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How do you learn the Greek alphabet?

How have Greek learners learnt the alphabet? I'm having trouble continuing the Greek course without it.

May 22, 2017

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The Greek alphabet can seem daunting at first but there are ways to make it easier. Remember you don't have to do it all in at once.

So, let's get started:

First, have a look at the whole alphabet...relax come back and we'll explain.alphabet

  1. Note that each letter also has a name. That actually makes it easier to talk about so when we talk about Α we say alpha or Κ kappa etc.

  2. There are 24 letters (ok and a few little extras to learn but just a few).

Thirteen of the letters will look familiar to you. Here they are A, B, E, H, I, K, M, N, O, T, X, Y, Z (They are not always pronounced the same. Oh, and they are typed on the same key on the qwerty keyboard ).

Let's see the pronunciation: Ok

A ΑΛΦΑ Alpha as in father, alphabet ...and it never changes. (Not like Eng. where we have "father" but apple or a**ny the sound of the vowels in Greek do not vary)

B ΒΗΤΑ Beta This is really strange because it is "VEETA" ...V just like in vase. vegetable, very...

E ΕΨΙΛΟΝ Epsilon "ay" just like "hay, say, pay, ... and it never changes.

H HTA Eeta "ee" just like in "see, me, knee... and it never changes

I ΙΩΤΑ IOTA "ee" just like in "see, me, knee... and it never changes. Yes, the same as H** but wait there are more.

K ΚΑΠΠΑ Kapa "k" as in cow, corn, camara...

M ΜΥ Mee as in mother, milk, ...

Ν ΝΥ Nee as in North, November...

O ΟΜΙΚΡΟΝ Omicron as in Organ, oatmeal.... and it never changes

T ΤΑΥ Taf as in Table, travel.....

X XEI Chee This is a strange one. It sounds like h in have, hamburger, how.... not like the English letter it resembles.

Y ΥΨΙΛΟΝ Ypsilon "ee" just like in "see, me, knee**... and it never changes Yes, just like H,Ι, and wait there are more.

Ζ ΖΗΤΑ Zeeta and it sounds like: zoo, zipper....

Ok, there are thirteen (13) letters to get you started. More than half the Alphabet.

Remember * Η-η, Ι-ι and Υ-υ have the same pronunciation (''ee'')

A, K, M, N, O, T and Z are exactly like the English.

Ok, B is really odd, so is X. :-(



The first skill in the course is designed to teach the alphabet. However, I dare say a lot of people are already familiar with it as Greek letters are widely used in scientific contexts, such that anyone who got through A-level physics will probably know them all adventitiously.
If you're not finding the 'ABC' skill very helpful, there are lots of courses on Memrise (ensure you choose one with modern pronunciation if you want to communicate with modern Greeks!); Glossika also very recently released this free course for learning the alphabet, which you might find useful (you'll need to create a free account—I think you get a free sample of Glossika Greek sentences when you finish it, too).


@garpike Thank you for this very valuable input. Yes, memrise has lots of very good sections and your advice re choosing Modern Greek is invaluable. Glossika is new to me and I finally sign up and find it very interesting and valuable as is memrise.


I first started studying Greek with a classroom-based "Greek for the tourist" course back in 1985. In fact I missed the first lesson on the alphabet just because I hadn't found out about the course until it was underway. Having a physics degree, I was familiar with some characters in the alphabet but I don't think it helped that much as the pronunciation is not the same and you've still got to cope with double consonants and double vowels. The general method in this course, and in a beginners course I took about a year later, was to pick up the alphabet as you went along. This was also the method used for the Linguaphone PDQ course in Russian that I started before I visited Russia in 2006.

I discovered Duolingo last year and started using it to study Greek after I realised that I'd be passing through Greece this year. I gave up on the placement test after two questions because I didn't realise what was required for the questions on the alphabet. Now, despite being past the second check point, I still have to return to the ABC unit from time to time, because I keep on making mistakes like not knowing whether to answer with "delta" or with "d"; there seems to be no consistency in this. There's also the obscure vocabulary of this unit. So I know the Greek alphabet—I did before I started Duolingo Greek—but I keep on having to return to the ABC unit.

The short answer to your question is that I just picked up the Greek alphabet as I went along, hearing the words first and then seeing how they are written. I still make spelling mistakes, particularly with the ee sound, which can be written in six different ways.

I've now been learning Bulgarian for several months and I've found that it really does take a while (for me at least) to get familiar with a new alphabet. My advice to you would be just continue, don't get frustrated if you have to keep repeating exercises; it does get easier. I've been using some words in Greek for many years and am only now finding out how they are spelt.


@paulguk Thank you for this clear and honest evaluation. We are making a new Tree now and our top goal is to make the Alphabet skill much more user-friendly without those confusing issues as you mention here. I hope the analysis I've given here will help overcome some of those issues.



Now that we have seen more than half the Greek alphabet let's go on.

Here are 5 strange looking ones...BUT they sound just like some English ones.

Φ ΦΕΙ FEE This is just F as in friend, find, forever...

Λ ΛΑΜΔΑ LAMBDA as in lemon, level, language...

Π ΠΕΙ PEE as in popular, people, pencil...

Ρ ΡΩ RO Sorry about this one it looks like another English letter but it really is the R sound as in remember, rhapsody, really....

Θ ΘΗΤΑ THETA TH as in "thin, thing...

So that gets us through 18 letters.

Here are two others that have a rather, but not exact English sound:

Γ ΓΑΜΜΑ Gama sometimes "g" as in game, go, but sometimes it sounds like y as in yes,

Δ ΔΕΛΤΑ Delta which sounds more like a hard TH...as in "then" you'll hear it on the audio and understand better

Ok, that takes care of 20 letters.

So, now the 4 really odd letters:

Ξ ΞΕΙ KSEE This is like the English X as in extra, fox, xylophone...

Ψ ΨΕΙ PSEE as in liPStick, hiPSter,

Ω ΟΜΕΓΑ Omega which is just another o sound like the O OMIKRON we had above. Same sound: orange, oval....

Those are the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet. There are a few other sounds which you'll see in the link here but they are very similar to the English. Of course, if you have any questions we're happy to explain more. Best of luck and happy learning.


Some videos for kids are very useful!!! Even for adults! For instance,


There are many. Unless you find them boring. I enjoyed them :)

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Here is a good guide: www.ilearngreek.com/Lessons/alphabet.L1.asp. I think that if you practice a bit it will become clear how close the Greek and the Latin alphabet are. See jaye's sticky post for the alphabet. As it points out, for a standard QWERTY keyboard the keys are not really that different and there is a fair amount of matching between sounds too. :)

Regarding the link, just note that the speaker's accent is a northern one, not the standard 'Athenian' accent. For more details on that see the last paragraph in my comment here: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/9712639.


Thanks D_ for you comments which are not only helpful but encouraging. Sorry to say that the ilearngreek.com doesn't open. But as you say learning the Greek alphabet is just a matter of keeping the list close by as you do the exercises and very soon you'll be flying solo. I know our first skill has caused some consternation when learners use a single letter but the full word was required or other such issues. We've attempted to eliminate all those and of course, we are working on making the new Tree user-friendly.

The link to ajcee7's comments is still invaluable as are all the comments it received. I'd forgotten about that...over a year ago, wow.

Again thanks for your as always insightful comments.

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The link works for me, my browser drops the http:// part when I select to open it in a new tab and opens it as a www... page. Try this www.ilearngreek.com


Does not work however I try it. Thanks for the effort.

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