Advantages You'll enjoy your holiday more
|Price||See Amazon. Could be as low as £25.|
|Type of Book||Practical|
|Quality of Text||High|
|Logical Layout?||Chapters in a logical order|
|Level of Difficulty||Average|
WHY I WANTED TO LEARN GREEK
I’d wanted for years to visit Greece. The history and literature of the country have been a passion of mine since I came across the Greek myths as a child. I longed to see Athens, and a few other famous places, but most of my pleasure in visiting another country lies in getting right off the tourist beats and meeting people, seeing how they really live.
Ironically, I can offer tips galore to anyone else trying to do so, including using flashcards, learning two or three symbols a day, transposing the Greek into your own system of phonetics, diving in head first, plenty of other methods. Oh, I could teach it. But no way on earth could I learn it. I tried to follow the BBC’s Greek Language and People course on TV, and bought the book. The course is so unspeakably bad that I was almost put off for life. I bought Teach Yourself Greek, a very sound if dull book, but no solution to the alphabet problem. I had the Talk Now! CD, and was doing well with vocabulary and pronunciation. But I still couldn’t really get anywhere because of the alphabet.A BREAKTHROUGH
THE APPROACH WHICH SUITED ME
I had five months in which to learn, and I approached Greek in a way novel for me. As a rule I am a great believer in learning languages in a formal way, with a thorough study of grammar. I think this is essential for any serious student of languages, including our own. A knowledge of English grammar is a must for all professional writers. After all, if you know how a language works you can use it more efficiently and subtly, and know exactly what you are doing. I’m often amused and pleased that the grammar in a salacious article in The Sun is just as sound as a staid piece in The Times.
I saw at once that the formal approach would not get me as far ahead as I needed to be, for the grammar is not easy with all the cases of some of the parts of speech to learn, and three genders of nouns. I decided to go for the ‘direct method’, learning as many useful phrases as possible, and hoping to be able to adapt them. This worked well, and the layout of the lessons helps.
We can have a look at the first lesson, and you’ll see that at once you have some very useful material.
That’s all you have to learn in chapter one, but already you have the basis for a simple introductory conversation with a Greek.
All the dialogues are on the tapes, and are spoken by Greeks. There’s also a guide, who gives you tips in English. Both his English and his Greek are so good that it’s impossible to tell his nationality.
There’s a section on grammar, which you could skip. The exercises there are more formal, but I enjoyed them, and found that without at first realising it I was learning a lot of the grammar. In this chapter, it was the key verbs ‘I am’ and ‘I do’. (There is no infinitive form in Greek).
The Greek alphabet is taught letter by letter. In this chapter it’s K and A which I did manage to learn because they are the same in English !
Then there’s a short article ‘Did You Know?’ with facts about life in Greece, and its history.
Finally, you do oral work with the tape.
You can see that the chapter is packed with things to learn, things to do, and information; but take my word for it that you don’t feel in the least overwhelmed. Everything is presented in tiny ‘bites’, it’s all well spaced out, and there’s no feeling of pressure or information overkill at all.
You should find no problems with pronunciation. There is a guttural sound which may be unfamiliar, but if you know the Spanish ‘j’ and the ‘ch’ in the Scottish ‘loch’ you won’t find it difficult. The intonation is not dissimilar to English.
Even in the bustle of Athens, faces lit up when I spoke in Greek, this beautiful language. Off the beaten track the reception I got was wonderful. Two lovely memories of many remain in my mind. In a tiny village in Crete, I was thirsty and walked into a café for a coffee. Everyone fell silent. As my eyes got used to the darkness in there after the blazing sunshine, I realised I was in a ‘men only’ establishment. They were staring, though not in a hostile way, just surprised.
"Excuse me, sirs," I said. "I did not understand. Men only. I shall go now. Good day to you."
Several jumped to their feet, and huge smiles spread like lightening.
"Lady, lady, come in. Welcome !"
I was there for over an hour, and had a delightful time chatting and joking with all the old chaps.
GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO GET ACCLIMATISED
Greek has a lot of dialects, and both pronunciation and some vocabulary can vary a lot from island to island. It was not a problem. They are a polite and friendly race, and a request for them to repeat something or slow down usually brought results. It certainly need not put anyone off. In any case, and this is true of any language, if you persevere, after a few days you get an ‘ear’, and it all becomes easier.
The course did me proud, What I couldn’t do was read signs, or any printed matter, but I had my trusty Rough Guide Greek Phrasebook with the alphabet in it, and ran into no problems with things like street signs and timetables. Most people would have no difficulty learning the alphabet from the way the book presents it.
I recommend this excellent course. I’ve had a quick look at the German, Spanish and French ones in the series and can see that they are equally sound. All are very well presented, very practical and fun to use. They do not have the glamour of Italianissimo, but at that price you don’t expect it.
© Schmutzie 2003
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