Language Bazaar

Geeky the Mouse was running away from Fearless the Cat, and caught his breath, hiding in a hole as Fearless Licked her Lips just inches away. Geeky thought for a moment, and then did his popular imitation of a dog: "Woof-woof."  Fully Fooled, Fearless the Feline Fled, and Geeky emerged, boasting: "See how useful it is to learn foreign languages?"

SO MANY WORDS, SO LITTLE TIME! if you're ready to learn a Foreign Language or several, imagine a "magic dictionary" with somewhat "universal" words like Mama & Autobus. But letters are really the minimal unit of meaning: M = pull+together in Mama & Monarch (Ar. Malik); T = Travel, in auTo; B = Bulging Blatant Bounty in Bus, Bello, Boisterous, Buxom, Bread, russ. Bulki 'Bread-rolls,' and hamlet's "to Be"

Reactions to Global Alphabet

The wonderful website is an incredibly compact introduction to a deeper understanding of many languages, using Key-letter Theory  and the Global Alphabet.  We tend to be unaware of how our speech relates to the meanings of the words we are using, but the  Global Alphabet reawakens primal perceptions of speech, allowing us to return to the ultimate linguistic roots. This website allows us to tap into  an understanding of language "beyond understanding," to develop deeper intuitions about foreign languages.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning this system, and it has helped me immensely with various languages that I have been studying.” (Tom)


Of course Foreign Languages are hard to Learn, with thousands of words in each. How can you even begin to learn even just one of them? And just how many words do you need to begin reading & understanding in even one of them?

Actually, mice can't "speak Dog" or speak human languages, any more than they can learn alphabets or concepts. But humans can learn to read any language, with the help of a new "heretical" innovation called the "Global Alphabet". After 4 decades of research, a mere 23 lexical items have been found adequate to learn to read any language.

What's more:

1* they are the very same lexical items for many or all languages. And even better, 

2* these lexical items are not words of several letters each, but single letters! These 23 "Key-letters" actually represent concepts, the basic concepts underlying human Language & Thought.
Of course the letters may have different shapes and sounds than in English. But you already know their meanings (altho you don't know that you know them). 

3* The hardest part of using the system is "tweaking." (Not twerking: "jerks twerk, while geeks tweak!) What's more, you've been tweaking 24/7/365...all your life! So Lick your Lips as you Look & Listen, & Learn a Lot of Lovely Lively Languages, to Live Large! Won''t you just Jump for you learn the Meanings of Ley-letters?

Follow my Global Alphabet podcast

up arrow above the letter Look, Listen………& LLearn the Global Alphabet.

If letters could speak in English, sung by Nomi bar-Lev. Hebrew Song, sung by Nomi bar-Lev.

If LLLLetters could speak,
I'd learn in a week, Latin, Hebrew & Greek.       

And you LLift your eLLbows
When you say heLLo…or ¡hòLa!

But letters do speak:
LL says LLift,’ in ‘LLofty’, In LLadle,
oLLympus, & the aLLps.
So you sing “LLLLalala”
to Lift a Merry Mood.

So Leva La Lingua! (Lift your Lips!)
to LLive LLarge and LLearn a Lot of LLovely LLanguages.
& find the wisdom that you seek, in Hebrew, Latin, & Greek.

If letters could speak in Other Languages

too Complex for Too Simple?
The table of 23 Key-letters (or even the junior table with just 7 letters) is complex, even scary at first sight. But if you don't understand it, that's because it's TOO SIMPLE!

The simple idea is that every word in any language comes with its own picture, giving a general hint about the meaning of the whole word. 
Think about it: Can you see all of the following words as being one or another kind of Container (or containment)? 
The words are: Cap, Chair, Congress, inClude, Conquer, and even the noun Can & also the auxiliary Can (tin can vs. I can), and Spanish Casa.
Language works this way: meanings are extended (metaphorically) using general ideas like Containment. This is the way that a language can talk about anything without an infinite number of words. How many basic words does any language actually use? Just seven, and they're the same words for all languages.

Oh yes, these "words" are actually alphabetic letters, like "Catcher C, " and "Lofty L," "Bulging B," "eXceptional X," "Silly S," and even "Mystic M," with its Mini-Max meanings. 

These Key-letters reveal many hundreds of "Lexical Parallels"  within & between languages, like Spanish Pan 'bread' & Chinese Fan 'rice' (& Aramaic Pitah), & hundreds of others, displaying the DNA of human Language  & Thought like a planetarium.
{keeping checking this site: new material every week!}

L means  Lift!

Further meanings of the Key-letter L are all extensions, tweakings of Lift, including metaphoric extensions. oLd works like Big in Big Sister & Big Boys don’t cry. And heLLo (hoLa) is like Lifting your hand! (Arabic & Spanish eL ‘the’ is like Lifting the index finger.)

