Speaking the Greek Language
It is easier than you think.

When we go on holiday to Greece, we always like to make some sort of attempt at using the Greek language. However bad we are, it always creates a favourable response from the locals and this is particularly true of the Greek people.

Many languages are taught at school, but the Greek language is probably a bit of a rarity and can be a struggle initially. The alphabet is mostly very different from ours (that is English in our case) making it almost impossible to decipher any written text. The mathematical amongst you will recognise most of the characters from your algebra days but that is not a lot of help when you are looking for the way to a bar or bus station.

However there is nothing mystical about the letters and with a little bit of perseverance you should be able to convert them to an English equivalent and thereby have a guess of the meaning of sign posts and shop signs and the like.

Apart from learning the letters it is always useful to know a few Greek language words or phrases to show that you are making some effort. It is much more polite than using the old traditional approach of speaking English slowly and loudly in the mistaken belief that you will be better understood.

But ...

You may wish to take things further and learn to speak the Greek language a bit better. We have had a go using a couple of systems which are easy and good fun.

The Greek Alphabet

The Greek Alphabet - that word is a good start as it comprises the first two letters of the Greek ones, Alpha and Beta - consists of 24 letters which can mostly be transliterated to an english equivalent.

Here is the full list:

Upper Case Lower Case English Equivalent Greek Name Pronunciation
Α α a Alpha a as in father
Β β b Beta v as in vote
Γ γ g Gamma normally g as in get
y as in yet before ι and ε
n as in sing before γ, κ, ξ or χ
Δ δ d Delta th as in then
See θ for contrast
Ε ε` e Epsilon e as in set
Ζ ζ z Zeta z as in zoo
Η η e Eta ee as in meet
Θ θ th Theta th as in thin
See δ for contrast
Ι ι i Iota ee as in meet or y as in yet
Κ κ k Kappa ck as in sack
Λ λ l Lambda l as in light
Μ μ m Mu m as inh mouse
Ν ν n Nu n as in nose
Ξ ξ x Xi x as in axe
Ο ο o Omicron o as in tote
Π π p Pi p as in pan
Ρ ρ r Rho trilled as in Spanish r
Σ σ s Sigma s as in sister
Τ τ t Tau t as in top
Υ υ u Upsilon oo as in loop
or as a German ΓΌ
Φ φ ph Phi ph as in phone
Χ χ ch Chi as in Spanish j
Ψ Ψ ps Psi ps as in lips
Ω ω o Omega o as in tote

As you can see most of the letters have some sort of English equivalent apart from the trickier ρ and χ.

Useful Words and Phrases

When we first went to Greece we only knew a handful of words or the Greek language, but they proved very useful. At least it helped start a conversation in some sort of polite way, even if we reverted to English pretty much straightaway.

Lets be honest, most Greek people speak good English and the really lazy visitor could get by using just that without knowing one iota (pun intended) of the Greek language. But that is plain rude.

Here is the total list of what we knew on our first visits.

In the English phonetic version, the stress has to be on the highlighted letter. The Greek stress is indicated by the acute accent (´) over the letter.

English Greek Phonetic Listen
good morning καλημέρα galeemera
good evening καλησπέρα galeespera
good night καληνύχτα galeenichta
hello γειά σου ya soo
goodbye γειά σου ya soo (same as hello)
please παρακαλώ baragalo
thankyou ευχαριστώ efhareesto
sorry συγνώμη signomee

That's it!

We spent many happy holidays without knowing any more than that and adding just a dash of granglika (Greek Language version of franglais!) and Mrs. S' internationale.


However ...

Learning More Greek

After a few visits we decided it would be much better if we could talk and understand just that little bit better. But we are not linguists and the old traditional approach to language learning always seems to be hard work.

However ...

Our friend Jinti (of Selkie Dancer fame) was learning Spanish using the Michel Thomas Method and after she gave us a quick demo we were converted! So we got the Greek Language introductory course and away we went.

Later on Jinti also discovered the Earworms system, which is a very modern almost subliminal method to language learning, so we have had a go at that too.

Both methods are for conversation type learning and do not require any written work, revision or remembering. Amazing but true.

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