Greek

2 Things To Remember Next Time You Make A Language Error

What do you think when you make errors in Greek?

“I talk like a little kid”.

“Oh no, I sounded so unintelligible”.

“Ugh, I’m so stupid”

Ouch.

Yet, many of us think this way about ourselves when we learn a language and make errors.

I thought this way. And I have to tell you, it only added to my embarrassment. It made me feel awkward. And, even worse, it fed my perfectionism.

Instead of focusing on my success of finally speaking the language, I was focusing all my energy on avoiding the errors.

At all costs.

In the long run, avoiding the errors is like a black hole. You get lost in it. No time, no space, just you and the errors.

Instead of focusing on how I loved speaking French (yes, my “Greek accent - conjugated wrong - using a completely different word than the one I wanted - French”) I was focusing on exactly that: the wrong conjugations, my inevitable Greek accent and the mispronunciation of words which changed the whole meaning.

As a result, I avoided expressing myself in French, out of my fear of making errors.

A cat’s point of view

I wasn’t aware that what I was doing wasn't really helping, until I read this quote in a class about errors in language learning.

The teacher handed everyone this quote by Philippe Geluck’s “Le Chat” comic character:

"On dit qu'on apprend avec ses erreurs, mais à mon avis c'est une erreur. Et si je me trompe, au moins j'aurai appris quelque chose." (We say we learn from our errors, but in my opinion, this is an error. And if I’m mistaken, at least I would have learned something.)

“Le Chat” had said it all.

But why do we get so stuck in our errors?

Naturally, as adults, we communicate elaborately in our first language(s). Our vocabulary often reflects our education and status.

Which means that going back to the basics in another language can affect our self esteem.

It requires patience and persistence to keep going and avoid the black hole. It requires some training, too.

It’s not easy.

When I make a mistake, I tend to blush and avoid eye contact. Some people get frustrated to the point they get agitated or even appear offended. Others start self-blaming.

Some people barely react. Sometimes, they stop learning the language all together.

Do you see yourself in any of the above?

Looking at these reactions from the outside, they suddenly seem like too much.

Still, we just feel this way and it’s not always easy to control. “Get over it” doesn’t work. “Stop feeling anxious” doesn’t work. “Start speaking” doesn’t work either. So what does?

The reason #1 why we make errors

The majority of our errors when we learn a language is because of language transfer from our first language to our second. Yes, from the one we’re so good at.

In other words, we transfer the structure of our first language to the language we learn.

We attempt to use our known patterns (syntax, grammar, vocabulary, expressions etc) to the language we learn and by doing so we apply what we know to a language that works differently.

If I got a dollar each time I got confused with “listen” and “hear” - which is one word, “ακούω” in Greek.

Once, I was talking to a doctor’s secretary on the phone.

The connection wasn’t the best so I quickly asked her “Can you listen to me?” What I meant - the poor me - was the much politer and accurate “Can you hear me?”

My face changed all the tones of red the same moment I uttered the word “listen”.

And I think you can guess how the phone call went.

How can someone feel better about their errors when they might confuse people and create misunderstandings?

It won’t happen overnight.

But realizing how language transfer works might make you more conscious about the reason behind your mistake.

I might blush again if I make an error in English. But I’ll quickly think “I say this because this is how I'm used to say it in Greek”. It’s OK. It’s really OK.

The reason #2 we make errors

Research on errors in language learning states many reasons coming right after language transfer.

Let’s talk about how being tired, stressed out, even sleep deprived (any parents of young kids out there?) can actually trigger language errors, shall we?

Talking about transfers. The irony. The other day I couldn’t remember the word for “transfer”.

This is the “proof of payment” when we use the public transit in Toronto. It’s just a little piece of paper I’ve been using for 5 years now and I couldn’t remember its name.

All I was getting in my head was “ticket”.

I experienced a “my mind went totally blank-and the driver will think I can’t speak a word of English-but I do know the word-so why can’t I just say it!” kind of moment.

Yet, I was very tired, with a toddler not sleeping so well the last few nights.

There are numerous studies making the connection between memory function and sleep so again, no, there’s no stupidity involved, just a good reason why my mind went blank. 

Plus, here’s the language transfer again: In Athens, we use paper tickets in public transit. It made sense.

Anytime you experience stress, fatigue, feelings of anger, overwhelm and anxiety, such errors can happen.

