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
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 think too much and that interferes with my happiness. I’m constantly over thinking and analysing and I need to be at peace with myself and the world. I do sometimes have difficulty switching off as I feel I need to be doing things all the time. This anxiety is always worst in the evenings which is the time you most need to be resting and in a calm state of mind to prepare for bed. I don’t like change much and I’ve recently undertaken quite an overhaul to my current regime as I’ve stopped drinking alcohol but ironically replaced it with a daily coffee and sweet. I’m working more and it’s more physical as its gardening so I’m losing weight but after were done since I don’t have a social life really I spend too much time online and that’s really bad for my eyesight, well being and I’m wasting the opportunity to do something better with the glorious weather that we have been having as it’s not usually this good. I also feel that the internet constantly dropping out and being slow means I’m supposed to be doing something else but I’m generally too tired to read. My attempts at Greek are laughable and if even Greeks tell me not to bother or there leaving their country and going to England what is the point as everybody knows how hard the language is. I just thought that I could learn it if I studied hard enough but it’s proving another thing I tried but simply wasn’t good enough at. Having a confidence crisis in my abilities I think as I was so looking forward to this for months but I think once again I have deluded myself as to the realities of a situation. Rose tinted specs are horrible.
An interesting thing has occurred to me recently. When I try to read Greek and there is English present, my brain either gets lazy and tries to read the English or just gets confused trying to process the Greek. Sometimes, yes, it’s easier to figure out the Greek upon seeing the English and then reverting back to the Greek but I must be at the stage where a new strategy is required. Since Greek has a different way of organizing its sentences, I have to stop thinking in English and trying to translate them as they don’t follow exactly. Continuing to read Greek in English mode needs a lot of cognitive effort as the sentences have to be reconstructed in order to be understood like a dyslexic would and this is therefore quite inefficient, at least for myself. This is no good really as it impedes progress. I am a fantastic reader but I’m approaching this all wrong. I’ve been able to read since I was able 18 months old which is incredibly early. In fact, I couldn’t even talk until 4 months later. This is why it’s so irritating when I try to read Greek. I’ve tried learning the verbs and the joining words but this doesn’t help as it’s a piecemeal approach more akin to pattern recognition ie how a dyslexic reads. In other sentences its more like I’m hyperlexic, ie I read but don’t understand. This is so unbearingly frustrating as I love my ability to consume knowledge in the printed form so very quickly. Reading in Greek at the moment is painful and I generally don’t get past the first couple of sentences. I’ve asked for help and got nowhere so I took to the internet and found
Now l like to listen to foreign language songs and I’m not adverse to posting these to FB even though most people including myself haven’t a clue what there really about. There good for learning a language in context and you get the prounciation as well as the usage. Some of the most beautiful songs are those that when you listen, you hear the rhythm, the emotion and the passion of the singer. A good song embodies all these qualities. The fact its mysterious adds to this as there are very few songs in English that have the same intensity of feeling because we are not emotive but also because I will understand all the words and there meanings.
I also approach language learning a bit like most people will do crosswords. There interesting and informative but you can never quite master them as there is always a bit more to learn since languages change so they keep you on your toes and your mind sharp.
I think its interesting that animals respond to the tone and volume of your voice, not the words just like children so we all have the capacity to learn languages but we stop when we get older as with so much going on something has to give and its usually our investment in ourselves which is sad. When we are inebriated we tend to return to this state which goes some way to explain the popularity of alcohol but its better if we can maintain this calmness while being sober as that makes us better, more rounded people. Enjoy the rhythm that is life, don’t force things and be happy in yourself which is what Mediterranean and latin American people are good at as its the whole ethos of their culture. However the UK and America evolved completely differently maybe because of unfavourable climatic conditions as everyone is happier in the sun. I like the fact that summer in Greek roughly translates into good weather kalokairi.