Twenty Minutes to Mastery of the Cyrillic Alphabet


  • Betty Lou Leaver Ph.D.

    1. Foreign Service Institute
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      Betty Lou Leaver (Ph.D., candidate, University of Pittsburgh) is Russian Language Training Supervisor at the Foreign Service Institute; Arlington, VA


ABSTRACT Every teacher of Russian knows that sooner or later the Cyrillic alphabet must be taught in all elementary Russian courses. Unfortunately, the process of teaching and learning the alphabet for many is dull and time-consuming. But teaching and learning the alphabet need not be simply an activity to be tolerated. Alphabet acquisition can actually be achieved rapidly, enjoyably, and successfully. How? Through the application of mnemonic research. The method described in this article teaches students to recognize the entire Cyrillic alphabet in twenty minutes. The syntax of the model is based on Lorayne and Lucas's Memory Model of Instruction. Within the syntax are five phases: attending to the materials, developing connections in class, practicing recall, using the information memorized as a basis for acquiring new information, and testing recall over time. The success of the model stems from the fact that the syntax is based on current, very convincing theories of information processing, many of which originate with Piaget's work in mnemonics and learning. The differences between long- and short-term memory and their significance for alphabet acquisition are discussed. The syntax of the model also takes into account other key information processing concepts, such as the dependence of memory on understanding, a variable of which is age, and the enhancement of memory by heightened awareness. A letter presentation order and accompanying suggested word list is given, as well as a sample in-class or homework exercise.