters like ‘j, k, w, x, and y’ for foreign words with those sounds. The Italian alphabet has 3 different kinds of accent marks. You can see them in Métro, pescà, or genî.
10. This sign looks like it’s from a farmers’ market – in France. It uses the French alphabet, and it’s spoken/written in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco, and Switzerland.
You’ll also find it used in former French colonies in Africa, Asia, North/South America, and Oceania. I didn’t recognize Oceania so I googled. It’s made up of Micronesia, Polynesia, Australasia (Australia, New Zealand, and the islands around them), and Melanesia (the islands from New Guinea to Tonga).
The French alphabet has 26 letters, including all 20 of our consonants. It also has all 5 of our vowels (aeiou) – plus y. Y is only a vowel in French, never a consonant. W and K’s are mostly used in foreign words.
French, like the other European languages, uses accents on its vowels. Examples: à, é, î, ü. They also combine them – æ and œ. And C’s look like this: ç.
11. I can’t begin to read this sign, but I see double dots on the last word. That’s German! The sign says stay off the ice. Deutschland or Germany is where 78% of German is spoken.
You’ll also find it in Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium, and South Tyrol, Italy. Three of those countries also speak French. My guess is that German’s spoken in the north, and French in the south. It’s also spoken in the former German colonies and in the Amish, Mennonite, and Hutterite communities in North America. I googled again – the Hutterites are found in the Great Plains and in Western Canada.
The German alphabet has the same 26 letters as our English alphabet, but the pronunciation of some of them doesn’t exist in English. The G, CH, and the R are pronounced from the back of the throat. I can’t imagine how!
They also have a few letters with double dots, plus a fancy B – ä, ö, ü and are ß. BTW, if you’re curious, the sign says stay off the ice. I knew it was important . . . there are 2 exclamation marks. Sources: https://www.thoughtco.com/where-is-german-spoken-1444314
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!