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5 Tips for Learning a New Alphabet

Learning a new language can seem a daunting challenge in the workplace, but the business benefits soon add up (and your colleagues will thank you for introducing them to a valuable skill that will enhance their global business reach). However, smiles may fade further if your company starts doing business in a language with a different – and perhaps unrecognisable – alphabet.

Learning a new alphabet may feel like a step too far – and one designed to trip people up! – but you can take down this extra barrier with ease by remembering a few simple tips.

1. Start slow – one letter at a time!

When you are starting out, a new alphabet (such as the Greek or Russian alphabet) will probably look completely unfamiliar. However, when you look closely you may find that there are more similarities than you realise. Looking for links to your native language can help you get started – and make the new alphabet seem far more manageable.

Similarities do not always follow the rules you expect them to, but they give you a gateway to deciphering the language. For example, while the letter ‘A’ in Russian fulfils a similar role and provides recognisable sounds, the familiar-looking letter ‘P’ actually sounds like an ‘R’!

Once you get your head around these letters, and start to understand the sounds that they make, you will find that words in your new language start to make much more sense.

2. Try out transliteration

As you get used to the new letters – both any that look familiar as well as the strange new shapes you are trying to learn – you can start to translate everyday words in your native language into your new alphabet.

Making a cup of tea in the office kitchen? Excellent – how do you spell ‘tea’ and ‘milk’ using this mysterious new alphabet? You can take this tip everywhere you go, too – whenever you take the dog for a walk, pop out to the shops or prepare to make dinner, look for everyday things you can write down using your new alphabet.

3. Start reading in your new language

While we do not recommend that you attempt to read a complicated novel when you are starting out with a new language, we do think that becoming familiar with the letters and the words they form is important.

Start out small – for example, by finding a recipe for a familiar dish, or looking at road signs or maps. Later, when the letters and sounds make much more sense to you, you can tackle a book or report!

4. Use technology

Modern technology offers great tools for language learning, from apps that can help you practice your new language, to app-based or e-book dictionaries that you can access on your mobile while on the move (a far less bulky alternative to a pocket dictionary!). Supplement your language learning course with some helpful learning aids to help you develop your language learning – any time, any place.

5. Incorporate the learning into your day-to-day life

We have mentioned the words ‘familiar’ and ‘everyday’ a few times in this blog, and that is for a very good reason. If you want things to stick in your mind, or you hope that opportunities to practice will come easily, then you need to make language learning fit into your everyday life. The sooner you can make the mysterious seem normal to you, the sooner you will be confident with your new language.

If you are learning the language to further your career, or learning it alongside your colleagues, you have even more opportunities to make language learning a part of your routine.

Take the time to practice with your colleagues – using the language in conversation, and via email and instant messaging, will help you develop your language skills. Before you know it, those strange new letters will be as familiar as your ABC!

Learning a new language does not need to be a deal breaker for your business – and neither does learning a new alphabet. To find out more about our approach to learning a language such as Greek or Russian with an unfamiliar alphabet, or to develop a bespoke language training course for your organisation, contact us at Simon & Simon today.

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