How To NOT Learn Greek In 10 Easy Steps

I have been living in Greece for 3 months now, and things are going extremely well. Except for one area. Learning Greek. In fact, I somehow now know less Greek than when I moved here! If you would like to follow in my footsteps, here is a short guide on how to NOT learn Greek in 10 easy steps.

how to not learn greek in 10 easy steps

There are several factors contributing towards my monumental lack of progress in learning Greek. And none of them have to do with me. Honestly. It's all everyone else's fault, and I won't hear another word said about it! If you are planning to move to Greece, and want to learn the language, then I strongly suggest that you avoid some, or all, of the following.

How to NOT learn Greek in 10 Easy Steps

How to NOT Learn Greek in 10 Easy Steps

1. Have a Greek girlfriend/boyfriend/partner who speaks a high level of English – If I had to attribute my stupendous inability to learn Greek to any one thing, then it would be living with a Greek girlfriend who speaks better English than I do. Whilst this is a great thing in terms of our relationship, it is certainly not conducive to my learning the language. After all, even if she was blessed with all the patience in the world, there are only so many times she can listen to me saying ‘γαρδούμπα' horribly wrongly.

2. Work online only in English – This has been brilliant in helping me to not learn Greek. My freelance work consists of writing web content in English for a variety of clients, developing this blog, and also providing a language checking service. Needless to say this, combined with working by myself in the apartment all day, acts as the equivalent of a prophylactic against learning Greek.

3. Don't own a TV – Without a TV in the apartment, I don't even hear Greek once during my working day. Not that there is usually anything on TV worth watching anyway, and I assume Greece is no exception to this?

4. Hang around with people that all speak English – With the working day over, it's time to socialise! Of course, everyone I have met so far speaks good English, so guess what? Yep, we end up talking English. Although I am starting to pick Greek words out of side conversations (does anyone know what Malaka means?), I am a long way off from being able to string a coherent sentence together.

5. Visit family that all speak English. – This is where it starts to get a bit embarrassing. When visiting the Mrs family, the fact that her nine year old nephew speaks better English than I could even dream of speaking Greek, is not a huge incentive towards learning. To heap some more embarrassment on top, even her 99 year old grandma learned two English words to say to me when we visited for her birthday a month back.

6. When asked something in Greek, answer in Spanish – During my travels, I have learned a smattering of languages, all pretty poorly. It took ages for me to stop answering Spanish people in Swedish, and now I am answering Greek people in Spanish. Suffice to say, it doesn't work!

7. Watch youtube/dvds in English – I do like to chill out and watch a film from time to time, but why would I watch an English language film in Greek? I'm watching ‘Big Trouble in Little China' as I write this (which is awesome beyond belief), but somehow, I just don't think its majestic charm would be adequately conveyed with a Greek voice dub.

8. Have no real need to learn Greek – Check above for clarification.

9. Be English – No, we are not genetically averse to learning another language. Or are we?  It's just sometimes, I wish I spoke a language that no one else did, in order to force me to stop being reason number 10…

10. Be lazy – Enough said!

By the way, did you notice how I got through this entire article without saying the phrase ‘It's all Greek to me'? Except I just said it then. DOH!!!

As always, your comments are welcome and eagerly anticipated below!

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31 thoughts on “How To NOT Learn Greek In 10 Easy Steps”

  1. Hey Dave, I’m Italian,
    I LOVE Greece, I have been there for three years only. At the beginning I didn’t speak Greek at all, but it was winter, no turists only Greeks, I was leaving as a Greek but the Language? One day, a friend of mine, she gave me ‘the key’: FIRST of all, most of the greek words are already in our vocabulary, for us it’s easier, our Language is based on Latin and Greek, but you can try to find words that u know, like COSMOPOLITAN it something related to people = in Greece COSMO means PEOPLE !!
    Or again OCTOPUS in greek they say OCTAPODI (pronunciation) or again EXIT in Greek is EXO very similar.
    SECOND step, is to get a note book where u have to write all the words and the direct contrary like PANO – KATO (Up & Donw) even though are not related to your Language like the Others, with this system you can easily memorize them.
    I learnt Greek in 6 months. After many years I’ve been back in Greece and I was convinced that my Greek Language was lost…I spoke to some PAPUS and I was speaking fluently with them.
    Greek Language is like a music!
    LOL#gotogreece #eatsuvlaki #playtzambunia

  2. When I lived in Greece I started listening to (and translating) Greek music, which I found really helpful. I also found the local radio station and had it playing every day…the repeated adverts gradually started to make sense. I was embarrassed to talk in Greek to friends whose English was as good as mine, but once they saw that I was serious about learning the language they were only too happy to help (which meant speaking in Greek until I got stuck!) I lived alone though, so I had many more situations where I had to speak Greek whether I liked it or not (trying to describe exactly where my house was to a delivery driver over the phone was interesting!!)
    And I too did the Spanish thing at first….my brain knew it had to answer in a foriegn language so it came up with the last one it had used – even if it had been 20yrs ago

    • I can only imagine how difficult it would have been giving directions over the phone! You give the impression that you are no longer in Greece. Do you still speak Greek?

