Since the 19th century, we’ve been learning our ABCs through the alphabet song sung to the same tune as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” But English isn’t the only alphabet, and not every alphabet will fit into that song. Here are some other songs from around the world to help them learn their ABCs.
The Swedish alphabet is almost the same as ours, but they’ve got three more letters to cram into the song (å, ä, ö). They leave out the w, which was grouped together with v by the Swedish Academy until 2006.
The Turkish alphabet doesn't have q, w, or x, but it has six other letters that English doesn’t have, bringing the total to 29. This catchy song fits them all in nicely.
The Croatian alphabet has 30 letters. Here, the Bajka children’s choir sings them with impressive speed.
The Russian alphabet has 33 letters, but this song from Russian Sesame Street is so catchy, it doesn't seem like so many.
5. Malay (Jawi alphabet)
The Malaysian language can be written with the Latin alphabet or in Jawi, a form of Arabic script. Here a group of cuties sings the Jawi “Alif Ba Ta.”
Written Thai has a complex relationship to the spoken language. Most consonants can be written in two different ways, indicating different tones. There are also additional marks for tones and for vowels. There are 44 consonants to memorize, and the task is made easier by associating each one with a word in which the sound is featured. So the first letter is 'ko' as in kai (chicken), the second is 'kho' as in khai (egg), and so on down through bottle, water buffalo, person, bell, snake, etc.
Amharic, the language of Ethiopia, is written with a script in which each character stands for a consonant+vowel syllable. These kids are singing a song to help them learn the 34 characters from the first vowel series. Once they have these down, the other 6 vowel series should be a piece of cake.
A version of this story ran in 2012; it has been updated for 2023.