how to learn Greek

5 Ideas To Help You Refresh Your Greek Speaking Skills And Build Your Confidence

When Ana moved to Athens, she was excited. She couldn’t wait to meet new people, wander around the city, absorb every second of her new life there.

She was prepared to face the challenges: different language, culture, mentality. New habits, new rhythm and way of life.

Ana spoke some Greek already. She had met a few nice people she chatted with every day: “Καλημέρα, τι κάνετε;”

But within her first year in Greece, Ana realized - better: experienced - that daily speaking wasn’t a recipe; even if you follow all the steps from your course book, you won’t necessarily get it right.

refresh Greek speaking_alphabetagreek.png

Most of the times, it was difficult to catch up with fast pace, every day communication: at the grocery store, with her Greek friend on the phone or, the hardest of all, in a larger group of Greek speaking people.

She knew the grammar rules; but the rules kept slipping away. She knew the words; but the words kept not making sense if put together at a fast, natural speech speed.

Her friends switched to English. And, eventually, so did she.

Have you ever felt like Ana?

I sure did. When I spoke to my English speaking friends, I often found myself stumbling and mixing up words:

  • Words that look the same in the 2 languages, but have a completely different meaning

  • Words that sound alike

  • Tiny words, such as prepositions, that I couldn’t remember where to add them: before the verb, after the verb, between the two verbs?

  • Large words I didn’t remember how to pronounce

Some of my English speaking friends even spoke Greek, so switching to my language felt safe, but also disappointing: “Ugh, there goes my chance to practice”, I’d think.

If you ever felt like that too, here’s what I want you to know, when the words don’t come out easy:

You have every right to make mistakes, mispronounce words, mix up the meaning. Even if you know the grammar. Even if you understand what others say to you. Not just once, but a 100 times.

You have the right to feel overwhelmed, to get annoyed, to exclaim, even, that Greek is the hardest language (even if you don’t believe it).

You have the right to feel tired and make a pause from your learning. If you need it, do it. You’re not a language learning machine, you’re human.

But when your Greek heart calls you back again and you know that speaking Greek is still one of your priorities, then treat your speaking with care.

Here’s how to build your confidence again:

Create the circumstances to avoid another round of overwhelm about your speaking - at least for the next little while (because, well, life!).

And because I’m all about practical advice you can easily implement, here are 5 short and simple ideas:

  • Sing. If you’re into learning with music (it doesn’t work for everyone) learn the lyrics to your favourite Greek songs and sing along. Singing is not speaking (as in expressing yourself freely), but the rhythm and the flowing language through music are both a first step and a confidence booster when you want to hear yourself speaking Greek again.

  • Send a short voice message to wish something or just say hi to a friend or relative instead of a written message, on Messenger or Instagram. Prepare a bit if you want to, but aim for something short that doesn’t require lots of thinking or editing.

  • Chat with only one friend in person (online or offline) and ask them to chat in Greek only. The 1-1 interaction with someone you feel comfortable with is a safe space for shy or self-conscious learners who get quite disappointed by their mistakes, especially when they are in larger groups.

  • Join a short and practical conversation class or speaking program, online or offline or ask your teacher to set aside 10-15 minutes just to speak about something that interests you - outside the course book and the role play activities.

  • Make today a recording of yourself speaking, not more than 1-5 minutes. If you need help with “what should I be talking about?” ideas, you can sign up for the mini-speaking challenge: you’ll receive one short speaking prompt daily, for 3 days, plus a few words + phrases to get you started. At the end, you can send me your voice recording and receive a few ideas about how and what to improve. See how the challenge works, here.

Speaking in another language is a lot of work

And especially at the “in between” levels, where you know the basic grammar well enough but you still make mistakes, your self-confidence can be shaken.

When you’re past the basic vocabulary and you are longing for a chat in flawless Greek, it’s easy to become impatient, stressed out, and often disappointed and overwhelmed.

Remember though, that the learning journey has its ups and downs.

