Intermediate

How to spark up meaningful conversations with 17 easy to adapt questions

Imagine you meet your friend Marina for a coffee in downtown Athens.

You hug and cheerfully comment about how long it has been since you last met.

You sit down and order coffee at a small, busy coffee shop.

She asks you about your news and how is your family doing. You tell her a bit about your trip and your parents, your partner…

Marina eagerly goes ahead and asks you about the problem you had at work, the new hobby you had mentioned on Facebook, the book you had recommended … She can’t wait to catch up with you.

So far everything looks good, doesn’t it? But let’s zoom in a bit more to this dialogue.

Both Marina and you are interested in one another’s lives, you want to hear news, give your opinion about significant matters, talk about hobbies, suggest new books or movies.

However, if you look closer you’ll find that she’s the one asking questions and you’re the one giving answers.

Recall your last conversation in Greek. Is this what happened?

While Marina knows you and likes you, the communication between you and her seems imbalanced. You might be:

  • feeling interrogated, even with Marina’s best intentions

  • struggling to keep up with the pace of a native speaker

  • switching to English often in order to communicate better


Speaking is not necessarily communicating

You’ve probably heard and experienced that speaking in the language you learn is the hardest of all skills.

But is it speaking, or rather communicating that is hard?

Because when you speak, you have the task of forming a sentence.

But when you communicate, you have the tasks of:

  • listening

  • understanding

  • nodding, using body language

  • giving your opinion or comment

  • asking back

And it’s this last one action that determines whether the conversation keeps on going or not.

Imagine that “asking back” is like a hook: It gives both people the opportunity to connect their thoughts and eventually be connected with each other.

If your part in talking lacks the hook, then your Greek friend has nowhere to hang their thoughts.

In Greek, we use the very fitting word “συνομιλητής, συνομιλήτρια”, to describe the people who interact in a conversation (in this case, your Greek friend).

According to the Dictionary , συνομιλητής means the person who co-talks with another person (coming from συν-ομιλώ).

In English the word translates as interlocutor (although I’m not sure how common this word is to express anyone who takes part in any kind of conversing: from short, casual chats to deep, long conversations.)

In Practice

So, how are you going to bring a conversation back to life? How will you show you are curious and eager to find out more about your friend’s life and to show them you’re genuinely interested in them?

By simply asking them.

This is something we automatically do in our own language - and this is one of the reasons you or your friend switch to English/ the language you are both comfortable speaking - but we tend to avoid it in the language we learn.

This might happen for many reasons:

  • we freeze, expecting the native speaker to hold the conversation for both of us

  • we try to say as many things as we can, taking advantage of the fact that we can eventually speak the language with someone after months of lessons, therefore we get carried away

  • we have difficulty in forming questions, because they require a different structure in the sentence

  • we become so self-conscious, that we strive for perfection, which means putting more effort and time to form a proper reply, then we’re too exhausted to attempt a question

  • we can’t keep up with the pace of the conversation and eventually stick to replying only.

To save time and probably some headache as to how to form questions that will enliven your conversations with your Greek friends or relatives, here’s a list of the most common ones:

Questions about their opinion or advice:

  1. Πώς σου φαίνεται/φάνηκε ο/η/το …; How does it seem/looks like to you?

  2. Ποια είναι η γνώμη σου για ..; What’s your opinion about …?

  3. Τι θα με συμβούλευες να …; What would you advise me to …?

  4. Πού προτείνεις να πάμε για …; Where do you suggest we go to …?

  5. Εσύ, τι θα έκανες στη θέση μου; And you, what would you do if you were me …?

  6. Τι νομίζεις /τι λες /τι πιστεύεις για …; What do you think/say/believe about …?

    Questions about life events, current news:

  7. Κι εσύ τι …; And you what …(insert the same verb they just used to ask about you)?

  8. Πώς πήγε ο/η/το …; How did it go?

  9. Και τι τους είπες; Και τι έκανες; And what did you tell them? What did you do?

  10. Και μετά τι έγινε; And then, what happened?

  11. Μου έλεγες για …. Τι γίνεται τώρα; Πώς πάνε τα πράγματα; You were telling me about … What’s going on now? How do things go?

    Questions about personal stories, habits and hobbies:

  12. Πού γνωριστήκατε με τον/την …; Where did you meet …?

  13. Τι συνηθίζετε να κάνετε σ’αυτή τη γιορτή/ημέρα/περίσταση; What do you usually do on this celebration/(special) day/occasion?

  14. Εσένα, ποιος συγγραφέας / ηθοποιός κτλ σου αρέσει; And how about you, which writer/actor do you like?

  15. Εσένα ποιο βιβλίο / ποια ταινία σου άρεσε; And how about you, which book/movie did you like?

