In 2018, I promised myself not to learn a new language. Seven languages were enough for me. Just enough. As a lifelong learner and as a foreign language teacher, I do know that learning a language is not easy. It takes time and effort.
Later in 2020, I started learning American Sign Language as a brain-train. It is fun and challenging. Not as challenging as Hungarian or Turkish, of course, but still.
This year, in 2023, I started learning Greek! Although, I never thought I would be learning Greek.
My Greek friend Stephie invited me to her wedding in Belgium. It will be in June 2024. She and her fiancé are both from Greece, and they invited their families and friends. Although they speak English, I believe it is a good idea to be able to say a few sentences (or even more) in their native tongue.
I started my learning journey by downloading the Duolingo app. As a teacher, I do realize that it is not a great choice to learn a foreign language. However, I live in Ukraine and have to hide from russian rockets, missiles, and kamikaze drones every single night. Because of this, it is hard to plan anything, let alone plan language lessons with a teacher to learn Greek. That is why I decided to start with Duolingo.
Duolingo allows me to learn Greek at any time of the day, even when I hide from russian missiles at 3 a.m. I wanted to have a grasp of what the Greek language is. This application is free of charge, and you can take a look at what a language “looks like.”
Before starting, in Duolingo, you state which language you wanna learn and your level. My level was A0.
I must admit that the Greek alphabet scared me a lot. Of course, I’ve seen Greek letters before on labels of goods, in movies, etc. But I have never tried to understand it.
The first “lessons” are based on syllables and some sentences. First, you match Greek phonemes to transcription symbols, and then they ask you to translate sentences from Greek to English. But how can I translate if I don’t know the words? In addition, their sequence of tasks is crazy.
The vocabulary was absolute nonsense and had no relationship to the sample sentences. The sentences do not sound like natural conversations. For example, “a snack with ouzo.” I had no idea what ouzo was, so I googled it. According to Wikipedia, ouzo is a dry anise-flavored apéritif that is widely consumed in Greece.
I texted my Greek friend, Stephie, to ask if the Greeks really drink ouzo with a snack. She said that it is not true and is weird. Moreover, she mentioned that the Duolingo gives the word “snack” as “snack” whereas in Greek people do not use this word, instead, they use κολατσιό such “snacks” are served on big plates, and they usually include leftovers, canapés, nuts, and vegetables.
Another given sentence was “a museum with a cinema,” meaning that it is one building where there is a museum and a cinema.” Stephie said that there are no such buildings.
Some more strange sentences:
- “Maria, the carrot.” Here I thought that maybe Maria is the name of a dog, and it is a command to fetch a carrot. Perhaps. But it looks like I was wrong. Stephie said that this sentence could be read with a different intonation than it is pronounced in the app. Then, it could mean that Maria forgot a carrot, and you told her about it.
- “The pink mini market.” It sounds super unreal.
- “These are pink avocados.” This one made me google if avocados can be pinkish. It turned out that they could be pink, but not totally.
- Take a look at more sentences that do not seem to be “the pink water,” “the rice is pink,” and “the water in couscous.”
Somewhere in the middle of the learning, I realized that it was extremely difficult to write words in Greek because of the alphabetic characters. That is why I went online and found free downloadable handouts for kids where you can trace letters. It was super helpful. Before such exercises, I was not writing letters, but redrawing them as kids do in kindergarten.
Later, I gave up on Duolingo because those words were totally useless to me. Instead, I found some websites with sentences that I could use in real life at the wedding.
My journey is going on. Wish me good luck!
Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, September 20). Ouzo. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouzo
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