3 - Learning Tips

Why learning vocabulary through authentic texts transforms your learning - plus 10 Greek blogs to follow and enjoy

Imagine you’re sitting in your living room, a course book at hand, your pen and your notebook on the other.

Tomorrow’s lesson is approaching, but today you just don’t feel like repeating vocabulary that still finds a way to slip your mind.  

You sigh.

You daydream of a sunny day in your favourite place in Greece and you tell yourself to push some more; after all, who knows, you might actually need these words from your course book Unit.

Another sigh.

You just want to feel the satisfaction of using what you know in a nice discussion with your Greek friends.

I get it.

Taking the leap.

Many years ago, I spent a summer learning French on my own.

I had learned French as a child and now I was somewhere around the “dreaded” pre-Intermediate / Intermediate level, where basic things were too easy, even boring, but authentic texts or the radio seemed to me so scary and incomprehensible.

You see, I was about to spend one year in France. I was eager and as motivated as can be to finish the heavy grammar book, fill in as many activities I could, note down every single word I didn’t know - and learn them. All.

While I was in France, I started a French class for International students. The idea was the same; to fill out the grammar activities, to note down, repeat and learn the vocabulary from the texts I had to read in my course book.

This time, it didn’t work. I decided to drop the class.

I went ahead and enrolled in literature and history courses for French students (and, naturally, aimed to savour every moment I’d spend in my favourite country).

Was I out of my mind for diving so deep into the language?

A bit, since I failed one of the literature classes badly and this had an impact on my grades at the end of the semester.

But looking back at it - it’s been 15 years since that time - here’s what I wanted to share with you:

I still remember the absolute miracle of realizing I could understand the assigned novel (the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) and what’s more, enjoying my read and being able to talk about it. In French!

What I felt was not just joy, but happiness.

Sure, I failed to write a proper essay. Sure, it took me a very, very long time to finish that novel.

But the fact that I could recall some great new words and actually talk about a whole book that previously seemed an intimidating task for my level, this was something I never forgot.

Now -  back to you:

Do you feel happiness when you learn Greek?

Do you feel you study with things and material you love?

Do you feel interested in what you read and eager to use the new words in your next conversation with a Greek or do you often yawn or even get stressed right in the middle of an exercise you feel like you “should” finish?

I’m not to say that you should ditch your course book. Of course not.

But since you’re here today, it means that you anticipate the moment where you understand what Greeks read, say or listen to.

The moment you talk with them about things that matter to you and find common topics to talk about.

The moment you make connections.

It’s true, you might feel like I did, intimidated by authentic texts (newspaper, magazines, blogs, fiction and non-fiction reads).

Maybe your perfectionism shouts at you : “Hey, you’ve been learning for (insert the number that applies to you) years now and you can’t even understand 30% of what you read!”

Maybe you glimpse at such a read and you feel afraid that you’ll lose your motivation, that next time you’ll look away, completely disheartened.

I understand how not understanding everything might be terrifying and off putting.

But, eventually, so is repeating over and over, condemning yourself not to move past your struggles.

And so is not being a bit adventurous and playful about your learning.

So, go ahead and take the leap:

  • Explore a new book a page at a time.

  • Listen to lyrics you think you’ll understand after playing the song again and again.

  • Follow a Greek blog and read an interesting article (more on this, in a minute!).

Because alongside your course book and dictionary, there is a whole world of language and culture awaiting for you.

And if studying Greek feels something like “I should finish all the Units in the book” (which sounds a bit like a chore) I’d like to shake things up a bit for you.

Are you ready?

Below you’ll find some popular Greek blogs ( and a few online newspapers/magazines).

There are 10 different themes:

  1. Travel

  2. Nutrition & Recipes

  3. History Facts

  4. Books

  5. Music & Concerts

  6. Sports

  7. Politics

  8. Greek language

  9. Nature & Environment

  10. Healthy living

Here’s what to do:

  • Click on the one that interests you the most. Find an article that you’d like to read

  • Pick a length that feels right for you (1 paragraph, 3 paragraphs or the whole thing)

  • Then, use this magic little Chrome extension, which is called Readlang. Readlang replaces nicely a dictionary when you read online. (In case you don’t use a Chrome browser, skip this section and read below).

How Readlang works:

  • You add it on Chrome.

  • You sign up for a free account (there is a paid version but here I show you how to use the free version).

  • You start by opening a webpage.

  • Then you highlight words (unlimited number) or sentences (10 per day) which you can later use as flashcards, too!

Here you can find tutorials about the extension. And below there’s a short tutorial (5 minutes) I made specifically for the Greek learners, to show you how to use it with a Greek text:

The blog post used in this tutorial is written by Maria Kofou and you can find it here: Δύο ημέρες στη Μπολόνια - Enjoy!