Sometimes you’ll celebrate and feel happy, other times you’ll stumble and feel disappointed.

But if you know you’re here to stay, start again, take action and use your recent experience to create resilience and perseverance.

Which idea are you going to try next for your speaking? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you for learning with me,

~ Danae

How to use the verb μου αρέσει in Greek: a practical guide with 23 examples

When your friend Katerina calls to invite you over for one of those bubbly, heartwarming Greek get-togethers over lunch with her, she asks:

“Τι να φτιάξω; Τι σου αρέσει;” (What should I make? What do you like?)

You politely insist she doesn’t have to get into trouble, you just wanted to see her.

But, you know how Greeks are about food: Τhere’s no way she ‘ll let you starve, quite the opposite, really.

“Τι σου αρέσει” , λοιπόν; So, what do you like?

In your mind pops Katerina’s τυροπιτάκια, κρεατόπιτα, χωριάτικη σαλάτα, ντολμαδάκια, χαλβάς and all the lovely dishes she makes.

But foods and other nouns in Greek have, as you know, 3 grammar genders:

  • masculine

  • feminine

  • neuter

and 2 numbers:

  • singular and

  • plural.

… and confusion begins. The question now is:

How to use the verb “I like (something)” in Greek: μου αρέσει or μου αρέσουν?

Today’s guide will help you not only say what you like - or don’t like -  but also use this verb about things you like doing.

Let’s dive in:

the reason why it’s different

The difficulty of this seemingly simple verb is that it doesn’t start with a “regular” personal pronoun, e.g. εγώ as in any of the verbs you use, such as εγώ πηγαίνω, εγώ κοιμάμαι etc. , but with the pronoun’s genitive μου (in the case where you talk about yourself).

Then, the verb αρέσει is added, in 3rd person singular or in 3rd plural person αρέσουν:

μου + αρέσει / αρέσουν

Unlike other languages, English or French for example, the structure is similar to the Spanish “me gusta” or “me gustan”.

You don’t need to speak Spanish, obviously, but the little “trick” is that the structure of μου αρέσει / αρέσουν is closer to: “It pleases me / They please me” rather than to the English verb “I like”.

Which actually means this:

  • with 3rd person singular αρέσει, you talk about something in singular: μου αρέσει ο χυμός.

  • with 3rd person plural αρέσουν, you talk about something in plural: μου αρέσουν τα ζώα.

To talk about things you like, or like doing, the verb only changes in singular or plural, since it’s about the number of things, the nouns you like (or don’t like) or about an activity (more on this in a bit).

Simply put, you don’t need to change the ending of αρέσει as you do with other verbs - except from plural form αρέσουν.

If you’re a grammar jargon type, you’ve guessed that μου αρέσει is an impersonal verb, which is why you don’t need to conjugate it to talk about things you like.

The 2 questions you might have now:

#1 Okay, I get that the verb part depends on what follows (Yay! This is more than halfway through.) But what about the personal pronoun?

#2 Which form of the word that follows (noun) do I have to use? Nominative (ο, η, το), accusative (τον, την, το) or genitive (του, της, του) case?

Let’s look closely at the examples below.

  1. Μου αρέσει ο καφές. I like coffee.

  2. Μου αρέσουν τα ταξίδια στο εξωτερικό. I like trips abroad.

  3. Σου αρέσει η σοκολάτα. You (singular) like chocolate.

  4. Σου αρέσουν οι εκπλήξεις; Do you like surprises?

  5. Δεν της αρέσει το κρύο. She doesn’t like the cold.

  6. Της αρέσει απίστευτα αυτή η παραλία. She adores (unbelievably likes) this beach.

  7. Του αρέσει το τσάι. He likes tea.

  8. Του αρέσουν τα παραδοσιακά σπίτια. He likes traditional houses.

  9. Μας αρέσει το βιβλίο που διαβάζουμε. We like the book we read.