This ‘Key-letter” L can help learn new foreign words.
Key-letters can even help triangulate their meanings in context, more effectively.
Spanish: Leva, Levantarse, aLto, Lengua ‘Lift, stand-up, tall/high, tongue/language’ (compare Lip)…and hoLa,
And Arabic ahLan, hello!) & aLLah ‘God’ likeHebrew eL, eLohim both meaning ‘God.’
Not to mention the airline the israeli airLine eL-aL!So of course haLLelu eL eLyón—‘Laud the Lofty Lord!’

“Key-letters”  & “Magic Letters” were the names used for the theory when it covered just Hebrew; it has been used for 30 years in teaching Hebrew (a language that shares almost no cognates with English).

The Alphabet Zoo, A Poem

1. “Skip-reading.”

Students separately circle  known lexical words, then write a single  sentence combining them into a meaningful sentence, which is a hypothetical  “summary” of the whole reading;

2. “Zip-reading-1.”

1. “Zip-reading 2a.

In small groups, they translate sentence by sentence, using “zip” for each unknown word.Every student writes down two guesses for every “zip” (unknown word) using the Key-letter;

2. “Zip-reading 2b.

then, the class (or small group) votes on each of the guesses. The class almost always chooses a good answer. Only after a final attempt at a translation, withal zips replaced by guesses, should the teacher confirm or  correct the guesses.

Are Key-letters universal as bearers of meaning.

Readers, please don't let my many tipos [sic] interfere with your getting the Big Picture. Part of the glory of "Language Power" is this very ability to overlook oversights. Meaning is always the essence. As St. Augustine wrote in his imperfect Latin: "Melius nos reprehendant grammatici quam non intellligant populi - It is better that grammarians reproach us than that the people don't understand us."

But after I used IT for 3 decades,  the system suddenly revealed itself as applying beyond Hebrew, to English & other (perhaps all) languages, the names “Global Alphabet” and “nanosemantics” have been used.

hello! ¡hoLa!  AhLan al di-Là ooh-La-La! hoLa hello!

Finding the eXit.

An insight that you can use without knowing any specific Key-letters is that the Key-letter of any word is its first consonant, as L in aLps or heLLo. So you can find the eXit just by noticing the X because X means ‘out.’ Just knowing where to focus can be powerful by itself, allowing you to learn the meanings of Key-letters by your own experience. So don’t memorize even the Short Table: compare it to your own study. (That is, you can begin studying a new Foreign Language today, by using a short reading selection, comparing it word by word with its translation.)
The First-Consonant principle could be used to help anyone with reading problems like dyslexia or aphasia. Of course you can enjoy the very insight that there is such a compact theory of language, even if parts of the theory may need amplification or correction.

The Global Alphabet contains 23 Key-letters. Watch the Video.
The most complete explanation of all 23 Key-letters can be found in my book, “Tune Up Your Brain…” the current draft of which is available from Cognella Academic Press.

But just seven of them have been  found to be primary, providing a template for all 23. These seven are contained in the mnemonic:“Many Large Shields eXternally Surround Dangerous Bumps.”

The “Short Table” below contains both Main Meanings of the 7 Primary Key-letters, (mm 1 & 2). The Expanded Table contains all 23 Key-letters, with examples from Hebrew & English & other languages, including Chinese & Japanese. Compare the 7-word mnemonic with the Short Table to see how Tweaking works, as In Many as an example of Mix-together, & Large as an example of Lift.

So New It’s Heretical! And So simple that it can be difficult to understand!

The Short Table or “Magic Dictionary.”

With the two Main Meanings for each Key-letter, and all 23 Key-letters grouped here with their Parallel Primary Key-letter.

Short Table of Key-letters.






M (W)

to Master (pull)



H, C, K, (Q)

Cut, (jump)

Collect, (holy)


L, N


Lock, Negate


Sh, Z, Dh (voiced Th)

SHower, spread)

SHine, identify


X (Tz), J, R

Jut out, Reach



S, G

Spin, roll (Slide/Glide)



D, T, Th

Drop, press Down,

Decide, Teach


B, P, Ph

Bulge, Push Forward

Break. separate, Between

Vowels and some consonants (Hebrew ª º y h n w/v t) are “non-Keys,” & often have no meaning at all. So Gk. niKé = Latin viCtoria; and Hebrew ha-tiQwah ‘hope’ parallels English Quest.

A universal Dictionary?

I may be wrong or crazy, but 4 decades of research in dictionaries & teaching the system have led me to the hypothesis that this table is a dictionary of many or all human languages (although it spent its first two decades as a dictionary of Hebrew, for student use). It is not a mechanical translator, but rather a “thinking person’s dictionary,” since the given meaning must be “tweaked” to fit their context. But every dictionary must be used in this same way!