  16. Τι κάνει ο / η / το …; How is …?

    A question to offer help with something:

  17. Έχεις πολλή δουλειά; Χρειάζεσαι βοήθεια; Are you busy? Do you need any help?

Don’t skip the study part!

I love lists but only if they bring a meaning to your learning. Stacking one sentence after the next will not help you; using them meaningfully, it will.

Find here some bonus ideas about how to eventually add them to your conversations:

  • When you record yourself speaking, always remember to add a few questions in between. Need a little help to do that? Sign up to my Free Course to complete a speaking project with bite-sized tasks & recordings. At the end, you’ll receive my free feedback (and yes, my answer to your questions!)!

  • When you chat on social media or via any private chat with your friends: social media is less direct than actual conversation, but more direct than emails or cards for example, you can take advantage of the time you need to form sentences but also enjoy a chat at a live or almost live time. In fact, this is what we do in our small, chatty Facebook group which you can find here. Join us!

  • And if you’re ready to speak some more, book your spot to Greek Recorder: This is a short but mighty speaking & feedback service to help you talk about a topic you’re interested in. You use supporting vocabulary, your recordings and my feedback. Choose between 1-Week option or 3-Weeks option (with the option to renew). Check it out here.

Practice, practice, practice. To make meaningful discussions and connect with the other person (your “συνομιλητή”/ “συνομιλήτρια”), questions need to be part of your speaking.

Similarly to learning vocabulary and everyday phrases, you need to learn how to make questions in order to organically add them in any conversation.

Try it out - and let me know how it goes!


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54 Short But Mighty Everyday Words and Phrases

It’s about the little things: 

The simple, everyday words you need to use right away.

The short, quirky, little phrases you don't know how to structure in Greek.

(These aren't likely to appear in your course or audio book).

Because when it comes to:

...ask a quick question or reply while at a store

...catch up with your Greek neighbour you met in the street

...help your friend to make dinner for a large group of friends & family, under the gorgeous, starry Greek sky (just sayin'!)

here's the truth: there's no time for translation apps when the conversation keeps going. You just need to know what to say.

Today I’m going to show you 54 of these everyday short words & phrases.

You might find that some are just what you expected while others will surprise you.

Pick the ones you use more often, note down the ones you were wondering how to say. 

These phrases aren't as loud and heavy as the endless tables of conjugations filling our books' pages when we learn languages. And maybe this is the reason why I don’t want you to stumble, like I did, at the little things.

Ready?

 

Agree to something:

1. Έτσι φαίνεται. It looks like it. It seems like it.

2. Τέλεια. Perfect.

3. Α, μπράβο. Well done. You got this.

4. Συμφωνώ απόλυτα. I wholeheartedly agree.

5. Ναι, αμέ*. Yeah, sure.

6. Πολύ καλή ιδέα, ας το κάνουμε έτσι. Great idea, let’s do it this way.

7. Μια χαρά είναι. It’s fine. 

8. Ας γίνει έτσι, λοιπόν. Let’s plan it this way, then. [ Read here about how to use the verb γίνομαι ]

*used in south Greece

 

Disagree or say no:

9. Δεν γίνεται. Can’t happen / work.

10. Δεν έχω χρόνο, δυστυχώς. I don’t have the time, unfortunately.

 

Ask / suggest something:

11. Πάμε; Shall we go?

12. Τι λες (κι εσύ) ; What do you think?

13. Μπορείτε να με (μας) βοηθήσετε; Could you help me (us)?

 

Ask at a store:

14. Έχετε …; Do you have…?

15. Υπάρχει/ υπάρχουν καθόλου…; Is there any ..? Are there any…?

 

Apologize:

16. Με συγχωρείτε, δεν το ήθελα. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.

17. Ωχ, κατά λάθος έγινε! Oh, this was by mistake!

18. Αχ, χίλια συγγνώμη! Ah, a thousand apologies!

 

Thanking:

19. Με έσωσες! You saved me!

20. Αχ, σας ευχαριστώ! Ah, thank you!

21. Να είστε καλά! Be well!

 

Statements and wishes:

22. Καλά να περάσετε! Have a great time!

23. Για να δούμε. Let’s see.

24. Ελπίζω. I hope.

25. Έτσι νομίζω. I think so.

26. Μέχρι στιγμής, όλα καλά. So far so good.

27. Δεν έχω ιδέα. I have no idea.

28. Αυτό ακριβώς έψαχνα. This is what I was looking for.

29. Κανένα πρόβλημα. No problem.

30. Σου έχω μία έκπληξη. I have a surprise for you.

31. Κι εγώ το παθαίνω αυτό. This happens to me as well.

