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Old 10-05-2006, 09:12 PM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Do Greeks and Russians know the Latin alphabet?

Most native English speakers, even university-educated ones, don't know the Greek alphabet in its entirety. Sure, most of us will recognize the more famous letters such as pi and omega, but those of us most likely to be familiar with the entire Greek alphabet tend to have specialized training or upbringing, such as linguists, classical scholars, mathematicians, and children of Greek-speaking immigrants. The Greek alphabet is not usually taught in primary or secondary school, and isn't usually taught in post-secondary school unless your field requires it.

Even fewer English-speaking people know the Cyrillic alphabet unless they've studied a language like Russian. Unlike the Greek alphabet, the Cyrillic alphabet doesn't have much use in other fields like mathematics.

Conversely, do Greeks and Russians tend to know the Latin alphabet? I've met plenty of Greeks and Russians in my life, but they've almost all been immigrants living in places where the local language is written in the Latin script. What about Greeks who live in Greece and Russians who live in Russia? Is learning the Latin alphabet cumpulsory in primary or secondary school there? If not, is it something most Greeks and Russians tend to pick up anyway, or would they have to go out of their way to learn it by enrolling in a language class?
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Old 10-05-2006, 09:18 PM
hksj hksj is offline
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All public signs in Greece, for example town signs and road directions, are printed in both Greek and Latin characters.
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Old 10-05-2006, 09:27 PM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hksj
All public signs in Greece, for example town signs and road directions, are printed in both Greek and Latin characters.
I used to live in Chinatown. All the public signs there were written in both English and Chinese. Didn't help me learn much Chinese, though.
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Old 10-05-2006, 09:29 PM
hksj hksj is offline
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That's nice, but I was just giving you a fact I thought might help... don't be a dick if that's not enough, hey?
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Old 10-05-2006, 09:35 PM
qubed qubed is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psychonaut
I used to live in Chinatown. All the public signs there were written in both English and Chinese. Didn't help me learn much Chinese, though.
But that's a bit different. There's pretty much a one-to-one correspondance between Latin/Greek and Latin/Cyrillic. That, and the fact that many of corresponding letters look very similar would probably indicate that Greek speakers would probably be able to read Latin very quickly, even without formal schooling just from seeing it everywhere.

Latin alphabet and Chinese characters? Not so related.
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Old 10-05-2006, 09:48 PM
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John Mace John Mace is offline
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Russia is a big country surrounded by many Slavic neighbors who also use the same alphabet. Greece, OTOH, is a much smaller country which is integrated into the EU, where all the member states (until recently) use only the Latin alphabet. I would expect that any half-way educated Greek would know the Latin alphabet. They see it everywhere. Also, keep in mind that most European schools require a foreign language, so it's likely that most Greeks studied another European language in HS that uses the Latin alphabet.
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Old 10-05-2006, 09:49 PM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Originally Posted by hksj
That's nice, but I was just giving you a fact I thought might help... don't be a dick if that's not enough, hey?
I'm sorry; no offense was intended. I was just trying to point out that bilingual street signs do not necessarily imply a bilingual population.
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Old 10-06-2006, 04:31 AM
drillrod drillrod is offline
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I travel to Russia quite a bit. I see an awful lot of stuff printed in the latin alphabet, i.e. advertising, products, appliances, etc.
I'd say that the vast majority of the Russians I deal with know the latin alphabet and can at least sound out words, allowing, of course for crazy english pronunciation rules.
One caveat - I've mostly spent time in Moscow. The situation is probably quite a bit different outside of a major metropolitan area.
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Old 10-06-2006, 05:46 AM
Kyla Kyla is offline
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Here in Bulgaria, I would say that most people can read the Latin alphabet. People here drive the same cars, with the same Latin names, as they do in the rest of Europe. An Opel is an Opel, not a Опел. (Okay, I won't do that again cause I hate hunting and pecking for the letter.) Same thing with loads and loads of products, advertising, etc., it's often in English, German, Italian, and so on. Plus, lots of cell phones don't have Cyrillic, so people text message each other in Bulgarian using Latin letters.

However, I would also say that lots of older people - who grew up when Russian was the foreign language of choice - can't read Latin well or at all. As an anecdote, my host mom, who's 55 (which I don't really think is old, but she did live most of her life under the old regime) got a text message from her cell phone company offering her some deal, and it was written in Bulgarian, but in Latin letters. She puzzled over it for awhile and finally just had me read it to her.
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Old 10-06-2006, 05:53 AM
Bambi Hassenpfeffer Bambi Hassenpfeffer is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psychonaut
I'm sorry; no offense was intended. I was just trying to point out that bilingual street signs do not necessarily imply a bilingual population.
2 alphabets <> bilingual. The signs are in Greek, written in two alphabets -- the Latin alphabet and the Greek alphabet (e.g. Hellas / Ελλάς ). That doesn't make them bilingual any more than Japanese speakers are polyglots due to having 4 writing systems.

