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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:

Good wines and keep your eyes fourteen? 7 funny idioms and why to use them (PART 1)

Have you ever tried to translate an idiom from your native language to someone?

The translation sounds surreal, doesn’t it? Yet, you use this idiom very often in your native language without even noticing how strange it might be.

Today, I’m going to show you 7 common idioms we use in Greek. You’re going to learn their meaning, where and how to use it. You're going to hear them to. (Click on the audio at the end of this post).

If you’re already convinced about their importance and you’re curious to learn them immediately, feel free to skip this part and read below.

If you want to learn a bit more about why and how it’s great to use expressions and idioms in language learning, the next few paragraphs might interest you.

It's true we usually don’t even notice expressions and idioms when we speak our native language; this is the reason why they are so important if you want to sound more natural as a learner.

Why does this happen? Well, imagine you’re talking to your friend, describing your day; You won’t simply go from one event to the next or use all words literally - like a robot. Of course not.

Language express so much more than plain, actual facts and we’re creative enough to use multiple meanings in one word or sentence.

When we learn a language however, the first vocabulary is indeed the basic one, which helps us talk about basic needs and wants.

As we progress in the language learning, it is common to wonder about many expressions and idioms native speakers use.

It is also common to learn these expressions from our friends or by overhearing conversations on the street (I’ve learned a great deal of French expressions in France that way and you can read about it here) but it is uncommon to read about them in a course book  - even though they appear so often in everyday conversations.

So let’s see these 7 idioms, shall we?

1. Καλά κρασιά!

What does it mean?

The sentence literally means “good wines” ; καλά is the adjective and κρασιά is the noun κρασί, in plural. Note that there’s no article used with this idiom.

The translation could be “yeah whatever” or “good luck with that”.

Where & How to Use It

We say καλά κρασιά when we want to express our disappointment or frustration about cancellations, delays and things that just went wrong.

Also when someone replies in a completely nonsensical way to our question.

You can use this idiom in an informal context, when you talk to a friend or relative. Avoid using it when you’re replying to people you don’t know, since it might sound sarcastic.

[...] NO BUSES, AGAIN!

[...] NO BUSES, AGAIN!

2. Σιγά τα λάχανα!

What does it mean?

Literally, it means “slowly the cabbage”. Makes absolutely no sense, right? Σιγά is an adverb and it means slowly or softly and τα λάχανα is, as you guessed, the cabbage in plural.

In English is like saying “Big deal!”.

Where & How to Use It

We say σιγά τα λάχανα sarcastically, when we think whatever the other person says is below our expectations or we think it’s not as exciting and important as they think.

This idiom is again used in an informal context. (And even then, it’s better to use it about someone who’s not present!)
 

3. Να ‘χεις τα μάτια σου δεκατέσσερα

What does it mean?

“To have your eyes fourteen” is an idiom used by so many Greek mamas out there (mine included!) Να έχεις (‘χεις) means to have or you should have, τα μάτια means the eyes and δεκατέσσερα is, as you know, the number 14.

This idiom means be very careful, be alert.

Where & How to Use It

Since there is a verb here, έχω, it means we can use it according to the person we refer to. We tend to use it in the subjunctive however, keeping “να” at the beginning.

It’s not offensive to anyone; it’s rather one of those things you’d say to your teenager, when they’re going out with their friends (and it will definitely make their eyes roll - not multiply).

You can even warn a friend of yours about something you think is dangerous.

4. Οι τοίχοι έχουν αυτιά

What does it mean?

It means that the walls have ears. 

Yes, it actually means that someone might overhear what you’re saying so you should better be careful when you're gossiping about your cousin at the family dinner (...)

Where & How to Use It

When someone is, well, gossiping! You don’t want others think you’re gossiping too but... you are somehow curious to know what happened next so…

Obviously you need to use it at a very low voice... 

Speak lower about your cousin, walls have ears!

Speak lower about your cousin, walls have ears!

5. Πληρώνω τα μαλλιά της κεφαλής μου

What does it mean?

Literally, it means I paid (all) the hair of my head.

Πληρώνω, you probably know already it means I pay, τα μαλλιά is the hair (in plural; it also has a different use than τρίχα, which is one single hair and can be used for animals too) της κεφαλής μου means of my head.

(Note: της κεφαλής is an older form of the word το κεφάλι. Της κεφαλής is genitive and comes from η κεφαλή, which is feminine. In modern Greek, use το κεφάλι for the actual head and η κεφαλή for the person in charge, the leader).

In English it's like saying "It costs me an arm and a leg".

Where & How to Use It

We say πληρώνω τα μαλλιά της κεφαλής μου in exasperation, when we think that we paid waaay too much for something. You can use it to almost any situation, even when you complain to the person who sold you this nice jacket - with a hole in it?!? (Good for you!)

This idiom has a verb as well, so depending on who you refer to and what kind of tense you want to use, the verb will change.

6. Πέφτω από τα σύννεφα

What does it mean?

It literally means I fall from the clouds. Ouch. Πέφτω means I fall, από means from and τα σύννεφα means the clouds.

Doesn’t look nice to fall from the clouds, does it? It actually means I’m very surprised, even shocked about something or someone’s actions.

Where & How to Use It

This idiom can be used anywhere. It just expresses a big shock or surprise - negatively.

Again, depending on the person and tense, change the verb. Πέφτω or simple past έπεσα are the two most common tenses.

7. Σκάει γάιδαρο.

What does it mean?

This idiom means (He/ she / it) σκάει, bursts γάιδαρο, a donkey. Greeks love donkeys and donkeys love Greeks, this is why we have so many.

Okay maybe not true, but Greeks think of donkeys as extremely patient animals so it’s difficult to make them angry.

Whoever makes a donkey angry, is a truly annoying person; thus this idiom!

Where & How to Use It

When you think someone is extremely and annoyingly persistent - or plain annoying. While you can say this idiom over an argument with the said annoying person, it is only used informally.

A verb again. Σκάει or the second person σκας are the forms you usually need to use.

Click below to listen to the idioms:

Have you ever heard of these idioms? Try and include them in a sentence below - I’d love to see what you came up with!


Ready to Express your Greek?

 

Read more from my blog:

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?


Recommended for you:

Learning Greek One Step At A Time: #1 Vocabulary  

Welcome to the three step series on where to focus when you’re learning Greek. Today I’m going to show you Step 1: what to consider when it comes to vocabulary learning.

10 Words You Should Know When You Visit Greece This Summer

You know the feeling when you visit a country where 1. You don’t speak the language 2. You can’t read anything?

This is why I write this post today. To help you feel at ease in your first (or next) trip to Greece. After all, it’s summertime. Greece is beautiful. The equation is simple: go to Greece! And grab these 10 words to practice before you go and once you’re there. Ready?