32. Μακάρι να γινόταν. I wish this could happen.

33. Θα τα πας μια χαρά. You’ll do fine.

34. Δεν χρειάζεται να στενοχωριέσαι. No need to be upset.

35. Αυτό είναι το θέμα. That’s the issue / problem.

36. Θα δούμε. We’ll see.

37. Έχει πλάκα! It’s fun / funny.

38. Πόσο μου αρέσει εδώ πέρα! I like it so much here!

39. Απίστευτο μου φαίνεται. It seems unbelievable.

40. Δεν το περίμενα. I didn’t see that coming.

41. Να κανονίσουμε μία μέρα! Let’s arrange (to get together) one day!

 

Start a sentence:

42. Πάντως … However ...

43. Παρ’ όλ’ αυτά … Nevertheless ...

44. Οπότε … So ….

45. Για παράδειγμα … For example ....

 

Expressing sympathy:

46. Κρίμα. Too bad.

47. Λυπάμαι πολύ. I’m so sorry.

 

Emergency:

48. Βοηθήστε με. Help me.

49. Τι έπαθες; What’s wrong?

50. Δεν ξέρω τι να κάνω. I don't know what to do.

51. Χάσαμε τον δρόμο. We ‘re lost (missed the sign, took wrong turn).

 

Not minding:

52. Δεν πειράζει. That’s okay.

53. Δεν με πειράζει. I don’t mind.

54. Δεν με ενοχλεί. It doesn’t bother me. I don’t mind.

 

Time for a Quiz! What do you say? Reply below.

Your friend :

1. Looks worried. You say...

2. Asks you if you like it here.  You say...

3. Is concerned about their new job.  You say...

4. Asks if you like this movie. You say...

You:

5. Break a glass.  You say...

6. Agree to go to the cinema on Saturday.  You say...

7. Suggest to meet with a friend. You say...

8. Can't believe this happened. You say...

 


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Recommended for you:

How to use the verb γίνομαι : 18 tangible examples to apply right away

Language learning can be full of surprises.

One day you learn this verb and its meaning. You fill out a grammar activity or two and life’s good.

The next day you see the same word in a completely different context. Hmmm.

And then the following day you hear a native speaker use it in a completely different way.

“Wait a minute. What’s going on.” you’re thinking. "How many "faces" can a word possibly have?"

It’s been too many times I’ve wondered the same for English. But instead of experiencing my “trial end error”, let me save you some time and clear things up.

Let me introduce you to the “multifaceted” verb γίνομαι.

It’s a verb we love using in Greek. Seriously, we love it so much we use it every day. (And you know what? If you love it too, the verb will love you back.)

Okay, enough with the grammar romance (and the silliness). Off to some serious stuff.

Let’s see how to 1. conjugate γίνομαι and then 2. how to use it.

By the end of today’s vocabulary notes, you’ll be able to use it in 9 different ways and 18 different sentences.

Τι γίνεσαι;

First of all, γίνομαι means “to become” but we also use it as “to happen” or “to be”. It can be translated with other words as well, depending on the sentence it’s in. Let’s look closer:

Ask this question for “How are you doing?” - even if it literally means “What do you become?” Notice how we use here the 2nd person (εσύ ) γίνεσαι.

example 1:

- Τι γίνεσαι, Μαρία; (How are you doing?)

- Μια χαρά, εσύ; (Fine, you?)

This is one of the most common ways to ask instead of “Τι κάνεις;” - it also adds some familiarity.

Τι γίνεται;

Here is another version of this question.

You can use it to ask someone “How is it going?” using the 3rd singular person (γίνεται),

as in English.

example 2:

- Τι γίνεται, Μαρία; (How is it going?)

- Μια χαρά, εσύ; (Fine, you?)

I mentioned here the 3rd singular person. Here’s the “twist”: In Greek, this might be also used as a “what’s happening” kind of question.

example 3:

- Τι γίνεται εδώ; (What’s going on here?)

- Οι γείτονες κάνουν πάρτυ. (The neighbours are having [doing] a party.)

To sum up, so far the verb is used to ask questions about someone’s news, life, etc. but also to find out what’s going on.

Τι έγινε;

This is the simple past in the 3rd singular person. If we use it in the sense of “How is it going?” then we end up with something like this:

example 4:

- Επ, Κώστα, τι έγινε; (Hey Kosta, how are you?)

- Γεια σου Άννα, όλα καλά, εσύ; (Hi Anna, everything’s fine, you?)

Are you surprised? Colloquial Greek can accept the simple past έγινε to ask about someone’s life, news etc. even though Anna simply asked about Kostas’ current news.

