Memorizing a foreign alphabet - tips?


#1

I’m taking on memorizing the Armenian alphabet as a challenge for myself (39 letters).
In Armenian, each letter comes in capital and lowercase forms, which can sometimes look unrelated to each other, like Շ շ (which is “sh”) or Յ յ (which is “y” as in yes). I’m not sure how to encode each form of each letter, but I’ll need to remember both.
There are also letters that look similar to each other, like lowercase գ (g) and զ (z).
I’ll be using some sort of memory palace to keep the letters in alphabetical order, probably going by groups of 3 (13 locations needed) or 4 (10 locations needed). What do you guys think?


#2

I haven’t done Armenian, but perhaps these will provide some inspiration:


#3

I’m not sure how this method could work for Armenian. I want to be able to recite the alphabet in alphabetical order and recall both capital and lowercase letters.


#4

Two separate things. First you have to learn the order of the alphabet and be able to recite it verbally. Once you know how to do that, the link above explains how you get the image to the sound in that particular location (of the alphabet).

Do you know any other alphabets already? Greek, Cyrillic, etc.? If this is your first non-Latin alphabet… any reason for picking Armenian?


#5

I know Greek and (Russian) Cyrillic actually, but both by rote. I never used any specific mnemonic devices for them. I chose Armenian as I have kind of forgotten what it’s like to learn a foreign script actually - I had Greek mastered by the middle of elementary school, as well as half of Cyrillic, and all of Cyrillic at the start of high school (middle school was spent on Japanese).


(Josh Cohen) #6

The way I learned Cyrillic (while on a train through the Balkans) was to convert each letter into an image and link it to an image for the sound. I didn’t use a memory journey, but a journey would be good if you want to keep them in order. If you place the images in order from left-to-right or top-to-bottom, then you would be able to remember whether letters are uppercase or lowercase.

Examples of images I used for Cyrillic:

  • Ж = this is Jacques Cousteau doing jumping jacks (French “J”)
  • Ч = this is an upside down chair (“ch” in “chair”)

Here are some ideas for the letters you mentioned:

  • Շ could be turned into a shell to remind you of “sh”.
  • շ looks kind of like a cobra getting ready to strike, so you could link it to the word shock.
  • Յ looks like the tines of a pitchfork, so I would imagine getting jabbed and saying “yow”.
  • յ looks like j, which is pronounced y in many languages. Jarl (earl in English) is one possible image.
  • գ looks kind of like a g.
  • զ has a tail on the bottom right like the tail of a z.

For those I would picture the circular left part of the letters as a person’s head and the line on the right as a waterline. With գ, the person is drinking water (saying “glug”). With the զ, the person is walking on water or above the water in some way. Zephyrus is one of my mnemonic images, and it’s the first thing that comes into my mind for “on top of water” combined with the letter “z”. That association probably wouldn’t work for other people, but it’s an example of how I would find an image for that combination.


#7

Thanks Josh for the ideas. I’ll go ahead and try to come up with an image for most of the letters, come up with a memory journey, and place them in my small apartment building to remember the alphabetical order. This might take a few days.


#8

Why don’t you use Google Maps to pick a route in Yerevan? That way you got the alphabet sort of where it belongs…


#9

I’m still very new at routes, and I figured I might as well start out with a small place I know best.


#10

I’ve also started using a method similar to yours, but mine involves linking the letter names to their IPA sounds. This makes letters very memorable to me, and I often don’t have to memorize the shape of the letter. I hope to truly put this method to the test by one day memorizing the Arabic alphabet.


#11

Update: I’ve memorized about ten letters, though not in alphabetical order - they were just the easiest for me to memorize and those that kept appearing and looking familiar to me. Will continue working on the alphabet and eventually hopefully organize them in alphabetical order.


#12

Update 2: I have about half of the alphabet memorized now, and the order of the letters is starting to fall into place more.


#13

Update 3: I have almost the entire alphabet memorized in alphabetical order. The letters are starting to be familiar and I can (slowly) read words.