      • I left Crete nearly 5yrs ago. At first I was able to keep up with my Greek, but slowly slowly I’m losing it. Sometimes it’s there in the front of my mind and takes over the English, but more often now I find I can’t remember even simple stuff (mind you, I can’t remember simple stuff in English either these days lol!)

  3. 3 months only? I’ve been living in Greece for 5 years and married to a Greek for 6 years. After a certain point, I still have a HUGE problem to get the conversation further in Greek. In fact, if it wasn’t for my in-laws, my knowledge wouldn’t go further than “malaka”, which by the way in the beginning I thought it meant something like “hello” 😀
    As you humorously put, the main reason for my failure is my husband! We communicate in English. Time to time we decide to speak a little Greek. After 10 minutes no more, we end up trying to remember who switched back to English again 😀

  4. This made me laugh. In regards to #6 I started speaking Spanish when in Moscow. It doesn’t work there either. 😉

  5. Hahaha! It can really be hard leanring a new language, so I understand! When I started to learn spanish it was the same. My boyfriend (now husband) spoke very good english. I worked only in english. And so on, and so on. And yes, it took forever to learn the language….

  6. I’m English, living in Athens for just over 5 years now. I started learning Greek when I was young (long story) so I can read and write it so well that I’m a professional Greek-to-English translator. BUT…I still have trouble speaking. I live alone and work from home, so I usually only speak about 9 words of Greek per day (when I go to the kiosk and the supermarket). My best friend is English and he has a Greek girlfriend whose English is better than his, so I totally ‘get’ those points: I have no need to speak Greek when I socialise.

    • Wow.. that’s a real interesting take on it! I think its the curse of working at home.. the lack of social interaction means I could be anywhere, and so that’s why my learning Greek suffers.

  7. Hi Dave! Love your post. I know. There are ups and downs. You are actually getting better but you just don’t know it. 😉 Since you like music, I suggest you find a Greek song you like and translate it! That really helped me in the beginning. Ta leme!

  8. If each rule was to be weighted against the others, then #4 “Hang around with people that all speak your own language” would weight a few times more than all of the rest combined. But, that was a good list.

    But if it is any consolation, I am Greek and I can pronounce Γαρδούμπα perfectly, but even I don’t know what it is. (Somewhere in the back of my mind I seem to have it filed under “avoid at all costs”.)

    • I think some people prefer to avoid it, but I actually liked it! Can’t wait for next Easter to try it again 😀

  9. I can totally relate! I lived in Germany for 3 years and didn’t learn ANY German. They all wanted to speak English, so I never really had a need to learn it.

  10. LOL Dave!

    I find myself sometimes responding in Spanish instead of Bahasa Indonesian here in Bali. I hear ya hahaha! I know a few words and phrases and if said answer is out of my bahasa wheelhouse, I start speaking Spanish. It’s strange. Although 1 staff member on the villa grounds is from Flores, with a heavy Portuguese influence.


  11. loved this! I’m rubbish at languages – and Greek seems pretty hard! I can say good morning and goodnight, but that’s it!!

    • Its really frustrating trying to even find the time to learn Greek. Guess I have to settle in a bit more here first!

  12. Very funny post. I’m betting you don’t learn any Greek beyond please, thank you, it’s delicious, and where’s the bathroom. But those are pretty useful phrases and can get you far in life! Besides, with your great attitude and relaxed approach, I’m guessing your smile does a lot of talking for you.

  13. Funny, but definitely true. I have realized the best way to learn another language is to totally avoid interaction with anyone who speaks your native language. Kind of forcing you to learn because you have no choice.

  14. LOL, I have a friend who lived in NL for about 10 years and still knew less dutch than her 6 year old son! There are some languages that just don’t come easy – and almost all english speakers are lazy!

  15. This is awesome!! Don’t feel, I’m a Greek citizen- I have a Greek passport…and I don’t speak Greek!

    I don’t live in Greece, never really have, but I’ve spent quite a bit of time there over the years. My father is Greek (hence the citizenship) and my Greek family is always perplexed that every time I return to Greece…spanning 16 years….I still don’t speak Greek!

    I lived in Amsterdam for 3 and 1/2 years and don’t speak Dutch for many of your reasons. You nailed it with the above. I’m American btw 🙂

  16. It’s a good thing that I don’t even like “γαρδούμπα”, nor is it likely to crop up in next year’s conversations 😛


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