It’s been a very long time since I have written on this. Too long in fact but a lot of progress has happened in my Greek language learning ability. I have recently undertaken the 3-month challenge that is espoused by Benny the Irish polyglot in his fluent in 3 months scheme. While I don’t think that is a realistic goal anymore then when I was jokingly challenged to become fluent in Greek in 2 weeks; I have improved tremendously and there is a lot more to learning a language than just being a walking dictionary which is my usual not particularly helpful approach. The most useful thing I have found is that LingQ have started doing Greek mini stories and this is good for me as I like reading and this is mainly how I pick things up. I like watching all of Steve Kaufmann’s videos about how he learns languages and his progress in the Greek language. Listening and reading are so very important in order to be able to understand the material that you come across because if you don’t have comprehension then you are not going to get anywhere. There is quite a lack of reading material online if you a) want something free and b) something that doesn’t cover dry boring topics like politics or the economy. If for example, I wanted to read a story book that wasn’t to teach children how to read, I have had to buy some books off Amazon. I choose the series that everyone uses but its difficult to find especially if you have no idea what you are looking for due to the fact they are Greek so don’t normally come up in search results. https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/3190053170/ref=s9u_cartx_gw_i4?ie=UTF8&fpl=fresh&pd_rd_i=3190053170&pd_rd_r=PYCMWVBH0G92X8HNBFP1&pd_rd_w=lnVbP&pd_rd_wg=W9RQv&pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_s=&pf_rd_r=JNCC6DCKTMX38GPBKVXA&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=16f14aeb-bd11-4e9e-8c26-9ca0139074ee&pf_rd_i=desktop
I’ve just been reading my old articles to assess my progress in Greek and life in general and come across the fact that I am a bit creepy. I guess obsession comes across that way and it can be extremely off putting for others. I’ve never realised quite to the extent that I push things. I know I’m childish as that’s all part of the ever present Aspergers. The curiousity, the wide eyed wonder and just plain marvelling at the world. I also forget that just because I think something or someone is the best thing since sliced bread, most other people are not going to feel the same way.
I feel sorry for those that end up being the target of my obsessions as I can’t help it but I feel compelled to know everything about you and to talk to you on a regular basis as its a way of building a friendship although its really only a monologue. I understand that it was a phase that I went through and I hope you do too.
Now I’m no stranger to either having had several of each during my life so far. However it’s only just now though that I’m learning which interests belong in which of the aforementioned categories. An obsession is an all burning desire to know everything about a subject as quick as possible and this usually includes boring others with the immense amount of details that you have picked up in a short space of time. This continues until your curiousity about the topic at hand has been sated and you just get bored and stop doing it all of a sudden and your left wondering what do you do now as this has run your life for however long it was. A passion by contrast still contains the same elements but you recognise that others are not quite as interested in it as you so you quietly pursue your goals by yourself. At least until the next obsession distracts you but the thing about passions is that you always come back to them like classic styling in clothes while the obessions will come and go rather like fast fashion trends.
Therefore in order to get the best out of a life that will constantly be obstructed by novelty, you have to allow for the fact that your passions will be slow burn areas to be worked on in the periods between the much faster burning obsessions. Life is a series of trade offs but we always have to be checking that we are making the correct ones for our current situation as circumstances mean adaptation is necessary for an optimum lifestyle.
Today I have been getting back into the language learning saddle after as break to focus on other projects and I came across as a most excellent fellow called Donovan who is very introverted like myself but isn’t afraid to strike up a conversation with a stranger and likes to travel to far flung places to learn languages fluently.
His blog is called Mezzofanti Guild (after a famous 18th c polyglot) and it details his journey towards proficiency in Irish, Russian, Arabic and Korean. These are very hard languages to learn and I admire him for the dedication, time and effort that it requires to go to the lengths that he does to study these to the degree that he does.
Now I’m not personally interested in learning Irish, Arabic or Korean but I do know people that have learnt/are learning those languages so it can be done even if your a mono-lingual English speaker.
Russian is a language I dabble in when I have time but it’s not a priority for me. Same could be said for Spanish. These are interesting (and I’m a very curious, inquisitive person) and it would help me with travel, socialising and my other hobby Eurovision but my main focus is on Greek. Not the biblical or ancient kind but the modern kind. This is so that I can strike up a conversation with a native and actually gain friendships out there (Lefkas) but due to the fact that a) I can’t drive and b) I couldn’t afford a mobile out there that’s never really going to happen as I so very rarely interact with people my own age.
