How I started my Greek language journey

Greek Language Journey Maya

When I decided to move to Greece with my Greek partner, now more than 20 years ago, I was looking forward to putting all my knowledge of Greek words and grammar into practice! My desire to speak Greek fluently and to be able to communicate with Greeks would finally become reality!

Contrary to what many people think, a Greek husband or partner is usually not a magic bullet when it comes to learning Greek! Phrases such as “agapi mou”, “s’agapo”, “ti kaneis”, “kernao ego” and “pame gia poto”, are quickly mastered, but from the moment the conversations are more extended, usually English becomes the common language again.

Now came the moment to change it all!

My Greek adventure had begun.  And as usual, such an adventure in Greece begins with a visit to your future Greek in-laws! They were very enthusiastic; hugs kisses, lots of delicious dishes, all sorts of hand gestures, but beyond the questions “τι κάνεις?” (How are you?) and “Σου αρέσει η Ελλάδα?” (Do you like Greece?) I could not answer.

My parents-in-law only speak Greek and, fortunately for me, they belong to the generation that did not learn English at school! Also at the local butcher or bakery I could only communicate in Greek, so I quickly realized there was no other way to just try to form sentences with all the vocabulary I had been learning for years.

This way, slowly slowly (siga-siga), I made my first steps into speaking the language. Along the way my Greek friends, in-laws and teacher corrected me, I learned new words from the baker, the butcher and my mother-in-law, and discovered that the grammar and spelling made more sense than I had initially thought…

My Greek progressed every day: when I could not express myself, I heard a reassuring “siga-siga” (take your time..) , when I made a sentence which was understandable but not grammatically correct, my mother in law would say “etsi ki’etsi”(more or less) and with a perfect sentence she shouted “po-po” (wow)!

Everyday language 

The daily use of a language is very different from what is usually taught in textbooks. If you want to become close to “speaking like a native”, you need to use everyday expressions, which makes a language so much more fun and lively.

For example, when I had a tiring day having to deal with the Greek bureaucracy to get my papers in order, I could not hide my anger and feelings of frustration. After making remarks such as “den boro alo” (I’ve had enough of it) or even stronger “den andecho alo” (I can not stand it anymore), my father-in-law would answer reassuringly:

Δεν πειράζει! / Den birazi! (It doesn’t matter)
Τι να κάνουμε! / Ti na kanoume! (We can’t help it! What can we do about it!)
Έτσι είναι η ζωή! / Etsi eine i zoi! (That’s life!)

Or another time I got the following answer:

Τι να κάνουμε! / Ti na kanoume! (What can we do about it!)
Δεν πειράζει! / Den birazi! (It does not matter)/It doesn’t matter
Υγεία να υπάρχει! / Igia na iparchi! (Good health is the most important thing!)

It became clear that these four expressions could be used in any order, even all four together! It sounds not only “super Greek” but it is also “real Greek”! 
Even now, after living more than 20 years in Athens, they still belong to my daily vocabulary.  And to be honest, I’ve realized that good health is indeed the most important thing!

A fluent Greek speaker

So all those experiences, along with many blunders and daily conversations led to what I am now: a fluent Greek speaker.

Maybe you also have been learning Greek for some years, but you have the feeling you will never be able to become fluent and need a boost? You do not have a Greek mother-in-law to help you, but you would love to have lessons as if you were in a Greek family environment?

This is one of the reasons why we, Maya and Dimtiris, founded the Omilo Greek Language and Culture School. At Omilo you can enroll for an intensive Greek language course, at various locations in Greece, where “learning to speak” is at the forefront and exploring the Greek culture is always on the programme. All this, with a family feel!

I wish you good luck with your Greek language journey. Καλή επιτυχία!

Greek & Greeklish Translation
Αγάπη μου, “Agapi mou” My darling (same form for female and male)
Σ’ άγαπώ, “‘S’agapo” I love you
Κερνάω εγώ, “Κernaο ego”  I (will) pay, I (would like to) treat you/it’s my treat
Πάμε για ποτό; “Pame gia poto?” Are we going for a drink ? Shall we go for a drink?
Τι κάνεις, “Ti kanis?” How are you?
Σου αρέσει η Ελλάδα; “Sou aresei i Ellada?” Do you like Greece?
Έτσι κι έτσι, “Etsi ki etsi” so-so, more or less
Σιγά – σιγά, “siga siga” slowly-slowly, gradually
Πω – πω !, “po-po” Wow!
Δεν μπορώ άλλο! “Den boro alo” I’ve had enough of this
Δεν αντέχω άλλο! “Den antecho alo” I cannot stand it anymore/I can’t take it anymore
Δεν πειράζει! “Den birazi” It does not matter/ It  doesn’t matter
Τι να κάνουμε! “Ti na kanoume” There is nothing to be done about it
Υγεία να υπάρχει! “Igia na iparchi” Good health is the most important thing!
Έτσι είναι η ζωή! “Etsi ine i zoi” That’s life!
Καλή επιτυχία! “Kali epitichia” Good luck / success