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
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.
And if you’re ready to start speaking more Greek, here some helpful ideas:
Study with focused, bite-sized tasks and use recordings for your speaking homework.
And if you want to take your speaking practice further, check out Greek Recorder, a 3 - week online speaking program where you talk about a topic that interests you and receive personalized feedback. See more details here.
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Happy Greek speaking,