communication and connection

A New Route To Speaking Better Greek: 5 Simple And Steady Steps

I’m all for hidden gems.

Little coffee shops, bookshops in tiny alleys, a secret beach with emerald waters or a local family bakery that leads you there just by the smell of fresh baked bread.

They all have this one thing in common: Few people know about them because it’s hard to get there.

And to get there, you might assume you need a map, or think you should take the main route, otherwise it’s easy to get lost.

But, hey, do you remember the time you found a beautiful little place, far from crowds and noise?

Well, it wasn’t because you followed the main route.

It was because you were led there by curiosity, excitement and a sense of adventure.

No mistake, hidden gems want to be found this way and they will compensate you with a satisfying sense of accomplishment.

By the way, there is nothing more annoying than the person next to you who holds the map right in front of your nose and anxiously tells you: “nooo, we must go this way, this is the one and only way!”

Let’s take this analogy to language learning - because, why not?

You say to yourself:

“I want to speak Greek! How I wish there was a person sitting next to me right now, so I could practice. How I wish I were at a nice and cozy café happily chatting with a Greek. It’s just so bad I can’t practice what I learn, because I don’t have anyone to talk to”.

Okay I might have added a little Greek drama here.

While I’m sure you’d love to be at a Greek café right now and while I’m sure you do prefer to have someone to talk to in Greek, things don’t look so grim.

It’s true we often think there’s only one way to practice speaking and that is: talking with a native speaker.

Just like the person who stubbornly persists on the one and only way to get to the hidden, beautiful little place (and spoils all the fun), “traditional” learning suggests that there’s no other way around it: in order to improve your speaking, you must speak with a Greek.

What if you could do things a bit differently? What if you could take another, not so obvious way and be a bit brave and adventurous about it?

What if you could speak more Greek, even daily and express your thoughts and ideas, without a Greek speaker?

Taking another route.

A few years ago I was introduced to this idea for practicing speaking: voice recordings.

It’s so simple, really:

You basically record yourself speaking - most phones have now this option (look for “Voice recorder” or “Voice memos”.)

Before helping Greek learners with their speaking by using voice recordings consistently as a weekly practice, I’ve practiced this way too, while learning English and a bit of Dutch.

Here’s what I found:

Recordings are great. They can make an amazing speaking practice.

But only if done right.

I challenge you today to record yourself speaking Greek after you read this guide.

But let me share first a few things I’ve learned along the way. They’ll help you stay focused and keep this activity simple.

#1 Consistency

As with all learning, consistency is key. Recordings are no exception and you need to use them a few times to include them in your way of studying.

You’ll find that it gets easier as you go and that at the end of the month or the trimester you have a solid amount of recordings, a proof of your progress and learning.

No need for a rigid schedule here. Just remember to record yourself a few times to get used to it and then it will organically become part of your learning.

By staying consistent you’ll actually monitor your progress and identify where you need improvement.

#2 Self-confidence

With monitoring in mind, voice recordings can boost your self-confidence.

I bet you’ll find it miraculous how on recording number 1 you stumbled on this and that expression but in recording number 10 you used them without even thinking about them.

It’s gratifying and makes you want to move on. And because it’s like a rehearsal in a quiet studio, it gives you the time to practice and repeat words, expressions and pronunciation you want to get right in an actual discussion.

#3 Focus

You might be asking: What should I talk about?

Well, think of this: What do you want to talk about? How can you find the right vocabulary around that topic? Is there a question you‘d like to answer or even a topic for discussion you’d like to analyze a bit?

A mistake I personally made at the beginning with my own recordings - and I don’t want you to make it too - was that I just started talking about whatever came to my mind.

Although this might be okay for some learners, for me it wasn’t motivating.

Choosing one thing or topic helps you stay focused, make more efficient connections between the new or revised words & their meaning and reduces the overwhelm of trying to include everything at once.

#4 Realistic expectations

It’s easy to get excited and say  “Oh, recordings! Great idea. Yes, I’ll do this!” and then imagine yourself talking and talking - only to find out later that you can barely speak on the voice recorder for one minute.

One minute is surprisingly a lot, by the way. Instagram videos, for example, are one minute long, yet they fit in so much information.

Start with small steps:

Talk about one specific topic or question and use a certain number of new words or expressions.

#5 Be brave

Now, I’m one of those people who usually panic behind the mic or the camera. It’s just what happens, even when no one’s listening.

What I realized however is that the voice that terrifies me the most, is the voice of my perfectionism.

Recordings are meant to be liberating. But when this little voice creeps in, we freeze and then start the negative self-talk.

If you find yourself in a vicious cycle of hitting “play - stop - delete”, be brave and push a bit more. It’s the exact point where you need to allow yourself accept your mistakes and embrace your imperfections.

And when this happens just between you and the recorder, you know you’re a step closer to your “hidden gem” of speaking in real-life situations.