Here's a picture, so you can see what he means.
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Old 10-06-2006, 07:14 AM
Colophon Colophon is offline
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I have asked a similar question before, because I notice that a lot of Greek websites use the Latin alphabet for Western names (both products and people). You therefore have to assume that the vast majority of Greeks know the sounds of Latin characters, otherwise surely the names would be transliterated -- it's not hard, after all, to write "Μικροσοφτ" instead of "Microsoft".
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Old 10-06-2006, 09:17 AM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
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The other point would be that Greek is normally written in the Greek alphabet, Russian (and Ukrainian, Bulgarian, etc.) in Cyrillic, and so on. But they are (a) quite as capable of "processing" something in a different alphabet as we are, perhaps more so. A word in Swedish or Spanish, untransliterated, would be quoted in exactly the same way as we might do likewise.

When I was tutored in Russian in high school, I started reading Tolstoy's Voina y Mir. It was an interesting experience, and not for the reasons you might expect: about 55% of the novel was dialogue, seemingly all in French (as spoken by the Russian aristocracy of that day). I tend to piss foreign language teachers of several varieties off by flippantly referring to War and Peace as "one of the masterworks of French literature."
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Old 10-06-2006, 09:51 AM
Freddy the Pig Freddy the Pig is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Polycarp
A word in Swedish or Spanish, untransliterated, would be quoted in exactly the same way as we might do likewise.
I'm not sure I'm understanding you.

By way of analogy, during the 1980's, the Russian words glasnost and perestroika appeared frequently in American news stories. These words were always transliterated into the Latin aplhabet--if they had been left in the original Cyrillic, 99%+ of Americans would have had no clue what they were.

When the reverse happens--when Western words, for whatever reason, are rendered in Russian--are you saying that they are usually not transliterated, and that Russians still recognize them? That would seem to be a convincing case that Easterners are more familiar with the Western alphabets than vice versa.
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Old 10-06-2006, 02:24 PM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
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Even in Japan, it seems most people can read the Roman alphabet. I would certainly expect the same in Greece and Russia. A Serbian friend of mine told me that until Milosevic came along, the Serbs were even using the Roman alphabet more and more. Of course, they had a standard orthography for it, since it is essentially indistinguishable from Croatian (but don't say that to a Serb or Croat). Still, it would surprise me if the average Russian couldn't read the Roman alphabet, especially the capitals that duplicate or nearly so many Cyrillic letters--but be careful of P.

As an aside, I was having dinner once with another former Serb and a friend from Georgia (the one between SC and FL, not the ex-Soviet republic). My friend asked the Serb how different Serbian was from Croatian. He hesitated for a minutes, sighed, and finally said that he had been out of that milieu for long enough to admit that there was less difference between Serbian and Croatian than between the English spoken in GA and PA (where I am from and where the Serb had been living for around 15 years). This conversation was pre-Milosevic.
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Old 10-06-2006, 10:56 PM
Neptunian Slug Neptunian Slug is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drillrod
I travel to Russia quite a bit. I see an awful lot of stuff printed in the latin alphabet, i.e. advertising, products, appliances, etc.
I'd say that the vast majority of the Russians I deal with know the latin alphabet and can at least sound out words, allowing, of course for crazy english pronunciation rules.
One caveat - I've mostly spent time in Moscow. The situation is probably quite a bit different outside of a major metropolitan area.
Most Russians (especially the younger ones) can read the Latin alphabet. I would assert that if you emailed any Russian (assuming you know the language) but wrote entirely in latin characters, they wouldn't have an issue understanding you.

Its highly likely that a Russian will see Latin characters on a semi-regular basis whether they are in Moscow or Vorkuta. They only reason Joe Sixpack couldn't read Cyrillic is that he has little exposure and less need to learn.

Pronunciation is an entirely different problem.
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Old 10-07-2006, 12:15 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Originally Posted by Neptunian Slug
Pronunciation is an entirely different problem.
Yes, but of course this will depend on the language being read. "S" in English and "S" in Hungarian have quite different pronunciations, for example. Most English speakers wouldn't be able to pronounce Hungarian, even though the languages are written in the same alphabet.
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