“Miss, miss, miss!” Adam was waving his hand up in the air increasingly frantically. Amanda sighed “Yes Adam, what is it?” “It’s Rudi Miss, he’s not writing a story like you told us to, he’s scribbling rubbish!” Rudi turned to face Adam and blurted out“but …” which Amanda stopped by simply holding up her hand. Rudi obediently fell silent and waited for Amanda to come and look at his book. She bent close to him and asked “is that Russian?” Rudi beamed and nodded: “it is more easy for me to write story in Russian, then translate.” Amanda smiled back, patted him on the shoulder and “that’s just fine Rudi.””Come on everyone” Amanda raised her voice slightly “I want you to keep writing until quarter to. You can finish the story for homework.”

At quarter to Amanda announced: “finish your sentence, then put your books away for tonight’s homework please.” Once the flurry of desk lids banging had died away, Amanda stood up at the board and asked: “Does anyone know how many alphabets there are in the world?” As expected, she was greeted with silence and puzzled looks. “Well, Rudi here knows two alphabets, don’t you Rudi?” “Yes” he replied, “English and Russian.”

“When you’ve gone shopping into Birmingham, have any of you noticed that some of the shop signs are written in a strange lettering” enquired Amanda, “do any of you know what that is?” There were a few hands tentatively raised: “Yes, Sarah?” “It’s Indian Miss.” ”John, what do you think?” “It’s Pakistani Miss innit?” ”Well” replied Sarah, “the people who own the shops are either from India, or from Pakistan, but there actually is no such language as Indian or Pakistani. In fact, there are 22 different official languages in India, although they speak more than 1,600 different languages – but then, it’s a really big country.”

“Wow, that’s a lot” called out Adam. “Yes Adam, it is, and quite a number of those languages have their own variation of the alphabet, although they are based on three main scripts. You see, when we were still running round in animal skins and living in huts, there was a hugely successful civilisation in India, with it’s own music and dance, rulers with palaces, art and architecture, craftsmen making jewellery and weapons, regional food and fashion.”

“One last thing before the bell, what we call English is actually called the Latin alphabet, and it is the most commonly used alphabet in the world at the moment. Rudi’s Russian alphabet is more properly known as the Cyrillic alphabet, because it is used not just in Russia but also across much of Eastern Europe in places like Poland, Ukraine and Croatia. So, as you can see, there are a lot of people using a lot of different alphabets.”

“That’s it for today, I’ll put examples of other alphabets up on the classroom notice boards after half term. But don’t forget to finish your writing tonight!”

© 2017 Debra Carey


Whilst doing a quick google search on the subject of alphabets, I came across the following breakdown which inspired my story – well, that and the fact that I was born & brought up in India:

“A quick calculation shows that about 2.6 billion people (36% of the world population) use the Latin alphabet, about 1.3 billion people (18%) use the Chinese script, about 1 billion people (14%) use the Devanagari script (India), about 1 billion people (14%) use the Arabic alphabet, about 0.3 billion people (4%) use the Cyrillic alphabet and about 0.25 billion people (3.5%) use the Dravidian script (South India).”  Source

Author: debscarey

Tweets @debsdespatches My personal blog is Debs Despatches, where I ramble on a variety of topics. I write fiction on co-hosted site Fiction Can Be Fun, where my #IWSG reflections can be found; and my Life Coaching business can be found on

6 thoughts on “Alphabets”

  1. I had no idea! First, didn’t know you were born and brought up in India, that’s interesting. And I also didn’t know there were 1600 different languages. That’s incredible.

    Thanks for the mix of fun and info 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I did take a look at this and – to be honest – was surprised how small the number was (when you consider the figures quoted for the Indian sub-continent). According to the Linguistic Society, Ethnologue have the most comprehensive catalogue and they list 6,909 distinct languages as at 2009. But when they go on further to state that there are 832 different languages in Papua Guinea alone, you can understand why I question the figure. I didn’t look up what they meant by *distinct* languages though, so that may answer the question. I simply remember my time working at the British High Commission in the capital of Bangladesh where we had translators fluent not only in English and Bengali (the national language in Bangladesh), but also a large variety of dialects from the numerous hill tribes. The suggestion is that – with civilisation – language is dying. A sad fact, if a more convenient outcome.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, I’m a foreigner at heart. Not only born & brought up in India, but didn’t live in the UK until I was 19 (boarding school aside). It was a culture shock I can tell you! I spoke Urdu as a very small child and the odd smattering of Hindi and Tamil, but English genuinely was the common language – in business and education especially – so it fell into unuse and then I simply forgot. These days I can only mange a counting to 10 level in Hindi.

      The only other part of the world I lived in for any period of time was Nigeria where I learned how to swear in Yoruba!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s taken a long time for the UK to feel like any sort of home. I’d not want to live in India again, but it is home in my heart. England is my pragmatic home – it’s where I live and where the people I love live – but I don’t feel especially British, more European. The whole Brexit thing has caused me much discomfort as a result. My grandparents retired to southern Spain, which both they & I loved. I imagine such options will be somewhat limited in the future.


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