Learning Greek is not an easy task, at least it was not for me. It took time and effort and a lot of patience! The best would be moving to Greece and I know that a lot of you are thinking about that, but it’s not always possible and this is not the goal for everyone. There are people in love with Greece who visit every year and they simply would like to learn the Greek language.
I actually start learning Greek when my moving to Santorini was only a dream (an obsession though!), I wanted to speak Greek with my Greek friends, to have deeper conversations and a broader understanding of the culture.
This post is based on my personal experience of learning Greek, which is still a work in progress! I know that there are probably other ways but these 9 steps worked for me very well.
Please note that it took time, I was not living in Greece and I was working full time, but when I finally moved I was pretty fluent and I could manage to start my new life in Santorini in Greek, which was amazing!
1 Learn the alphabet
All’s well that starts well… The first approach is a heavy one, without learning first the Greek alphabet you won’t go very far! Here it’s no about understanding, it’s about sitting and learning it by heart and sometimes it can be boring. You will immediately understand why we say ‘It’s all Greek to me!’. Promise, you won’t give up! To cheer you up, I designed this simple Greek Alphabet that you can download and print!
2 You can learn Greek on your own (SPOILER: I can’t)
There are some people who love to learn by themselves. That’s not me though. I love learning (whatever I need to learn) from other people who I admire and that inspire me. But, in the beginning, I was not 100% about my commitment to learning Greek so I tried (with very poor results) to study the language by myself. I used the method called Assimil, not very successful with me, but I know that it is for many other people. When I started learning Greek it was not yet the time for apps, so I guess that nowadays you could try with a language app, but I cannot give you my feedback on this. If you try, let me know! Something else you can do is follow on IG teachers who use social media in a creative and simple way! Check out my friend Mona and her stories!
3 Learning Greek with a teacher online
When I understood that the money spent on the book to learn Greek by myself was lost, I decided at least not to waste any more time and I look for a private Greek teacher. At that time I was working full time so I could not attend a Greek group class. I found my teacher Evi online, at the beginning we had lessons in person but when I moved to London first and Santorini next, we started our classes online! Evi is still my teacher nowadays and I could not be more grateful for all her thorough teachings. In the years I was able to deal with Greek bureaucracy, accountants, lawyers, notaries in Greek! Don’t underestimate the tedious lessons when you’ll have to learn words you would never think that could be handy in the future, they will at some point! Many friends think it’s weird that I am still taking Greek classes but learning is a never-ending process and I want to be able to write in Greek fluently as well as speaking.
If you are interested, these are my books for learning Greek, but I am sure your Greek teacher would advise best!
4 Learn Greek passively
Once I started my lessons, what I was missing the most was the sound of the Greek language! All the books mentioned above have a CD-ROM, but I was desperate to hear the sound of Greek on a more daily informal basis. Some Greek friends suggested listening to the Radio, that is how I started listening to EnLefko radio station. It’s a great radio station which airs international music, so you’d think about why you should listen to it in order to learn Greek. Because I think that a full immersion into the Greek language when you are not proficient is not useful, so EnLefko was a good balance for what I was looking for: listening to people speaking in Greek with some global music to relax. While listening to the radio I became familiar with the commercials and they were great to measure my improvement in understanding Greek: short, easy, repetitive. Radio listening worked as passive learning for me as I used to switch it on as a background on many occasions.
5 Watch Greek TV, start simple
In the beginning, your target should be low-profile, in my opinion, don’t immerse yourself into a Greek movie to understand only four words, listen to simple conversations and aim to figure out what they are talking about. What’s the best way to do this? In my case, I first started with cartoons! I thought this is the way children learn so that might work for me as well. So here I am, in London, watching cartoons in Greek on youtube (Heidi and Candy Candy), an episode at a time. Basic chats of stories I already knew (so that I could easily make connections).
I also suggest you watch Greek TV online, follow the news, weather forecast and when you are ready, start with Greek soap operas, that kind your grandmother would watch. You will be surprised at how many things you will learn and it’s not only about the language! They speak the kind of Greek which is not taught on books and it is exactly the one you will use every day. The stories are universal, they repeat the same words very often, you will get familiar with Greek in an unexpected way.
6 Embrace the Greek culture
Besides stalking any Greek I met in London, at some point I decided to go and work for this lovely Deli which is selling products from Greece! It was an amazing experience and I cannot thank enough Paulina and Greg for having me part of the team! I could listen and (barely) speak Greek all day, preparing Greek coffee in the traditional way plus learning about Greek culture. If you don’t want such a commitment, what you can do is:
- subscribe to my newsletter and receive Greek inspiration every Monday!
- cook Greek dishes and cook in Greek! My fav Greek food blogger is Madame Ginger and she has many videos both on Youtube and IG
- Follow accounts on IG/FB about Greece that speak Greek
- add the Greek keyboard to your mobile and start writing SMS in Greek to your friends (only the ones who speak the language though!)
7 Take advantage of Social Media
Reading in Greek might not be your goal but if it is I would suggest you start slow and simple. Start reading titles of newspapers/blog on Facebook, read captions on IG, buy a cookbook in Greek and follow the recipes. You can also use children’s books but sometimes it could feel a bit weird, so try with something that resonates with you and that can have an immediate result in your daily life (if you got the ingredients right, chances that your moussaka will be very good are high!)
8 Level up
I love the cinema so much that I go to watch movies alone, it’s one of my favorite things to do. And I love a specific kind of movies, those which are usually included in independent festivals. That’s to say, watching this kind of movie in Greek is not easy! I’ve been striving to be able to do this for a long time and now I am ready! It’s only quite recently (a year or so) that I am able to watch a movie (without subtitles) and not think that I am doing this in Greek. The Greek language is now fully part of my life that sometimes I actually think in this fascinating idiom. I even found my kind of movie platform which broadcast the films I love (only available in Greece though!). I am really into Greek independent movies, they tell in a sharp way the contemporary story of this country.
9 Read Greek literature
If there is a thing I could not survive without, this is reading. Books (fiction books) are part of my daily routine, it’s like drinking tea and I drink a lot of it. My next ambition is to be able to read a book in Greek in the same way I am now watching a movie. Books teach you about culture, history, dreams, people, stories. They teach you how to speak and how to write. And I bet you know, I love writing too.
This was (and is) my personal detailed path and relation with the Greek language. It was not fast, it was not an easy task. It also depends on the kind of level you want to reach, and, one day, I want to be able to write fluently in Greek too!
I know that learning is a very intimate process and I would love to hear from you, what are your steps when learning Greek or any other language!
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©OneQuarterGreek / Nicoletta Barbata