Tip: With the addition of the quirky little word “ρε”, you can address a close friend “Τι έγινε, ρε; Όλα καλά;” Careful though, as  “ρε” can be perceived as impolite if said to a person you don’t know or don’t know that well or if said with a non friendly tone.

Now how about the 2nd meaning of “what’s happening” - or in simple past “what happened”?

example 5:

- Τι έγινε; (What happened?)

- Οι γείτονες έκαναν πάρτυ.  (The neighbours had [did] a party.)

Έγινε!

Imagine you’re sitting at a café, ready to order. The waiter comes:

example 6:

- Τι να σας φέρω; (What should I bring you?)

- Θα πάρω έναν ελληνικό, μέτριο. (I’ll take a greek coffee, medium sweet)

 - Έγινε! (Done!)

Have you heard of it in an answer before?

In this case, the simple past means “say it’s done!”. As in the English sentence here, the simple past is used to refer to a future action, soon to be completed. To stress out the speed and readiness, the person here replies with Έγινε! (literally: it became) which can be translated as “done”.

Θα γίνει φωτογράφος. Γίνε μέλος, τώρα!

It seems strange we had to get to number 5 to see the verb’s first meaning. But here it is.

When I was a child, one of the most common questions was: Τι θέλεις να γίνεις όταν μεγαλώσεις; (What do you want to become when you grow up?).

Never mind how bizarre now this sounds to me as a question to a 4 year old. The meaning of να γίνεις here shows the potential, the change to something different or new.

As in the examples 7 & 8 :

  • Η Μαριάνα θα γίνει φωτογράφος. (Mariana will become a photographer)

  • Προστάτεψε το περιβάλλον. Γίνε μέλος, τώρα! (Protect the environment. Become a member, now!)

It’s maybe this use of the verb that is mostly confusing as it takes the place of είμαι - to be. Είμαι though is more static and compared to γίνομαι, since it highlights the state someone’s in, not the process or progress.

Δεν έγινε και κάτι.

This is a common expression to say “no big deal”. Again the use is closer to “happen” rather than to “become”.

example 9:

- Πω πω, ξέχασα να πάρω εφημερίδα. (Oh no, I forgot to get a newspaper)

- Έλα, δεν έγινε και κάτι, θα πάρουμε όταν φτάσουμε. (Come on, no big deal, we’ll get one when we get there.)

Add some colour in  your sentence and squeeze this expression in!

Γίνεται; Δεν γίνεται! Γίνεται να πάμε;

Sometimes, γίνεται in a sentence as an impersonal verb is about something that can be done, can happen or in the English metaphorical sense of “work/doesn’t work”.

Let’s see this in the following sentences:

examples 10 - 12:

- Πάμε για καφέ; ([Shall] we go for a coffee?)

- Δεν μπορώ σήμερα. Γίνεται να το κανονίσουμε για αύριο; (I can’t today. Can [it be that] we arrange it for tomorrow?)

  • Προσπαθώ να ανοίξω τον υπολογιστή αλλά δεν γίνεται τίποτα. (I try to turn on the computer but nothing works/happens).

- Θα πάμε με το αυτοκίνητο της. (We’ll take [go with] her car)

- Γίνεται; (Can this work [it be done]?)

- Και βέβαια, δεν το χρειάζεται αυτές τις μέρες. (Of course, she doesn’t need it these days)

If this sounds a bit confusing, stick to using γίνεται / δεν γίνεται to say “this can be done/ can’t be done”. Gradually, and as you listen to how native speakers use it, you’ll get a good grasp of its meaning and way of use.

Έγινε το φαγητό; Δεν έχουν γίνει ακόμα τα καρπούζια.

Believe it or not, we also use it a lot with food words, to describe something is done or made or ready / ripened.

examples 13 - 15:

  • Πεινάω! Έγινε το φαγητό; (I’m hungry! Is the meal ready [done]?)

  • Είναι ακόμα Ιούνιος, δεν έχουν γίνει τα καρπούζια. (It’s still June, watermelons are not yet ripened [ready])

  • Περίμενε να γίνουν τα μακαρόνια και μετά στρώσε το τραπέζι. (Wait for the spaghetti to be ready [done] and then set the table.)

In all the examples, the meaning of something “ready to be eaten” (or not!) is what helps you remember the use of γίνεται here.

Γίνεται χαμός.

I couldn’t leave you without an idiom. Idioms add colour, fun, natural flow. Turn these initially incomprehensible phrases to something you can use right away:

Χαμός literally means “loss” but it’s usually not a gloomy word. We use it to describe a mess, a blast, frenzy, hustle and bustle etc. Let’s see the examples with γίνεται in 3 different tenses:

examples 16 - 18:

  • Έγινε χαμός στο πάρτυ! (The party was a total blast!)

