Pote (PO-te, πότε) or when will I be able to count to ten without pausing the count to remember the word for a specific number? I ask myself. . .again . . .and again.
Maybe Pote (po-TE,ποτέ ) or never, I answer.
|At The Stone House on the Hill counting to 10 (deka)|
Pronounced POE-tay and poe-TAY the words for when and never are but just two examples of why I may never speak the language of the land on which I live well enough to carry on a conversation with any Greek-speaking person over five years of age.
But this summer I am at least determined to increase my vocabulary by a few hundred words or so. The Greek language has long been ranked as the world's richest language with five million words and 70 million word types. So learning a hundred or so should be a snap, I keep telling myself.
Learning a bit of Greek! It is another of the many things I've shuffled around on that 'to do' list of mine since we moved to the Greek Peloponnese as American expats now nearly three years ago. When the COVID lockdown put a halt to all things planned, I vowed that once I was able, there would be no more putting off until tomorrow these many things on my list.
It really isn't necessary to speak Greek as seldom do we find ourselves here in a situation that we are unable to communicate in English. But still, it would be nice to verbally answer when a friend calls out a greeting in Greek. I usually opt to look like an American bobble-head doll, smiling and nodding my head, with not the slightest idea of how to respond.
|Paralia means beach in Greek - good to know around these parts!|
Or on the rare occasion of signage only being in Greek, as sometimes happens in the more remote areas of the Peloponnese. Sometimes it occurs even in our village as evidenced by the photo above. It took some time for us to finally get around to learning the sign in town wasn't pointing to the parking lot. The sign says παραλία or paralia, for beach and was directing visitors to Pantazi Beach.
You Move to Greece, but don't speak Greek
|The Stone House on the Hill|
'No, pero yo hablo español,' I replied, trying to save face and slam dunk the ball back into his court by adding, 'y usted?' (No, but I speak Spanish . . .and you?) He wasn't impressed. We've not tried to converse again since that morning.
|The Greek alphabet|
But the memory of that raised eyebrow at least challenged me then to start trying to read the letters of the Greek alphabet. With only 24 letters including seven vowels, I thought I could do it, but that 'alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon stuff. . .pardon the expression, is still a bit Greek to me. I am still calling them 'the little pitchfork' or 'the gate' as I sound out words letter-by-letter. BUT, I am pleased to report, that I am able to read far more signs along the road and on businesses than when we first moved here.
Greek Speak - The Journey
|Street signs are usually - but not always - in two languages|
I set a few rules for myself before setting off on this new linguistic journey:
First, none of the verb tenses; those past and present participle perfect kind of words. KISS (keep it simple, stupid) is my mantra. I simply want present, everyday words that may allow me to speak a simple sentence and have the person to whom I am speaking understand what I say.
For example, If I want some ice with my white wine I will be able to say: I want (thelo) ice cubes (pagakia), παγάκια and not lamb chops, (paidakia), παϊδάκια (we have mixed those words in the past much to the amusement of the wait staff).
|Ice cubes not lamb chops in the wine|
And I didn't/don't want that packaged program language stuff that teaches you how to say useless phrases in perfect tenses, like: 'Look! There is a pelican on the beach!' "There was a pelican on the beach.' 'There will be a pelican on the beach.'
I want useable Greek as the kind that lets me order meat at the market, get directions to the bathroom when needed, and know what the fruit vendor is calling out when he drives through town announcing the day's offerings.
|Our teacher (in the white shirt) Aris gives us homework as class ends|
The Scout wasn't eager to learn Greek so I turned to a few expat friends -- all good sports and eager to try something new -- and we became 'the class'. We vary in ability. Some like me are very beginners and others should be considered for advanced placement status.
Our teacher, Aris, who with his wife, Dora, run one of our favorite tavernas in town promised that over morning coffee once a week he could teach us the basics we were after.
|A 'classroom' by the sea - under the blue umbrellas|
So sitting and sipping a diplo (double) cappuccino in the postcard perfect setting of his restaurant while learning Greek has been one of the summer's highlights. And it has been serious business since the first session. Aris arrived at our first class with a notes for that day's lesson and we left with homework!
In three weeks time we had so many new words and phrases that we've taken a hiatus in order to grasp them all. Old brains seem to take longer to absorb new words - and remember them! While class is on 'August break' though our group is continuing to meet once a week . . . in what we might have called back in our day, 'study hall.' Again, it isn't tough duty as we move from one taverna to another each week for our coffee/Greek chat/study sessions.
|Linear B Script - Ancient Greek|
Each time I start reviewing my Greek words I laugh thinking back to that first 'wellness exam' I went through after becoming Medicare-age in America. The nurse gave me five words, selected at random that I had to remember and repeat in order at some later point in the appointment (checking the old brain and memory sensors). Let me tell you that test couldn't hold a candle to learning Greek!!
And speaking of Greek, that's it for today - I have homework to do because we meet tomorrow!
Hope where ever you are in the world and whatever your Covid constraints have been, that you have also found some project to keep you busy and entertained. We also hope that you and yours are safe and well. Efharisto poli, or thanks much, for the time you spent here today. Hope you'll be back for the next installment and bring some friends with you!
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