Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Order of the Alphabet - Koine Greek Learning Made Easy

If you learn the order of the alphabet according to the method described in this post, you will be able to recite the koine Greek alphabet backwards just as easily as you can forwards.

In order to use the method, you need to be familiar with memory palaces. See this post if you are not.

Building the Koine Greek Alphabet Palace

The first step is to decide what you want to use for your memory palace. Then, mark out a journey of 24 distinct locations in that palace.

At the first location, place an alligator; alligator represents the letter alpha. Make sure to relate the alligator to your location in a ridiculous way. It will make it more memorable.

At your second location, place a bear. Bear represents the letter beta. Next, at the third location, place a goose, which is gamma.

Continue placing animals in this manner. Here is the complete list of animals with their corresponding letters:

1. Alligator - alpha
2. Bear - beta
3. Goose - gamma
4. Dalmatian - delta
5. Elephant - epsilon
6. Zebra - zeta
7. Ape - eta
8. Turtle - theta
9. Eagle - iota
10. Kangaroo - kappa
11. Lamb - lambda
12. Mouse - mu
13. Numbat - nu
14. Viper - xi
15. Owl - omicron
16. Pig - pi
17. Rhino - rho
18. Skunk - sigma
19. Tiger - tau
20. Moose - upsilon
21. Flamingo - phi
22. Camel - chi
23. Panda - psi
24. Doe - omega

A Brief Explanation of the Koine Greek Alphabet Palace

You can avoid confusing what the turtle and tiger stand for by noticing that a turtle is shaped like a theta. Also notice that for the pig and panda, the word pig and the letter pi have the first two letters in common.

Of course, if you don't like the animals I have chosen, feel free to use different ones.

After you place all the animals, go back through and review what you placed at each location. Start at the first location on your journey, and move through each location sequentially until you reach the last location. Notice that if you start at the last stop on your journey and work your way backwards, this will enable you to recite the alpabet backwards.

Once you can recall all the animals at your locations successfully, you should wait an hour or so before you review again. Continue reviewing once per day. After a few days, if you did everything correctly, you'll be able to go weeks (and eventually months) without review and still retain the ability to recite the Greek alphabet (forwards and backwards!).

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  1. Great advice, Kevin.
    I'm going to try it with Greek words. I limited myself to choosing words from the core vocabulary list I have for my class. So I have more people than animals (and omega was a problem).
    ἀρνίον, -ου, τό lamb
    βοῦς βοός ὁ cow
    γυνή, -αικός,ἡ woman
    δαίμων -ονος, ὁ/ἡ demon
    ἔθνος, -ους, τό Gentile
    ζηλωτής, ου, ὁ zealot
    ἡγεμών, -όνος, ὁ leader
    θεός, -οῦ, ὁ God, god
    ἵππος –ου, ὁ horse
    κλέπτης, -ου, ὁ thief
    λύχνος, -ου, ὁ lamp
    μήτηρ, μητρός ἡ mother
    νύμφη –ης, ἡ bride
    ξένος (ὁ) foreigner
    ὄχλος, -ου, ὁ multitude, crowd
    πατήρ, πατρός, ὁ father
    ῥαββί rabbi
    στρατιώτης, -ου, ὁ soldier
    τέκνον, -ου, τό child
    υἱός, -οῦ, ὁ son
    φυλακή, -ῆς, ἡ guard
    χήρα, -ας, ἡ widow
    ψεύστης , ου, ὁ liar
    ᾠδή, -ῆς, ἡ song

  2. Wow! After getting the list together, it only took me 30 minutes to construct a story and learn it. Brilliant! Thanks much. I'm giving the list and directions to my students next week. With the communicative approach I've been using, I haven't yet taught them the alphabet (no need). But we're on lesson 102. It's about time they know the alphabet.