Have you ever heard of the word λακωνικός [laconic]?
Yes, it’s a Greek word! It means brief and concise.
It is said that the Spartans didn’t lose time in lengthy explanations and their speech was famous for its terseness.
Not that you want to be laconic in a chat, but usually brief are the chats in our everyday lives, aren't they?
I’ll be laconic now by saying that: living + learning languages in two countries = I know firsthand the frustration of chatting when you learn the language, even more so if it’s small talk!
Here come the Spartans to the rescue (Thanks, Leonidas!). Let's tackle small talk!
Practically speaking, focusing on just a few core words or expressions instead of a big vocabulary list or a list of questions you can hardly remember, helps you with having a foundation, right?
Why do you need a foundation?
A foundation is where you can build your questions and answers, add the words you want and drop the ones you don’t.
But that's only one of the reasons why you want a foundation.
There's nothing more frustrating when you are learning a language than trying to get the words right when talking to a native speaker, am I right?
As adults, we are used to converse with a complex vocabulary and syntax so trying to utter these words in another language is sometimes too hard and too intimidating.
Is it "just me" being timid then?
Research shows that it takes 4 seconds for a silence to become awkward ; We know from our own experience as native speakers of any language that between asking and replying there is only a short amount of wait time.
So this time has been measured to 4 seconds.
When we learn a language, especially during the Beginners level, the wait time can be longer, yet we do want to be understood without getting overwhelmed or feeling embarrassed!
As learners, it's helpful to know that the listener is not a cruel, self centered person who can't wait for us to complete our sentence. It’s just how the flow of conversation is.
At the same time we need to acknowledge that language learners, especially beginners, need more time to think - actually multitask!
What does it mean, multitask?
A language learner is not your typical speaker. There is a huge amount of work going on in our minds. We need to:
understand the accent
understand the meaning
reply using the right words, in the right order
use correct pronunciation, tone and pitch
pay attention to body language, gestures and facial expressions.
All in just these 4 seconds we were talking about a while ago!
Of course, some of the things I mentioned above we do automatically or semi-automatically, such as paying attention to the tone or pitch. We don’t shout ΚΑΛΗΜΕΡΑ [good morning] to each other making angry faces!
It’s definitely a lot of work to speak in a different language, especially for a beginner. This is why a little preparation helps learners boost their confidence and pay attention to the small talk itself, not just Grammar or accent.
By having a cheatsheet prepared beforehand or a mental note of a few phrases you can use, saves you time - and for the timid ones , it also saves face!
What can you include in this cheatsheet?
Here are some very common phrases we use in small talk in Greek:
Γεια σου. Τι κάνεις; Hello. How are you? (informal: see also this article on informal use)
Γεια σας. Τι κάνετε; Hello. How are you? (formal: see also this article on formal use)
Τι κάνουν τα παιδιά; How are the kids?
Πώς πάει η δουλειά; How is work going?
Τι νέα; / Τι νέα από τον Καναδά; Τι νέα από τη Θεσσαλονίκη; What news? / What news from Canada? What news from Thessaloniki?
Θα πάτε πουθενά το Σαββατοκύριακο; Are you going anywhere in the weekend?
Answers / Comments:
Καλά / Μια χαρά. Εσύ; Well (Good). Great. And you? (informal)
Καλά / Μια χαρά. Εσείς; Well (Good). Great. And you? (formal)
Καλά πάει η δουλειά. / Τα ίδια. / Δύσκολα, πολύ τρέξιμο. The work is fine. Same. Tough, really busy. Note: For "very busy" in Greek we say "πολύ τρέξιμο" literally meaning "lots of running".
Τα ίδια. Όλα καλά. Μια χαρά. Πολλή δουλειά. Same. All's good. Great. Lots of work. Note: Πολλή δουλειά is equally used for "very busy" or "lots of work". It literally means "lots of work".
Ναι, θα πάμε στο νησί. Όχι, εδώ θα κάτσουμε. Εσείς; Yes, we'll go to the island. No we'll stay here. How about you?
Θα χαλάσει ο καιρός. The weather will turn cold. Note: Θα χαλάσει means "it will go bad, spoil, break down" meaning it will turn colder, windier etc.
Have you ever used a cheatsheet for speaking? Was it helpful? Let me know in the comments.