If Chrome is not the browser you use, then Google Translate will probably do the trick, but not just as nicely since there are often many mistakes.

Now, remember, this exercise is all about finding what you really enjoy reading and talking about.

Even with Readlang (or another translation tool), don’t tell yourself you should understand everything. You have the right not to.

What to do next?

After reading, comes the talking! Here’s how to make sure you don’t stop yourself at the reading part. It’s well worth it, believe me:

  1. Record yourself talking about your opinion and your thoughts about what you’ve just read (1-3 minutes)

  2. Note down any extra words you realized you needed to know when you did the recording (using Readlang or another translation tool)

  3. Record yourself again using your notes if needed. The second time gives you a sense of progress, as you immediately use what you just learned. What do you think? How was it?

  4. Share with me and other like-minded Greek language enthusiasts your experience in our small and friendly community. I can’t wait to hear all about it and give you some more ideas. (optional, but highly recommended!)

  5. Speak more Greek: Greek Recorder is my speaking & feedback service where you use supporting vocabulary + phrases, your recordings and my feedback to speak some more Greek and see yourself improve day by day!


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

I’m all for hidden gems.

Little coffee shops, bookshops in tiny, colourful 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, we often assume we need a map. A map with a well-thought route. To get there, we often think there is only one way, otherwise it’s easy to get lost.

You see the problem here, don’t you?

Every time I found a hidden gem - a bookshop, a beach, a coffee shop in a small πλατεία far from crowds and noise - it wasn’t because I followed the same route.

It was because I was 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 and tells you  “no, 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 Greek café happily chatting. 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 want 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 gem/tiny bookshop/secret beach (and spoils all the fun), we convince ourselves that there’s no other way around it: in order to improve our speaking, we must speak with a Greek.

But it makes me a bit sad thinking that all other skills in language are gifted with creative ways of practicing them - but not poor speaking. Which is, usually, the skill most of us want to practice and use as soon as possible.

We can write on our textbook or even journal in Greek whenever we want, read an article in Greek if we feel like it, pick a song we like or watch a TV show ...but how can we speak daily?

So, we’re left with fill in the blank activities, yes or no answers, reading and writing texts and an overall disorientation, which leads us far from our destination (the hidden gem of speaking).

What if we could do things a bit differently? What if we could take another, not so obvious way and be a bit brave and adventurous about it? What if we could actually say out loud those new expressions we’ve learned, the new vocabulary we studied, the couple of new phrases we’ve noted down?

What if we could imitate speaking to someone?

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

It’s so simple, really.

You basically record yourself speaking the language.

I’ve tried it too with English and a bit with Dutch and 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 article. 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 our learning, consistency is key. Recordings are no exception and we need to use them a few times to include them in our way of studying.

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

Now, don’t think I’m talking about a rigid schedule here. I’m by no means a strict schedule person when it comes to enjoying a language (some people might enjoy the strict study schedule, I don’t).

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 have the advantage of actually monitoring your progress.

#2 Self-confidence

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

I bet you’ll find it miraculous how on recording no1 you stumbled on this and that expression but recording no10 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 made with my recordings - and I don’t want you to make too - was that I just started talking about whatever came to my mind, without a plan.

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 in one sitting.

#4 Realistic expectations

Imagine if I were downtown, looking for the aforementioned little coffee shop. Would I expect to find the secret beach with the emerald waters? Of course not. Even hidden gems have their limitations.

But 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 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. Use a certain number of words or expressions. Take advantage of the time you have in front of the recorder to say what you want to say without interruptions and with no one listening.

#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 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.

So go ahead and record yourself today.

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 why not try these ideas:

  • Sign up for my Free Email Course. You’ll use bite-sized tasks to complete your own speaking project + you’ll be able to receive free feedback from me!

  • Book your spot to Greek Recorder: This is a short but mighty speaking & feedback service to help you talk about a topic you’re interested in. You use supporting vocabulary, weekly recordings and meaningful feedback from me. Choose between 1-Week option or 3-Weeks option (with the option to renew). Curious to see how it works? Read more here.


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The Miracle of A Slow Learning Process: How Accepting Slow Helps You Progress Faster

Julia started learning Greek about a year ago.

It was “love at first sight”: she loved the musicality of the language, the expressive gestures people made when they spoke, the openness of the people she met.

Julia couldn’t wait to chat in Greek. To indulge in the sounds and expressions she had learned. To have a nice, warm conversation with a friendly person.

“Next trip”, she told herself “I’ll be chatting in Greek”.

But words wouldn’t come so easy. They seemed to get tangled in her tongue.

Julia felt that every time she was trying to start a chat with a local, her own brain sabotaged her.