I love words as I may have mentioned a few times before but the spoken word is a bit of a mystery to me as you can interpret the same phrases in so many different ways depending on how they are said. This presents quite a problem for a person learning Greek as there are many word pairs that I have come across that change their meaning depending on how they are pronounced. For a person with issues with their speech, this is quite a nightmare. Some examples are the word for safety and fuse, amusement and theme park, when and never, the most common swear word and straits of Malacca in Indonesia. There are countless more that could be listed as while English has about 1 million words as we steal from a myriad array of languages, Greek tends to be the originator so only has about 650,000 in comparison. This density is useful as you could possibly obtain fluency quicker but also increases the errors you could make as well and for socially anxious types like myself, this is never going to be a good idea.
It’s commonly put about that it’s easiest to learn a language through speech as that’s how we learn our first and while this is true it’s not very helpful if your shy, introverted, or just a person that doesn’t like talking. This is a daily struggle for myself having to get out into the wider world and converse with strangers. I most recently tried with a bunch of computer scientists which was doomed to failure almost from the outset because of the inherent qualities of being a girl meaning I’m was persona no gratis.
Sometimes there is nothing like reading a proper old-school book (Collins Greek phrase book from 1977) to cement certain knowledge into your head that you know because you’ve seen it lots but you haven’t quite grasped it in its entirety. So far I have understood the Lefkas road sign (it wishes you a good voyage instead of welcoming you as your leaving), the reason why I can never say toothpick (οδοντογλυφιδα) correctly, why Bravo and only this is always said to congratulate me on speaking Greek correctly and the ever presence of οριστε (oriste) to mean a variety of things depending on the inflections used.
I know words are used to communicate but with the same phrase meaning so many different things, ποτε (pote) for instance, meaning both when and never depending on where you place the accent, it’s extremely difficult for me to differentiate between them yet alone reproduce them in speech or writing. Yes, I can deal with παρακαλω (parakalo) being please, your welcome but also a person in a shop getting your attention or even you getting theirs. Using it as excuse me too is pushing the boundaries but then there is also γειο σου (yia sou) which literally means your health but is a catch-all for hello, goodbye and goodness knows what else and is why I’m getting rather perplexed with the Greek language as these are just the most basic of phrases. Extend this to the 4 different ways to say my name is με λενε … (me lene …), Ποιο είναι το όνομα σου? (poio einai to onoma sou) etc and you get the picture as to why Greek is such a different language to learn as I haven’t even started on how are you? or anything more complex than an introductory phrase. As you can see I’m not even taking into account the gender changing the ends of words, the form in front of them, whether its single or plural, the formality that is required to be used here or sentence organization which can be rather flexible at the best of times. This is enough to drive any logically minded person like myself insane!
Others may look at that and think well that’s easy there are fewer words for me to remember but its the way you say them to infer the various meanings that gets to me the most and how are you to decipher this in text without the different stresses you can reproduce when talking?
I had a discussion yesterday about how in Greek you can have more than one sheep unlike in English. In fact you can have as many sheep as you like 2,3,4 … sheeps. Or I should say as I have mentioned before ena provato, duo provatos etc.
This then continued onto the fact that Greek differentiates between orange the colour, portokali and the fruit also portokali but the emphasis switches to the end of the word. We also talked about lemonia being a lemon tree but lemon being a single lemon and lemones being plural. There is also the colour aspect here but in English we don’t say a lemon lemon, it would be a yellow or green lemon even though we say lemon yellow. I think this is because lemons can be all different shades of yellow, not just lemon!
I also thought that we don’t say that lavender is lavender coloured although we can describe a particular shade of purple as lavender. The same for periwinkle which is a light blue/purple flower. I then went on to think about mint as since there are so many types ranging from ‘mint green’ to dark green and back to very pale green leaves. I also covered roses in this thought process as it’s a type of pale pink but we don’t describe roses as being rose coloured since they encompass so many different shades from white to red, yellow, orange and combinations of the above.
This is just some of the odd thoughts that pass through my head and recently my head has been very odd indeed.