I love learning Greek. It’s the first language I have learnt since school. True, I did dabble with Arabic at one stage and would have gone on with it, if the evening class I was in hadn’t folded. I loved getting to grips with the script and (to someone used to European languages) the counter-intuitive direction of travel of the words on the page. I briefly dipped my toe in the deep waters of Japanese and, had I pursued a different path, might have gone on to study it intensively.
I wonder sometimes what the attraction is of learning another language, particularly when once again I am struggling to get my head round irregular verbs. For me, it’s something to do with having another window on the world and looking at the world through the lens of another culture.
A desire to learn Greek came from my first visit to the country, 4 short years ago. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t communicate, it made me want to learn the language. I looked around for an evening class and found one right on my door step. It provided a great grounding in the language, but after a year I needed something more intensive and one-to-one, so I found my current tutor, Maria, who is Greek.
It has its frustrations though. As it’s not a major league language, it does not have great selection of language learning texts. There are numerous books around, but many are aimed at the learner who just wants to be able to say a few words on holiday. I wanted a deeper engagement with it than that. There’s a great grammar book (Greek – an essential grammar of the Modern Language by Holton, Mackridge and Philippaki-Warburton) which is very detailed, but nothing for the intermediate learner. Nothing very much on verbs. There are Greek texts for foreign learners of the language, but they tend to be all in Greek. I recently bought an excellent Greek book on verbs which came from Athens.
One of the big gaps though is in language listening material. I have no evidence to back this up, other than my own experience, but my perception is that Greek is spoken very fast. So it’s hard to find material that helps my understanding of the spoken language. My tutor and I have, off and on, been watching a Greek comedy, called A Greek woman in the harem. I find it very hard to hear the words, let alone understand them, but repeated listening does make some of it clearer. Greek TV and radio programmes are available on the internet, but again the machine-gun speed of delivery makes it virtually inaccessible.
That’s why I like songs and poems on You Tube. It’s easier to find the words and follow along. I find it really helps me remember words and grammar.
Of course, there’s no substitute for going to the country and having some total immersion. I’d like to be able to go there in September, but we’ll have to see. In the meantime, back to my books!