vocabulary

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. 


Eager to chat more in Greek with like-minded peers? Join here our small and friendly Facebook community, just for Greek language enthusiasts.


Recommended for you:

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.

What Type Of Greek Learner Are You?

One of the most common questions I get asked as a teacher is “how am I going to remember this word??” Fear not! This post will show you how to learn effectively the new vocabulary with simple techniques you can integrate in your learning type -and hopefully, will make you smile too.

Vocabulary might seem especially hard to grasp, even intimidating with all the new alphabet you need to learn and with all the work you need to do to remember it, no matter your level.

So, let’s find out: What type of Greek learner are you? And how can you use this information to learn Greek best?

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?