  • Θα γίνει χαμός όταν γυρίσουν σπίτι. (There’s going to be trouble when they come back home)

  • Γίνεται χαμός στον δρόμο από την κίνηση. (The roads are a mess due to traffic.)

Ready for a quiz?

  1. What do you say when you meet someone you know?

  2. How do you say “done!” ?

  3. How do you say “no big deal?”

  4. The food is almost ready. What do you ask?

  5. Traffic in Athens is terrible today. What do you say?

Reply in the comments below and I’ll get back to you with my feedback.


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Read more from my blog:

7 (more) Funny Idioms And Why To Use Them (PART 2)

“Recovery” from speaking with locals in Toronto meant learning how to speak, not from a text book but from (and with!) real life people.

Idioms and everyday expressions play a huge role in that.

So, are you ready to add some spice to your Greek and amaze your friend Nikos when you say:

One Simple Trick To Sound More Natural In Greek

What are the subtle differences between speaking fluently / at an advanced level and speaking like the locals?

Studying a lot, for example reading and getting your hands on anything you find interesting and effective for you will take you a long way.

But when it comes to speaking, like “real life speaking” with locals, is this enough?

The first time I went to Canada, I was indeed speaking English at an advanced level.

I could attend University lectures and talk about these topics adequately. I could write an essay.

When it came to speaking about everyday topics though? Not even close.

Avoid sounding like a robot

I didn't become fluent overnight, but I slowly tried my best to avoid sounding like a robot. How?

I came up with a strategy: I took a few lessons to get a boost in my speaking about everyday topics and also learn about local small talk.

Also, I started paying attention to the way locals talked to each other; noted everything down and attempted to use it. The information I got from my lessons as well as the eavesdropping :-) paid off during all the years I lived in Toronto.

And here’s what I found: There is a way to learn how to sound more natural even before reaching the advanced level. It's a little trick that has to do with using pauses to your advantage.

Pauses that include filler words.

Here’s a visual example to see what I mean:

With Christmas around the corner... what makes a Christmas tree a great Christmas tree? Imagine a tree like this one:

And then imagine adding fillers. Such as ornaments, extra branches or garlands.

Fillers fill in the space between the branches and make your tree stand out; as with ornaments, filler words you naturally use in your native language can help your sentences sound richer when you also speak in Greek.

Why are filler words useful for your speaking?

Filler words are a natural pause to think, without stopping speaking altogether, and before keep going on with what you want to say.

They help your audience understand you have more things to add.

Of course, filler words or sounds are different from language to language.

Often, learners make mistakes by translating the filler words from their language to their target language (which is definitely what I did, too).

This simply proves how much we’re used at using them; we try to find a way to add them in our target language.

In addition, these words & sounds can give you valuable time in order to remember a tricky word or think a bit about what you want to say.

What does λοιπόν, βασικά, έτσι mean in Greek?

Have you ever come across these words?

Below, you’ll find a list of some of these very common filler words & sounds we use in Greek and a link to a great mini - series videos to watch and listen how to use them.

1. Λοιπόν [Lipón]

Translated as “so” or “well”, λοιπόν initiates a topic if used at the beginning of a sentence, or at the end of a question:

Λοιπόν, πάμε να μιλήσουμε για τα ρήματα τώρα.

Τι θα φάμε, λοιπόν;

It even connects sentences, when one of them is the conclusion:

Αγαπώ την Ελλάδα, γι’ αυτό λοιπόν έμαθα ελληνικά!

2. Έτσι [Étsi]

“Like this”, έτσι: when used as a filler word it goes after a question in order to reinforce the meaning, especially when you know the others agree or have to agree with you:

Δεν είναι σωστό, έτσι;

It’s also used when you explain something to others:

Μου αρέσει, έτσι, να πηγαίνω βόλτα στην Αθήνα.

3. Βασικά [Vasiká]

If you know how young people use “basically” in English, then βασικά is basically the same. It highlights the meaning of a sentence, at the beginning of a sentence, in the middle or even at the end.

Βασικά, δεν ξέρω την αδερφή της.

Δεν ξέρω, βασικά, την αδερφή της. 

Δεν ξέρω την αδερφή της, βασικά.

4. Εεεεεε … [ééééé]

Not a word, but a sound, as the sound “um” in English. Use it when you try to think or remember something at the beginning of a sentence. It can prove very handy as you try to remember a certain word; we tend to use it a lot!

Εεεεεε … νομίζω ότι μου αρέσει πολύ αυτό το βιβλίο.

5. Θα έλεγα [Tha élega]

This means “I’d say” and as a filler word goes well with statements, such as:

Είναι, θα έλεγα, τα πιο ωραία σουβλάκια της Αθήνας!

