Update

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

 

The struggles of an introverted language learner

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.

Going back to basics with Greek

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?

Mindfulness

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.

The sound of a language

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.

Memrise

I think I may have learnt all the Greek I can from Memrise as mnemonics are great but they don’t help you learn clauses or how to form sentences. They also don’t help with speech. So learning lots of different words is brilliant and it says I’m up to about 381 words but none of it will really be of any use in an actual conversation. Sure I teach my friends and relatives but they don’t know if I’m saying it wrong or using it incorrectly. There are limited engagement opportunities in Memrise. I have Memrise Pro but the immersion mode is just for main English courses and I haven’t come across the listening mode yet. The difficult words feature is helpful but so far I haven’t benefited that much from it. I haven’t used it that much but I thought that I would start learning Spanish to see if that was better as it’s a main language and the cross language ability may help me. Russian has piqued my interest too with ballet, history programmes, a novel adaption and I have a book already on how to learn Russian. I also thought it may help my Greek as it’s similar. So you could say I’m trying a new approach as I’m bored with just accumulating vocabulary and having no way of practising it. I need to wait until Greece for inspiration I think.

Learning French at school vs Learning Greek as an adult

At the moment my mind is making me remember the French I learnt at school which is something that I haven’t really needed to use in about 15 years. It’s possibly because tourists are always in Canterbury or it could be because I’m learning Greek using Memrise which is a brilliant app for a visual learner and I’m remembering what the same questions are etc. They say the best way to learn a language is to piggyback it off another making steps and connections between the two.

French was difficult to learn as it was in a classroom, by rote and there never seemed to be any use for it outside the classroom as it was purely academic. Greek is because I would like to speak it, I hear it all the time when I’m over there and I would like to have a conversation in it despite my shyness/social awkwardness/bad accents/inability to speak loudly/distinctly enough. So completely different reasons and environments.

Greek is also quite phonetic so it seems quite easy to pick it up as long as you can hear it. That seems to be the key as my retention is improved dramatically if I can listen to the words as well as looking at them. I’m learning to spell, read and recognize too so total immersion except practising speaking. Check out my youtube channel if you want to see me practise words like these and more.

 

The questions I’m certainly thinking of are the basic ones in all languages.

Hello (Bon jour, Yias sou),

How are you? (Sava?, Te can nis?), 

I’m very well thankyou, (Tres bien, mer ci?, Poli kal la, e fal a stow?),

and you? (Et toi? Kai sou or just sou),

What is your name? (Com mon tu t’appelles?, Por se lene?),

My name is Angela (Je m’appelle Angele, Me lene Angeliki),

I am 30 years old (Je suis trent e ans, trianta, eimai trianda chronos )

I live in England, (Je hab bite Ang le terre, zou apo tin Anglia)

I would like a ham and cheese sandwich please (Je vou drais en jam bon et fro mage sandwich mer ci, The lo kai ty ri para kal lo),

How much is it? (C’est com bi en? Poso kano?)

What time is it? (Te or in ne?)

Where is Tim? (Po e say Tim mo the us?)

Do you speak french/english? (Parle en francais/anglais?, milao gal li ki/ang li ka)

Yes a little, (Oui en peu, Nai ligo),

No (Non, Oxi!),

Excuse me I don’t understand, slowly (Excuse m’ moi je n’pas Sig nom mie, then cat a la me ra si gar si gar),

OK (En dax i),

I don’t know (Thank seroh!),

Why? (pour quoi?, y ati),

That’s life (C’est la vie, Te can e mai),

and Goodbye (Au re voir, A di o).

Apologies if I’ve spelt things wrong but spell checker even seems to work in French as it was correcting my spelling as I was going and possibly even in Greek too as it doesn’t seem to disagree with what I have written. There are a couple of gaps but I’m sure they will be filled in soon.