The mainstream answer to the question of how to learn FL vocabulary is flashcards, rote memorization, or subconscious learning in context—but some teachers are honest enough to ask how many times a given word must be used in order to be acquired “automatically” from input. Of course many teachers avoid the question, and students are happy enough to use any energy they have into flashcards, or to rely on automatic acquisition. Some FL language classes end up as a conversation about the target language between the teacher and 2/3 students sitting in the front row. For the rest, it is like being stuffed dogs on wheels, led on a walk by a leash, even if the dog-walker doesn’t notice that they fall, and simply drags them. (Of course most students simply avoid fLs as much as possible.) These techniques are all consistent with the mainstream theory that words are arbitrary, so there is no lexical structure. The Global Alphabet offers an alternative theory & system for vocabulary.

Zev is available for talk, mini-courses, etc. (link coming soon)

Sub-Meanings by Language.

B, P, F are commonly used for foods, & words meaning ‘First, Foot,’ & words for male relatives.

C/K usually refer to “Containers” including words for ‘Cup, Cap, Chair, Church,’ & action/predicate-words like ‘Contain, Conquer, Can do,’ etc. As always, exceptions abound, but they do not destroy the patterns (imho).

R is commonly used for geographical aReas, from iReland & Rumania & Russia to Iran & Iraq.

Since rivers flow Down, D is commonly used for rivers: Don, Donetz, Danube.

Sh is used for peace&quiet, Shelter, including clothing-words in English & Russian.

Om (or oM), the famous Mantra, is pronounced  Mmmmm... (as expressed in the Hindustani saying (said by the mantra itself): oM mera nam, ultha siddha ék saman 'oM is my name, forwards & backwards one and the same.' (The word nam is also the root of the greeting namaste 'I recognize you.)' 

oM is seen as meaning "nothing," and thus suitable for meditations to "Drain the Brain." Key-letters in general are better when the goal is instead to "Train the Brain.," because Key-letters do have meanings. In the Global Alphabet, M has a surprising variety of meanings, very often based on its second Main Meaning: 'Mix together,' as in English Many & Much (Russian Mnogo, Italian Molto, Molti, Greek Mega 'larger, great.' 

In Hebrew, ºiM = 'together with' & ºaM = 'people,' and also the ending -iM = 'plural,' as seen  in Eng. cherubiM & seraphiM.

Shockingly (since Chinese & Hebrew are not related languages, of course), Chinese Min means 'people' and the plural ending is -Men, as in Haida-Men 'children.'

[As part of the "Perverse Ambiguity" of language,  the first Main Meaning of M is 'pull, measure, small'] as in Gk. Micro, Latinate Mini-.]

Rote vs. Global Learning.

How easily cn you rote-memorize & repeat on cue the number: 100816449362516941. If you see the pattern of groups, it’s easy. But do the words of any language form such easy patterns? Yes: the patterns & groups defined by Key-letters.

Lexical Parallels.

The system reveals hundreds of relationships (“Parallels”) within  & between languages, “hiding in plain sight:
Spanish Pan, Aramaic Pita, & Chinese Fan ‘rice’ are among the many foods with Key-letters B, P, F, including Russian Bulka ‘Bread-roll,’; Farsi Panir ‘cheese.’ Or between Hebrew Loª ‘No’ & English No.
Plural M is found in Hebrew cherubiM & Chinese haidzMen. and also in words for ‘Many’ in English, Italian, Russian (Many, Molti, Mnogo).
‘People’ is aM in Hebrew, & Min in Chinese.

Prefixes & Suffixes also conform.

Hebrew Waw pronounced [vav] means ‘hook’. But the prefix Wa- [va-, v’-] means ‘and’ (“hooking” words together). Its English Parallels are With, Wife.


Repetition of first consonants emphasizes meaning—because the consonants carry the meaning. In Roses are Red & Violets are Blue…, Roses are “naturally” red, & violets naturally blue. (V can be a variant of B or W.)

So many words, So little time!

If languages leave you no time to think…
Just Learn the 7 Primary Key-letters, then Think & Tweak your way to reading comprehension!

Other Links

Zev bar-Lev's biography

Zev bar-Lev's bibliography (publications, citations, lectures and workshops, public lectures)

SILL (Sheltered Initiation Language Learning) website, where you can try introductory lessons for Hebrew, Italian, and Japanese which utilize the SILL teaching method. You're invited to begin learning a new language today!

LARC video website, where you can see videos of live sample lessons (the Four Study Steps and "skip-comprehension" exercises) in a half-dozen languages, from my multi-language class, and from different levels of my Hebrew course, plus student reactions and other entertainments.

FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions) about Sheltered Initiation Language Learning and "glyphs".

Introduction to "glyphs" for reading Hebrew and Arabic, with a sample lesson in Hebrew.

Sample lesson using "glyphs" in Arabic.

One-page Hebrew dictionary.


Prof. Zev bar-Lev