  10. Δεν μας αρέσουν οι καφετέριες με καπνό. We don’t like cafés with smoke (of cigarettes, where smoking is allowed).

  11. Σας αρέσουν τα κιμαδοπιτάκια; Do you like minced meat pies?

  12. Δεν σας αρέσει ο θόρυβος που είχε αυτό το σπίτι. You (plural) don’t like the noise this house had.

  13. Σας αρέσουν οι μεζέδες; Do you like mezes (plural)?

  14. Τους αρέσει πάρα πολύ ο χαλβάς που φτιάχνεις. They like a lot the halva you make.

  15. Δεν τους αρέσει η πολυκοσμία. They don’t like crowds.

  16. Δεν τους αρέσουν τα ηλεκτρονικά παιχνίδια. They don’t like computer/video games.

What do you notice?

Regardless of the noun - whether it’s one (ο θόρυβος) or many (τα κιμαδοπιτάκια), whether it’s in feminine (οι καφετέριες) or masculine (οι μεζέδες) - the personal pronoun depends on the person who likes or doesn’t like something.

And, you guessed it right: in all sentences, the nominative case has to be used with the articles ο, η, το and οι, οι, τα - depending of course on the grammatical gender.

To recap, the structure is:

μου + αρέσει / αρέσουν + nominative case

Now, off to the last part. How to say “I like this activity”?

Fortunately, this is much more straightforward: To form the sentence all you need is:

The personal pronoun of choice, e.g. μου and then:

μου αρέσει + να + verb in present tense*

Let’s see some examples:

  1. Μου αρέσει να τρέχω. I like to run.

  2. Σου αρέσει να λες ιστορίες; Do you like telling stories?

  3. Του αρέσει να διαβάζει μυθιστορήματα. He likes to read novels.

  4. Δεν της αρέσει να κοιμάται πολύ αργά. She doesn’t like sleeping very late.

  5. Μας αρέσει να μαγειρεύουμε με λίγο αλάτι. We like cooking with a little salt.

  6. Σας αρέσει να κολυμπάτε; Do you like swimming?

  7. Δεν τους αρέσει να δουλεύουν την Κυριακή. They don’t like working on Sunday.

*A grammar note: να + verb in present tense is a practical way to remember it. Grammatically, it’s the continuous subjunctive mood.

The first part μου αρέσει can be used in past tense (μου άρεσε) and future tense (θα μου αρέσει).

But the second part να + verb in present tense can’t be changed.

Next Step: Say it!

Now tell me, which Greek food you like? And which you don’t?
Or, as your friend would ask: Τι σου αρέσει;

Reply in the comments below!

Did you like this article?

Get more of my best learning tips plus learning offers only for Greek language enthusiasts (with a bit of a sunshine, too) here:

Happy Greek learning,

Danae

My Greek Language Journey: Susan's story [Guest Post]

I had grown up in an all-English speaking environment, but when I went to high school and started learning French and German, I fell in love with languages.

However, I didn't much like learning them in school. For me, total immersion in the language and culture was much more exciting and a faster way to learn. 

I was determined I would learn Greek one day. It turned out to be sooner than I thought!

My Greek Language Journey: Hélène's story [Guest Post]

A couple of years ago, I was listening to songs on YouTube (yes, by now I had Internet!!!) when I stumbled upon a song by a Greek singer named Kostas Martakis.

I don't know why I clicked on it but I did.

And then on another one. And another one.

Soon I was listening to all these Greek songs by Greek singers I had never heard of but who were quite popular in their country (I would learn that later).

Of course I couldn't read the lyrics but it sounded so beautiful to my ear that I decided I HAD to learn the language!

3 Greek Grammar Mysteries (+ how to solve them once and for all)

Today’s article is about 3 common Grammar mistakes Greek learners make.

But ...we will look at them in a playful way - like a mystery game. Do you want to join?

By the end of this article you’ll be able to solve 3 Grammar mysteries and gain a new insight into your Grammar learning (a bit more mysterious? a tad more playful? Why not!)

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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