6. Ας πούμε [As púme]

This means “let’s say” and it’s used for examples or when explaining something to others or telling a story:

Το ωραίο κλίμα, ας πούμε, είναι από τα θετικά της Ελλάδας.

Και τότε όλοι έμειναν, ας πούμε, σπίτι και έπαιξαν χαρτιά.

7. Ξέρω ’γω [Kséro 'gó]

This is commonly used when you’re wondering about something, since it's literally translated as "do I know (?)" but really means "I don't know":

- Σου αρέσει αυτό το τραγούδι;

- Ξέρω ‘γω; Καλό είναι.

Among young people, it can be used much more frequently, between any word or meaning:

Θα πάω, ξέρω ‘γω, αύριο να δω μια ταινία…. άκουσα, ξέρω ‘γω, ότι η ταινία αυτή ήταν, ξέρω ‘γω, καλή.

This last one sounds a bit annoying? It is!

As with your native language, find the right amount of how and when to use them to get this nice flow when you speak - even if at the same time you're looking for the right word to say.

Here you’ll find a mini series of 3 videos with locals speaking in Greek and using all of the filler words above. Can you spot them?


Read more from my blog:

The Best Way To Learn Greek

(This post was updated in July 2018)

Are you in love with the Greek language?

Are you dreaming of speaking her melodic sounds, moving past your overwhelm and struggles?

Do you think you could use some help about:

  • How to set goals and why they are more important than you might think

  • How to choose quality materials wisely to avoid confusion, overwhelm and quitting

  • How to practice Greek in a smart and efficient way

  • What’s the "secret", final ingredient to learning Greek

Grab your tea or Greek coffee and let me show you.

So, here’s the question:

“What’s the best way to learn Greek?”

This is by far the most frequent question I get from Greek learners.

Visiting or even staying in Greece is usually thought to be the most effective way. 

This is not always true though.

Even if you do live in the country or spend a good amount of your time there, this doesn't necessarily mean you'll automatically learn the language.

In fact, I don't believe in automatic language learning, when your dream is to communicate with real people.

Which means that while simply promising you the "magic" recipe to “The Best Way to Learn” would’ve been easy and would’ve made me look cool, I’m not gonna do that.

Instead, let's try something different.

I want you to imagine you’re learning something new - such as how to create a tangible and easy to understand with your senses object.

For example, making birthday cakes.

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind? A vision of your ideal birthday cake, right?

For some, this translates to a chocolate fudge while for others it’s a gluten-free cream cake. 

I bet you visualized your ideal cake by now. Which takes us to:

 

Goals

Naming your goal is the very first step you need to do before you start learning something.

Do you find it hard? 

When it comes to a cake, it can be your special flavour and decoration.

When it comes to learning a language, it’s not at all obvious. 

You need to make Greek tangible, so, take a pen and paper and write down:

“What’s my goal in learning Greek?”

  • Is it to speak with your Greek friends via Skype and social media?

  • Is it maybe to live on a Greek island?

  • Is it to visit Greece in the summer and be able to hold an everyday conversation with your in-laws?

Don’t be tempted to write more than 2 or 3 things. Too much is equal to getting stuck.

Have you written your goal down already?

Okay, now let’s go back to our birthday cake (our tangible example).

What’s the next thing you need to do?

Gather your "ingredients" and "baking tools" of course.

 

Resources, tools, materials

Did I say “gather”? 

Be careful on that one.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a recovering book and material hoarder.

(I believe books have little legs and enter your space while you sleep - I’ve no idea how I always end up having too many of them. Same happens to you?)

The same with language learning materials.

Textbooks, course books, Grammar books, notes, posters -  not to mention the paperless online materials.

Apps, videos, emails, infographics, social media groups - oh boy.

Let me explain. I’m not saying any of the materials above is bad or wrong.

When we learn languages, we do need to think about our “ingredients and baking tools” same as when we’re making a cake; we can’t use anything and everything.

Don’t be tempted to add too many on your plate and learn from every source possible.

Stick to the materials and resources that resonate with you and choose them wisely according to your current goal(s) and learning preferences.

You love images? Learn with posters, images, infographics.

You love audios or need to practice more listening? Stick to audios, music, the radio. You get the picture.

By making the right list of your “ingredients and baking tools” you’re creating your "recipe" and this way your recipe is not going to fail.

All of this is wonderful and all, but you want to know how to minimize overwhelm and “put your ducks in a row”. Hey, I’m a learner of languages myself, I get you.

Let’s see now how to approach your materials and - hint for today’s question - find your own best way to learn Greek, shall we?

