Learning Modern Greek in Greece
Replies: 2 - Last Post: Apr 21, 2013 11:39 AM Last Post By: injera_grandee
Apr 21, 2013 1:30 AM
Learning Modern Greek in GreeceHi everyone
I am posting this piece on the three different threads to which it relates: Greece; The Long Haul – Living and Working Abroad, and Speaking in Tongues.
I am a 49 year old male who has been living and working abroad for many years. For the past decade, my main employment has been teaching English, principally Academic English to university students, in eight different countries, mixed in with travel to those and other countries around these work placements.
Since October last year, I have been living in Chania on the Greek island of Crete. By and large, it has been a pleasant place to spend a mild winter. During this period I have been attempting to learn modern Greek. I began this with a selection of self-study books and CDs combined with internet resources, and from the beginning of January have supplemented this with three two-hour private tutorials per week. I have been very happy with the tutorials. I have got to about the level I hoped to achieve during this period in two of the macro-skills, namely reading and writing. However, the main frustration I have felt here in Chania is not having, or making, sufficient opportunities to speak and listen to Greek. This is definitely partly my fault – over the years I’ve become less confident in using foreign languages to initiate or sustain conversations. But I think it is primarily the result of the situation here: over the winter, locals tend to just meet up with other locals for coffee, backgammon etc, and when I interact with locals in everyday business transactions they are unfailingly pleasant but will rarely speak Greek with me even if I try to use my Greek.
My tutorials finish at the end of the week. I am then planning some travel within Greece and one or more neighbouring countries, followed by work in England over the summer. I would like to return to Greece in late September for at least two months to continue some language study.
So, I basically have three inter-related questions:
(1) Has anybody experienced a similar scenario to the above, and if so, what advice would they provide?
(2) Given that I’m going to be travelling in Greece for a while, are there any particular areas or strategies people would suggest so that I’m actually getting to use some Greek?
(3) If I return to Greece in September, I’m thinking of going to a different area. Thessaloniki appeals as being a larger, but not too large, city where I might meet more locals through cultural activities. Alternatively, I’m also thinking of a few northern cities that are slightly smaller than Chania, but where English may not be as readily spoken as in northern Crete. Does anyone have any advice on this line of thinking.
Apr 21, 2013 7:15 AM
1Just tell people that you want to learn Greek and can they please speak Greek to you.... (and of course you say this sentence in Greek!)
I had the same problem in the beginning but I insisted that they would speak Greek to me, even if it took me longer time to say what I wanted.
The best tip is to travel and stay in villages where not so many tourists goes and where the locals generally speak less English. Even in Crete you can find such areas..
And why don't you contact someone in www.couchsurfing.org , stay with them or just meet up with them, and ask them to speek only Greek with you.
Apr 21, 2013 11:39 AM
Thanks for your response.
In consumer transactions, I do quite often say ‘in Greek please’. However, given that most of these transactions are fairly simple, I then find that I get ‘the silent treatment’ once I’ve made the request. So, to take an example of a transaction that happened thirty minutes ago. I succumbed to finally buying a cake in a shop that I frequently walk past! I could see that the cake was orange cake, and I can read the sign on the cake, so I asked for a piece of orange cake in Greek. The shop assistant wasn’t even really listening to me, but simply realised from my appearance before I’d even opened my mouth that I wasn’t Greek. She then said something about chocolate cake in English, as chocolate cake was on the shelf above the orange cake in the general direction in which I’d been looking when I spoke. I said in Greek ‘No. Orange cake, please. In Greek please’. She wrapped me up the piece of cake, and quoted the price in Greek, which was already clear on the sign, and that’s the only language in Greek that I heard from her. I then said 'thank you' in Greek, and she said nothing.
Despite this fairly typical response, I will take heart from your post and continue to request people to speak to me in Greek, and hopefully in time it will start paying dividends…
I'm also relieved to hear you say that even in Crete one can find areas where less English is spoken. I will be trying to find such areas both on Crete and elsewhere in Greece during my travels. I haven’t been able to get away from Chania often during my time here.
Thank you for suggesting language exchanges through couchsurfing, which does sound like a good idea.
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