Have you found that when you speak with a friend at a cozy café in Greek, words come easier? And then, what happens when you try to resolve a stressful situation?

Again, such strong feelings will probably trigger errors as the brain functions change with stress.

So what can you do?

Let’s accept the fact that we will make errors.

Realizing where the errors come from and why we tend to make more of them in some cases, is a reminder of our humanity.

Really. You’re not a robot with a malfunction.

You’re a real person, a learner who makes errors the same way everyone does.

So take notice of your errors, take a deep breath and start making a plan about how to deal with them.

In the next blog post I’ll share with you a list with the most common errors Greek learners make during the Beginner-Intermediate levels. And some ideas about how to avoid them and better support your overall learning.

(A hint. “Ugh, I’m so stupid” is not one of them.)

Till next time.


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3 Best Apps To Learn Greek For Free

(This post was updated in July 2018)

Are you a language lover?

Then you'll agree with me.

The best thing to do while on vacation is to start learning a new language.

So, I was in Crete. And I started learning Dutch.

3 Best Apps To Learn Greek For Free | Danae Florou Alpha Beta Greek

Dutch was a language dream of mine.

How did I start learning?

And why do I mention all of this in a post about learning Greek?

Apps. The language learning kind.

I have to say, I was very sceptical with Apps.

Everyone’s raving about how useful, easy and non expensive learning with Apps can be.

I still found it hard to learn with recorded (and sometimes annoying) voices, pop-up ads and non-human interaction.

I guess I wasn’t patient enough? 

Or maybe I thought that Apps had to be as good as human to human learning?

Once I got past these, I appreciated Apps for what they are; a very useful tool, complementary to everything else we use to learn languages.

Please NOTE:

  • I need to mention here that this is NOT a sponsored or affiliated post and that all opinions are my own.

  • This post is about the FREE versions (worth repeating).

  • If you have any questions, tech or otherwise, contact the apps customer service directly.

  • Just to mention that I use these apps on an Android device - not sure how different they can be on an iPhone.

  • Apps change frequently. If you spot any feature not updated in the post, you're more than welcome to add it in the comments.


#1 Memrise

Capture+_2017-08-17-19-12-37.png

Memrise won the Best App award in the 2017 Google Play Awards.

Awards are fantastic - still nothing beats trying something out yourself.

If you haven’t used Memrise to learn Greek, (link) then there are two things you need to know:

α. Memrise focuses on Vocabulary and repetition.

β. All courses are created by its members and some are created by the Memrise team.

BUT: Greek language only has the so called "User Generated Courses (UGC) or Community Courses.

This practically means that you can't find the Greek courses from the “Search” function within the Memrise Mobile App anymore. 

Here's a way to work around this:

  1. Click this link - it will take you to the Greek courses on the website, not in the app.

  2. If you don't have an account, go ahead and create one.

  3. Now when you start learning any Greek course on the website it will automatically be added to your course list within the app (provided you are signed in with the same username).

What’s great:

You can try any course. There’s no test or locked material, you just pick anything you find interesting and suitable.

Let’s say you want to learn Intermediate Greek (link)

Memrise’s free version allows you to use the Learn and Review tool, but not the rest (difficult words, pro chat etc).

In your account’s settings, you can choose how many words you learn and review each time.

You start with a pack of words, which you learn through tap the word, matching, fill in the blank etc. activities. The faster you do it, the more points you earn.

Spaced repetition (vocabulary repetition after some time has passed) is a huge asset and Memrise makes sure you use that a lot.

I also love that you don’t need to use your phone’s keyboard; Memrise gives you the letters under the new word, then you tap on them to write it.

In some courses, there’s audio from native or non-native speakers. Make sure you read the course’s description to pick the right one for you!

As I mentioned before, there’s no official Memrise Course for Greek (yet!), so click the link to find courses created by the community.

While this makes for a “not so great” thing about Memrise, hold on, because it also means you can create your own course to review and share with your teacher (or your students, if you teach Greek).

Another fun feature is the mnemonic you can create to remember a new word. For example, take the word φαγητό (fayitó) [food];

φαγητό

I laughed when I heard on more than 2 occasions how my students thought of the word “fajitas” to remember the Greek φαγητό. So accurate!

This article by James Granahan explains beautifully how mnemonics work for language learning, by the way.

What’s not so great:

You’ve probably guessed it. Course creation by members has sometimes its drawbacks.