Maria's example

Maria has a list of resources - from videos to audio, radio stations to Pinterest, free online lessons to Grammar books, activities, even apps.

Where does she start?

Maria has written down: “My goal is to speak with my Greek friends during my summer vacation. Also, to catch up with their news online (via emails, social media) when I’m back home”. 

See now how having a goal comes in handy?

Sometimes, starting a new language reminds me of expecting a baby. I mean, really!

You’re all excited, getting all the cute stuff, not knowing what you’re going to use - but who blames you, you might actually need them.

Because I’ve been there with stuff (language and baby stuff), I’m now trying to minimize.

Too many choices equal to too many distractions.

Back to Maria, she can only achieve her goal by choosing what she’s actually going to use, having in mind the time she has available after work and her current level in Greek.

However, as with newborn onesies and blankets or with the aforementioned cake ingredients, her Greek learning has some absolute needs:

Quality materials.

 

Materials List

These are my favourite and most used materials. Some I use in my classes , some I recommend to learners.

Take into account your own learning style. As much as I love some of them, you might find that they're not your dream materials. 

A simple rule of thumb: study with the ones you absolutely love. 

1. Grammar Book

Are you looking for a good, tried & true Greek Grammar book?

I recommend this by M. Triandaphyllidis and this by D. Holton, P. Mackridge and I. Philippaki-Warburton

Greek is a unique language (literally! Check this interesting info by Ethnologue here and a beautiful language map here).

So, yes, you’re going to have a lot of Grammar questions. Choosing the one book which is right for you is essential.

Greek: An Essential Grammar (Routledge Essential Grammars) was written with English speakers in mind. You can find it in both languages, English and Greek and it’s simply wonderful; thorough and to the point.

Concise Modern Greek Grammar  is the most used Greek Grammar book, written by linguist Manolis Triandaphyllidis, which also comes in 14 translations.

Αυτό ακριβώς! This is an amazing Grammar book with tons of exercises and Grammar tables - for Intermediate learners only. It is mainly meant for practicing.

2. Dictionary

Of course, your choice depends on what your first language is.

For the sake of simplicity, here I'll recommend this Greek to English dictionary which I've been using for years. 

However,  I do recommend adding a Greek to Greek dictionary as well. 

For this, Λεξικό της Νέας Ελληνικής Γλώσσας is a great option.

An online, free option is the Dictionary of Standard Modern Greek.

The advantage of having a Greek to Greek dictionary is the extra valuable information about the words' etymology, idioms and expressions.

3. Exercises - Course Books

Does homework remind you of endless boring school activities?

I won't blame you.

But to connect your goals to your practice, studying and revising are a foolproof way to keep learning.

Here is a list of my favourite course and activity books:

(A note: all of these books are written entirely in Greek)

#1 Ελληνικά Α(Beginners) and Ελληνικά Β' (Intermediate) course books with CDs.

Why: They are up to date, nicely presented. Lots of vocabulary and everyday expressions about living and working in Greece. And with great illustration.

#2 Ελληνικά τώρα 1+1 (Beginners) and Ελληνικά Τώρα 2+2 (Intermediate) course books with CDs.

Why: These are the classic books so many Greek learners have used since the 80s when they were published. Quite outdated vocabulary and cultural references, but very good grammar practice. Tailored to the needs of learners who visit Greece every summer.

#3 Επικοινωνήστε ελληνικά 1 (Beginners) and Επικοινωνήστε ελληνικά 2 (Intermediate), exercises books and CDs. 

Why: I think I love more the exercises books than the course books. Such a great variety of exercises. But it still is a classic course book. Again, this is more tailored to the needs of tourists or regular visitors.

#4 Ταξίδι στην Ελλάδα 1 (Beginners) and Ταξίδι στην Ελλάδα 2 (Intermediate) course & exercises books with CDs.

Why: I love their texts’ collection, Grammar tables and wonderful Grammar explanations. The exercises are a bit uninspired, but still good.

Great resources and tools, depending on your individual goals:

Apps: Apps are not favoured by everyone. But I learned to love them!

In fact, I’ve written a whole post which you can check here: 3 Best Apps I recommend to learn Greek for free. 

Social media: Not everyone’s cup of tea. But if it is yours, choose again what suits you best.

Facebook? Instagram? Pinterest?

Get a bite-sized post with a Greek word, information about the language & the culture, even a Grammar explanation.

Practice a bit or ask away. Why not?

Are you up to more chatting with some friendly & super motivated Greek learners? Join our Express Your Greek facebook group here. 

Music: Again, if you don’t really listen to music or if you don’t even like Greek music, then no need to use it.

But in case you do, then add your song here and find the Greek songs’ lyrics in Greek or even sometimes translated by members of the page.