To recap, remember to:

  1. Be consistent with this new activity

  2. Monitor your progress and gain some precious self-confidence along the way

  3. Focus on just one thing

  4. Be realistic about your expectations

  5. Be brave and move past your perfectionism

Let me know how it went! And if you ‘re ready to speak some more Greek, check out here a 3 - week online speaking program I’ve created that helps you do just that.

Happy Greek speaking,

~ Danae

2 Strategies To Keep The Conversation Flowing

Have you ever wished you could speak Greek the way you wanted to in just one day?

Even if we don’t admit it, as much as we enjoy the process of learning, we sometimes act as if it’s possible to learn everything.

We dive into a sea of unknown vocabulary, pile up expression after expression, get lost in a forest of new meanings and nuances.

Courageous? Yes, definitely.

Helpful? Not always.

And then there’s overwhelm and loss of motivation.

How to keep going? How to keep talking?

When we explore the idea of a slow learning process, where the slow language journey doesn’t seem scary anymore, we come to realize the need to navigate the area: We need a compass.

And that’s because you’ve already covered the foundation of the Greek language and you expect to put your learning in use:

  • Put the words in meaningful sentences

  • Understand what you hear in a conversation

  • Reply back

  • Be part of an engaging conversation

And this is what the compass is here for.

To help you with 2 strategies to use, when you still feel your Greek is not “there” yet.

Now, a note about this apparently generic and a bit simplified definition. You’ve noticed I didn’t say “when you’re a Beginner/Intermediate etc” or “when you hold the A1, B2, C1 etc. CEFR level”.

Levels and categories are all useful and give us some information about our learning.

But if we feel we can’t talk the way we want to, or we can’t express our ideas and thoughts and can’t have the pleasure of a chat or a conversation, then levels don’t mean much.

In fact, we might get stuck behind the labels.

But back to our strategies: here’s how they help us find our focus and make connection with the person we talk to - and also our self.

Focus on what’s meaningful to you

Imagine you knew every single word in your own language.

Would you use them all in a conversation? You might had never had the chance to use them all in a lifetime.

I believe language is as alive as we are. The words we use are weaved into our existence and experience.

When we talk about things we like or don’t like doing, when we talk about our schedule, as exciting or boring as it can be or about our feelings, ideas and beliefs, all these words come to life.

And we share this glimpse of our life with the person we talk to.

We let the person zoom into our life and our thoughts.

The same way we don’t talk about everything under the sun, we’re not obliged to learn everything under the sun. We’re free to choose our focus.

When we realize we have a choice in our learning, this is when the magic happens.

We allow ourselves to narrow down and target the areas that are relevant to our life. We then focus even more on the things we mostly talk about.

And then we break the steps down: we don’t just learn the vocabulary with soulless repetition activities (we might use them, yes, but not rely on them), we invite the words in our world, we dig deeper in their meanings, we make them ours.

By focusing on one area, one topic or theme, we’re eventually able to make the connections in multiple levels:

  • connections within the language, between root words for example, which help us form associations, vital to our learning (For more on why and how this is effective, read this great, geeky article here)

  • connections to our own experience, which help us retain vocabulary better as it is relevant to who we are

  • connections to the person or people we talk to, as we start a chat or keep a conversation going, which eventually help us make authentic connections with other humans.

For example, let’s say you’re a person who lives in the city, you like long strolls out in nature, you’re a science fiction writer and your hobby is photography. You also dislike cooking and are not interested in fashion.

How would you prioritize your learning?

Talking about cooking or learning a long list of words about clothes won’t make much sense to you when you feel you still need to find the right words to make a conversation about things that matter to you.

Focus on what you need, then focus some more and then break it down in small, practical steps.

Jazz up the chat with questions

When we feel we can’t use the language the way we wish in a chat with a native speaker, we tend to answer to their questions but avoid making questions.

It could be because we’re not fast enough as the conversation goes on.

Or because we become so shy, we’d rather hide instead of keep being in the conversation.

On the other hand, it might be because we‘re eager to practice, so, subconsciously, we want to take advantage of the opportunity and talk as much as we can.

What this means though, is that the other person starts losing their interest in the chat.

They don’t get any sign you’re interested in them so they stop talking.

Spicing up a conversation doesn’t necessarily require a perfect use of vocabulary or grammar.

Yes, you might stumble. You might forget. This doesn’t need to bewilder you.

Showing your genuine interest to the person you talk to - that’s what makes a good conversation.

And the way to do that is with questions about them.

You might have noticed that in the Greek culture personal questions such as asking about the family or the origin, are not uncommon between people who meet for the first time and they’ve been chatting for a while.

And by origin I mean the grandparents’ birthplace which is usually a village (χωριό) or island (νησί).

So don’t hesitate to break the ice by asking (or asking back) about someone’s family or birthplace for example.

Questions help us to balance the conversation, especially when we still have limited vocabulary or when we still hesitate too much to use it.

Don’t forget them. Sprinkle them in your next chat. They’ll give you a delicious sense of accomplishment.

Next steps:

And if you’re ready to start speaking more Greek, here some helpful ideas:

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Happy Greek speaking,

~ Danae