In just a single course, I spotted some spelling mistakes, some inaccurate translations to Greek and a wrong accent, which changed the meaning completely.

However, the more popular a course is, the less mistakes it has because people spot them and the team behind it constantly improves it.

Conclusion:

When you use Memrise you’ll find a clean, beautiful design which helps you build your Greek vocabulary or grammar through a large number of courses effectively, steadily and at your own pace.

This last one is important since your answers are saved even if you stop in the middle of your activity. 

#2 Duolingo

This is another winner; Duolingo was Apple's iPhone App of the Year 2013 and it’s definitely another free option for learning Greek.

What’s great:

Duolingo’s courses (link) remind me of a more classical approach to language learning.

You test for your level and your lessons get unlocked as you learn. This way you know exactly what you’re aiming for, so it’s pretty much as if you have your personal tutor.

People who don’t want to get overwhelmed see definitely an advantage in this.

Another benefit of this is that you learn within a well thought plan.

New words are introduced and then repeated; you take out from the lesson some new vocabulary you can actually use.

Another plus is that there’s always audio in the course and you always get an accurate pronunciation, which is so very important when you learn a language.

I love it that it has a slower version of audio, so you can use this if you feel the first one is too fast.

By tapping on the new words, you get both the translation and the pronunciation so you first learn the words this way.

The second part is when you review the words, and it’s where the language games really kick off.

Tapping the right word, filling out the sentence, picking the right answer are some of the activities.

Even if you miss an accent or misspell something, you get a gentle reminder instead of a red cross mark (I can assure you, being a language teacher did not make me feel any better about red cross marks.).

 

What’s not so great:

I do want to know what’s ahead or study a different pack; for example, adjectives or food.

Not being able to do so, makes me feel that the App has all the power. Really not great.

When I first tested my Dutch as a learner, I understood most of the audio but failed to spell the answers accurately.

Does this make me a complete beginner? The App thinks so.

Now I’m forced to start from 0 on Duolingo, which is, to be honest, boring.

I get it, it’s one of the things Apps can’t really understand, because ….you know, Apps!

 

Conclusion:

Duolingo is a great tool to use among others for your vocabulary learning and I’m always happy to see this little green owl peeping on me with encouraging words.

 

#3 Mondly

I got to know about this App from a motivated student of mine, who loves using Apps to learn Greek.

A note though. While the other two Apps have a free and paid version, Mondly (link) has only one free Unit (8 lessons).

To unlock the rest of the Units you need to pay. I’m only focusing on the free version here.

What’s great:

I like how Mondly uses pictures to help you learn the new vocabulary.

It’s great to have another option besides audio & reading and I feel that pictures help me retain vocabulary better.

Recording your voice is another plus for this App.

You really need to try to get an accurate pronunciation and by doing this you practice speaking. I love this feature.

Just like Duolingo, the activities change from tap the right word, write or choose the correct one.

The native speakers’ pronunciation is accurate and their voices are most of the times clear.

I also like the statistics, which give you a better look at your progress and the new words’ review at the end of each lesson.

Mondly gives you the free lesson of the day so you get bite-sized vocabulary each day to practice.

What’s not so great:

Mondly has a darker “look” which doesn’t really appeal to me. But this is relatively minor to a couple other things I didn’t like.

First, Mondly presents the material in a rather random way. You might have chosen, as I did, to learn at the Beginner’s level yet the words you learn seem a bit advanced, given you have just started learning!

Another thing I didn’t like was that you can’t slow down the audio.

There’s this nice dialogue - based lesson, but you need to repeat it over and over to understand the speakers’ fast pace.

I’ve also spotted no accents on a few activities, which is by no means helpful when you learn Greek.

Conclusion:

If you prefer sticking to the free version, you’ll get the daily lesson which is available for 24 hours.

It’s a rather cool way to devote some time to your Greek learning.

So, what do you think?

I won't choose a "winner". This is up to you and your learning style to decide. 

Overall, I’m glad I have these different tools on my phone.

It makes learning a language part of my daily routine. I like that I don’t need to spend hours revising, when I don't really have time to do so.

That said, the best practice is to use apps alongside handwritten notes, books, authentic material and of course speaking with other learners or native speakers.

The best of all of course is that, finally, Greek learners have some practical, on the go tools to practice Greek for free.

Have you used any of these Apps? Which one did you like the most?


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