For Intermediate learners, this book Λίγα Τραγούδια θα σου πω can also be found here to download and practice Greek with songs.

Daily emails/reminders/videos: These are offered by Apps; also by most companies that offer language lessons, such as the well known GreekPod101 by Innovative.

To be honest, I personally feel pressured with “daily” forever reminders!

But if you do open these emails and you like having a little nudge to learn some Greek in your day, then go for it.

Skip it, Don’t Keep it

You’ve heard about an amazing webpage which is “old but still good”, you’ve been told to read a children's story and you ‘ve come across the 100th video presenting the Greek alphabet.

While the following list might seem unconventional (and it is), choosing and planning your learning always comes with things you need to let go.

Outdated material: yes, you’ve been told it’s “old but amazing”.

In some rare cases, it can be true if there are other advantages (see the part about the one outdated course book I still use + why, above!).

However, unless you’re interested in talking about drachmas in your vintage coin collection, skip any "old but amazing".

(And avoid sounding like an 80s movie.)

Videos about the alphabet: You're probably past the alphabet, but I need to say this: Don’t expect to learn reading and pronunciation from them.

Why? Because every Greek letter has a name which does not correspond to they way we read.

While alphabet videos are fun, learning the letters’ names doesn’t add much to your learning.

Yes, you might learn how to ask about your spelling, but they can’t teach you Greek pronunciation.

Greek pronunciation is not too complicated but it involves a greater depth and focus than a “learn to read in Greek now” kind of video.

Disclaimer: I am not aware of any such a title, I’m just giving you an example.

Invest in time, by practicing more with your chosen, good quality resources or invest in a qualified teacher or class where you can get all the help you need with pronouncing the Greek sounds.

Kids’ books: I’ve been told to practice English with kids’ books.

And while the language might be simple, do you really want to know about fairies, the big bad wolf or the playground?

Unless it’s a fun, engaging children’s literature book, I don’t recommend every kids' story just because it’s in “easy” Greek.

Which, by the way, is a misconception.

I would much more likely recommend children’s books to Advanced learners, because of the natural language these stories are written in.

 

How to learn and practice

Read

This is kind of obvious, but if you’re not comfortable with Greek reading, your pronunciation is as well compromised.

Practice reading out loud, repeat after your teacher or after the audio you’re using. See below for more ideas.

Write

In Greek only. If I could write this in big, red, flashing letters, I would.

Writing in the Latin alphabet (the one I’m using now) or any other script will only keep you far away from matching the sounds to the image e.g. [a] → α (the letters).

Make it a habit to write in Greek and don’t care about making spelling mistakes -at all!

It’s much more important to learn the language as a whole than getting stuck to spelling.

Part of learning Greek is its different but beautiful alphabet; embrace it.

Listen, to learn  

How about a podcast, like this one by Language Transfer which is free and fun.

I've also used Soundcloud for some of my blog posts. You can find my tracks here.

Listen, to practice

Any Greek series, shows, songs, news broadcast, the weather, anything, really!

Don’t be afraid to get exposed to some real, fast, natural Greek. You’ll be amazed by the words you’ll start noticing.

A tip: have a goal to understand a number X of words.

By focusing on something such as a number of words or expressions or even words starting with a specific letter, you practice without getting overwhelmed.

You also avoid passive listening, which, to be honest, doesn't seem to be making any difference in language learning.

Speak

Unless you need Greek to translate books and never utter a word, chances are you’re learning Greek to communicate in Greek.

So start speaking now. Record yourself on your phone doing so.

Practice this vocabulary of yours. Best is everyday, but if time is really an issue, practice at least once per week.

You can do this. You’ll be really, really amazed by your progress.

 

Commit

Almost there now. You have your goal(s) written, your tools and materials in order plus plenty of ideas about what and how to use them… what’s next? Is this the best way to learn Greek?

Like I said, I’m not going to fool you with promises and "easy and fun" learning hacks.

The puzzle is complete only with your own, personal effort.

You’ve already put effort in all of the steps above (and in reading this huge post) now the real work begins, starting from your way of learning.

"Way" means it's a process, a path you need to walk; "the best way" is here for you to plan and follow.

So after you thoughtfully selected the why, when, what and how to learn and practice, now is time to do it.

There may be times you’ll wonder why you chose this language. If it will ever pay off. If you’re ever going to learn it.

If you go back to where you started on Day 1 and look at your notes, listen to your recordings, read your first paragraphs, you’ll see how far you’ve come.

Trust yourself. I know you can do this.

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means you'll be supporting Alpha Beta Greek at no extra cost to yourself if you buy through the link. I only recommend books and resources of high quality that I trust and love to use myself. 


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