Let’s start with a puzzle: which language has the longest history of written records in the Western world? Did you guess it? It’s Greek! The oldest written evidence of the Greek language dates to between 1450 and 1350 BC. Greek is the language of Homer, of the great philosophers who influenced the western thought, of Herodotus - the first historian -, of the great dramatists who shaped theater and inspired the world of art.
Although their Greek is not the Greek that is spoken in Greece today, the language has not changed that dramatically; it is the change one would expect to happen through the centuries -- and there have been many centuries between now and then!
It is estimated that English has borrowed around 100,000 words from Greek, which makes up about 12% of the English vocabulary.This Greek is used mainly in science and philosophy, but there is also the perspective that every English word has come from Greek — as Mr. Portokalos from my Big Fat Greek Wedding argues.
Seriously though, what are the reasons to learn Greek? Well, here are just some of them:
- The beauty of the country. It combines high mountains, deep gorges, and green valleys with crystal clear turquoise, emerald, sapphire to dark blue waters. There are also thousands of small islands, each with its own secret beaches — or secrets in general!
- There is something for everyone. You want to explore historical sites? You’ll have plenty of opportunities. Care for extreme sports, walks in the countryside, or lying lazily by the sea, basking in the sun? You can have all of that as well. Plus, the weather is mild throughout the year so you can enjoy all that.
- The hospitality of the villagers. The villagers will make you feel more than welcome and at home.
- The food. Tasty recipes with fresh products that you will remember long after you have tasted them. Accompanied by delicious desserts or fresh, succulent fruit, you can consume these flavors in friendly tavernas, near the fireplace in winter, or near the break of the wave in the summer. (Not to mention that the Mediterranean cuisine has the secret to longevity!)
- Still not convinced? Once you start learning, a new world will open up for you: The Greek mythology, the Nobel prize-winning Greek literature and poetry, lovely music, and a way to keep in touch with your Greek friends (who will greatly appreciate your learning their language and love you even more for that).
But why should you learn it if you visit for just ten days or a month? Because you want to be a true traveler, not just a tourist, and you want to enjoy what your travels offer you. You do not want to spend your time traveling for these ten days and continue to be a foreigner in a foreign land; you want to savor everything that land has to offer. And to do that, you need to speak to the heart of its inhabitants; and to speak to their heart, you need to speak their language. It’s not me who says that — it’s Nelson Mandela. Learn a few words, learn the basics, and you will have the key.
Is Greek a difficult language? Well, yes, but it’s not over-complicated. You already know the basic vocabulary , believe it or not. Besides, if you learn it, German and Russian will be a piece of cake: since you will have understood grammatical intricacies and slight differences in use, you will be able to pick up many other languages. The spelling seems a bit complicated, but this is the price you pay for an old language. You will notice though, that the irregularities are much fewer than the regularities.
After a while, you will stop saying “It’s all Greek to me!” By the way, have you ever wondered how the Greeks say “It’s all Greek to me”? Obviously, they cannot say that! They say “It’s all Chinese to me!”
Where to start? First off, you need a strong motivation. You need a strong motivation even when you need to shed those extra pounds — so this is no news! Then, you need to break up your goal into small, doable tasks — little rocks that you will build upon to surpass the mountain, the difficulties of learning the language. Lastly, you need a big dream, like attending an ancient tragedy in one of the oldest theaters in the world. Epidaurus was built with amazing acoustics where one can hear a pin drop on stage. This, coupled with the lush landscape behind it, a full moon, a light breeze and the song of cicadas is synonymous to bliss.
If theaters are not your strong suit, you can prepare for your visit in a couple of months to the Polyglot Conference 2016 in Thessaloniki. Here, world-known polyglots will gather to share their passion for languages and impart their knowledge about language learning — a truly unique experience.
Are you still unsure about learning Greek? I hope not! Check out our Greek course to learn Greek the Mango way, the easiest and most fun way! Find out if your local library subscribes to Mango, which means you get free access.