Why couldn’t she keep up with the conversation’s pace? Why couldn’t she reply fast enough?

“It’s impossible” she thought.

Nothing she did was helping her to speak the way she dreamed.

She found herself fed up with grammar.

She blamed herself for not having a good memory to remember enough vocabulary. “After all, I’m not a school girl anymore”, she thought.

She felt discouraged. And often, ready to give up.

Why, oh why was this so hard?

Wish I could learn faster

Have you ever wished you could learn faster and then blamed yourself for taking so much time to speak Greek?

When I was learning Spanish, many years ago, I took an intensive course. 3 times a week, 3 hours each.

(I wanted to learn Spanish fast, that’s for sure.)

I loved Spanish and I still do. The sounds, the rhythm, the similar expressions to Greek and of course the people and the beautiful country. Maravilloso!

I expected to speak “fluently” within 6 months. I bought books, a new notebook, a shiny dictionary. I never missed a class and religiously did my homework.

What happened instead is, halfway down the road, I quit.

There are many reasons why I did that (the lack of a specific goal is one) but the frustrating feeling of not speaking as “fluently” as I wanted, as quickly as I wanted, was something I could not accept.

I was absolutely not OK with a slow process. The expectation of “fluency in 6 months” had ultimately cut my wings.

But, as much as I wished to “get there” faster, the process itself seemed to have a timer of its own.

And no matter how much I pushed, having a meaningful conversation with the locals wasn’t something that needed pushing.

In hindsight, not accepting a slow learning process means that:

1. We start having negative feelings towards the lesson, the language, the teacher

2. These feelings prohibit us from keep progressing

3. Sadly, we quit.

It’s not laziness and it’s not a race either

Like Julia with Greek and like my impatient self with Spanish, we sentence ourselves to a race.

Learning Greek can be love at first sight, yes, but as in real life this love might blind us. So much so, that expectations can be as high as getting married after the first date.

Can’t happen.

This is what we don’t realize:

  • A slow process doesn’t mean lazy, never studying between lessons or never keeping yourself on schedule (then miraculously expecting to speak).

  • Slow doesn’t mean lacking consistency, therefore taking months to progress over a single thing (then blaming yourself for not being as intelligent as others).

  • Slow doesn’t even mean focusing very hard on the aspect of the language that is irrelevant to your goal (for example grammar instead of practicing speaking).

On the contrary.

It means realizing it’s a process that needs its time, like a journey from place A to place B.

And in this journey, there are many things involved: motivation, effort, persistence, consistency, focus but also failure, mistakes, embarrassment - and you still need to move forward.

Above all, slow means permission: Give permission to yourself to learn step by step, every day, even if your steps are tiny.

What happens when you accept slow?

The fact that most of us live in a culture that appreciates fast and easy learning over slow and meaningful is something that you might have experienced too.

But do we realize what this idea is doing to us?

It turns us into competitors of our own self.

It creates unreachable expectations.

It fills us with sadness when we can’t enjoy the process anymore, the one we started in the first place out of pure enjoyment, enthusiasm and a mysterious, deep connection with the language we loved (and the country, and its people…).

So, what happens when we accept slow?

What happens when instead of putting on our fancy running shoes, we choose our most comfortable, the ones that allow us to walk miles while looking around and enjoying the view:

Overwhelm turns into anticipation.

Disappointment into acceptance.

And frustration into fulfillment.

It seems to me after all, that when we learn a language, we are not either fast or slow learners. It’s a completely different idea:

When we realize and accept how slow the whole learning process is, when we embrace it, this is when progress happens.

It is a miracle, isn’t it?


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2 Things To Remember Next Time You Make A Language Error

What do you think when you make errors in Greek?

“I’m so stupid”.

“Jeez. I’m like a baby”.

“People will think I’m an imbecile, I mean, look at me, I sounded so unintelligible!”

Ouch.

Yet, many of us think this way about ourselves when we learn a language and make errors.
So, what's a learner to do?

3 Strategies To Learn A Different Script [Guest Post]

Whether you come from a Latin based script or from a completely different to Greek script such as Arabic or Chinese, this post is for you!

I've asked Elena Gabrielli, who is an Italian teacher & an avid learner of languages, to share her tips about learning a different script. Having studied an entirely different script, she knows what she's talking about.

The Best Way To Learn Greek

Have you ever got a simple question and for a moment you thought you could just give a simple answer, only to immediately discover there were tens of details you need to cover?

Yeah, today’s question is one of those questions. You bet my answer is one of those answers too. (Brace yourself for a very detailed, information-packed blog post! )

Here’s to you, dear reader. If you‘re in love with the Greek language and want to learn the “know hows” of learning it, I’m going to walk you through the process in this very post.