As far as I can remember, I have always loved languages and knowing about different cultures.
When I was young, a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, back when Internet didn't exist in the comfort of our homes, I had pen pals from all over the world.
We would write to each other in English because they didn't speak French, my native language, and I didn't speak German or Arabic which was theirs.
So I would spend afternoons writing letters with my dictionary, asking my parents how to say something from time to time.
A few years later, I went on to study languages which I liked a lot. Spanish, German, English and even a bit of Italian.
I also studied Cantonese with a private teacher because I wanted to understand Hong Kong movies which I loved at the time. I ended up stopping my lessons when my teacher moved and it became too far for me to go each week.
Life got in the way and I stopped learning languages altogether but I missed it.
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!
I started searching the web frenetically for a Greek teacher in Montreal thinking it was going to be easy but it turned out to be very difficult to find resources like books or courses to learn the language here.
I was lucky to meet Anna, a girl from Athens who was studying here at the university and who was willing to teach me 1-2 hours every week.
I will always remember our first class when she taught me the αλφάβητο (alphabet).
I thought I would never be able to learn it!
How could I train my mouth to pronounce "n" when I saw "ν" or "r" when I saw "ρ" ?
I am glad I stuck with it though because I only half believed Anna when she told me not to worry, that it would become second nature. But she was right of course and soon enough we were talking about everyone's best friend, the αόριστος (the aorist, a verb tense).
That is not to say that Greek is easy!
I remember one evening in particular when I was so discouraged that I cried, thinking I would never be able to write an essay or have a decent conversation... I really wanted to throw my books away and never look back!
I have had my fair share of ups and downs but I have to admit that my proudest moment came when I won a challenge I participated in.
The goal of the Add1Challenge is to have a 15 minute conversation with a native speaker after 90 days.
It really pushed me out of my comfort zone to say the least.
I had to speak to people I didn't know in a language I was a real beginner at. And I was supposed to have a conversation after only 3 months!
I thought there was no way I could manage to do that but I did and not only did I do it but I also won the challenge!!!
As a result, I went to Greece to practice my newly gained skills and it was amazing! It took time and dedication, that is for sure but like in everything, success doesn't happen overnight.
I am grateful for the wonderful teachers, tutors and language partners I have had in the past and continue to have.
Each in their own way contributed to my "success". I have met many wonderful people through my Greek language journey.
I have learned and continue to learn every day so much more than a language!
Nelson Mandela once said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
I found it to be especially true in this case.
"Μια μέρα μοναχά. Ας ήσουνα ξανά. Η θάλασσα στα μάτια μου μπροστά."
Hélène Lavoie comes from Montréal, Canada.
What can I say about myself... Mmm that I love animals and that I spend too much time dreaming? That if I were rich, I’d be a student forever? That I can’t live without music or my vegan souvlakia?
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