Learning the alphabet is easy when used with the technique of picture association. At the bottom of each flashcard, a suggestion is given as to what the letter resembles and what sound it makes. For example, the Punjabi letter for the sound "h" resembles a hook and hook begins with the letter "h".
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Punjabi is an alphabet based language with forty letters, which is fourteen more than in the English alphabet. The reason for this is that each sound has its own letter. In English, many letters combine to make new sounds. For example, the letter "h" is often used with other letters like "s" "c" "t" to form new sounds like "sh" "ch" and "th". In the Punjabi alphabet, each of these sounds have their own letter.
In addition to this, the Punjabi alphabet also has multiple "b" "d" "g" "j" "k" "r" and "t" letters. Each giving a slightly different pronunciation of the letter.
Words are sounded out exactly as they are written.
Punjabi has three supporting vowels and nine vowel marks. The vowel marks either go behind, under or above a letter. There is one vowel mark that goes in front of the letter. However, vowel marks are always pronounced after the letter.
If no consonant is available to attach to the vowel mark, a supporting vowel is used instead. Supporting vowels are never used on their own. The chart “Vowel Marks” shows which vowel marks are used with each supporting vowel.
In English, when the letter ‘n’ appears before the letters ‘k’ or ‘g’, the vowel is pronounced with a nasal sound. For example, ‘thin’ becomes ‘thing’ or ‘think.’ In Punjabi, it is the bindee and tippee signs that give a nasal sound to the vowel. If the bindee or tippee appear at the beginning or middle of the word, as in the word ਤਾਂਕਿ then the nasal sound becomes a fully pronounced ‘n’ sound. If the bindee or tippee appear at the end of the word, as in the word ਤਾਂ then only the vowel is nasalized.
The only difference between the bindee and tippee is that they are used with different vowels. For example, tippee is used with the invisible vowel sound as shown in the word ਮੰਡਲੀ
Some English words have a double consonant. For example, ‘little’ or ‘cotton.’ In Punjabi, it is the adhak sign that gives the double sound to the consonant. It is the consonant following the adhak that is doubled. For example, in the word ਇਕੱਠੇ the letter ਠ is doubled.