Author Topic: 01/01/18  (Read 1196 times)

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Offline Maik

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« on: Monday, 01 January, 2018 @ 12:47:32 »
Καλή Χρονιά

Greek Among Hardest Languages for an English Speaker to Learn

It may not be the most difficult in the world to learn, but according to various studies, Greek is among the hardest languages for an English-speaking person to learn. After all, the expression “it’s all Greek to me” isn’t there by accident.

According to the data, most western European languages are classified as easy to learn – with English speakers estimated to achieve proficiency in around 600 class hours (or 24 weeks).

... Greek, on the other hand, take around 44 weeks to learn.

Offline Bryan-in-Kilkis

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Re: 01/01/18
« Reply #1 on: Monday, 01 January, 2018 @ 20:46:52 »
OK, it's not easy.  But everything is relevant. It depends how well you learn languages.  I speak French fluently (Birmingham University BA degree in French and Modern Greek), German fairly well (A-level) and Macedonian quite well, as well as fairly good Italian and a little Dutch.  My Greek is completely fluent (unsurprisingly after 32 years here and being married to two Greek women - not, I hasten to add, at the same time!).  I think the whole idea of how easy a language is comes down to what source (native) language we speak.  Greek needs study, but I'd say it is not that much of a struggle.  The Greeks like to set their tongue apart as something special and very difficult (falsely, to my mind), and that may be the reason why this article was written.  To say the alphabet is a barrier is utter rubbish - it takes very few hours to accustomise oneself to it.  The pronunciation?  Well, I have heard other English speakers speaking Greek with a dire accent, but is that a problem?  They still get understood.  The Greeks themselves (especially men) are often pretty bad at English pronunciation, but they still communicate.  As a teacher of English here for over 30 years, I'd say that, logically, the difficulty for Greeks learning English should - reciprocally - be equal.  But it isn't.  It is all a case of how well you learn/study foreign languages.  IMHO!!
« Last Edit: Monday, 01 January, 2018 @ 20:51:44 by Bryan-in-Kilkis »

Offline TonyKath

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Re: 01/01/18
« Reply #2 on: Thursday, 04 January, 2018 @ 20:47:12 »
Well, Maik, Bryan - what a topic to kick off!

There's been a very interesting discussion this year about it on the WordReference Forum for Greek which I keep meaning to contribute to.  Perhaps I'll post the link Maik found.

Anything Bryan or I say should be ignored by normal people.  (Sorry Bryan !!  :unsure: ) We both have backgrounds in learning languages at university which only a relatively few people have.  Also I guess we both enjoy the the twists and turns of grammar and complexities of the vocabulary almost for their own sake.  In Bryan's case the language is central to his life and his work!  So very much μπράβο to Bryan for what you've achieved.

However I do think Bryan is right in what he says about Greek being easy to learn - but only at the beginning.  I think anyone should try - a good up to date phrasebook is the best bet.  Helps with the (mostly) fairly straightforward pronunciation and introduces you to the alphabet gently with a"greeklish" version alongside.  You can choose the bits that suit you best - taverna, accommodation etc.  Greeks really do appreciate the effort and even seem a little surprised.  I was actually very strongly thanked by an older resident in Katelios a few years ago.  You can stay roughly at this level and increase your vocab year by year, without needing lessons which are hard to find outside biggish cities, or even possibly buy a book with a CD.  There is some free stuff on the net too. It feels quite good to be able to order a whole meal in Greek for example.  The only tricky bit initially is that words can be emphasized in to us "funny places" including on the last syllable e.g. KefaloniA, KateliOS.

But once you want to go into more detailed discussions or topics away from the standard tourist fare life gets very much more challenging.  Greek has phenomenally difficult grammar and Greeks tell me they are amazed that a foreigner would want to learn it.  They apologise for Greek Grammar in the way we apologise (rightly) for English spelling.  Greeks who went to school before 1973 had to learn an even more difficult version.  The second difficulty is that this older so-called "pure" version of the language hangs like a cloud over modern Greek.  Greeks are very sensitive about the formality/informality of the language they speak.  Many words are considered old fashioned and formal but are still used in some contexts, but are completely wrong in most speech, though infuriatingly quite a few are still OK!  And vice versa, er so to speak!! Don't make my mistake of trying to read a Greek newspaper too soon in learning Greek - it will be full of words you won't hear spoken!  You could try a light magazine which seem to be much more like what Greeks actually say.  This situation changes all the time with new words being created and the language simplifying. 

I enjoy all this and I know enough of Bryan here to reckon he does too.  As a retirement project Greek is a great challenge and interest that I can heartily recommend. And it will help you get into less tourist areas and experience more of the real Greek culture. I've been remarkably lucky in finding a fantastic teacher very locally.

A final tip: Like we talk about the weather, Greeks love talking about food and cooking - and it's an essential part of Greek life and festivities - especially women but men too.  If you can ask a Greek about what they like to eat/cook/what their mother makes you'll very quickly get a friend!

Thanks for starting this Maik!