The Greek language has a long and influential history.
In fact for English alone, the Greek language has given an estimated 150,000 words. Greece has made significant contributions to politics, philosophy and mathematics. To anyone attempting to learn the language, be aware, you are embarking upon a well trodden path.
So, now you must be wondering, how hard is Greek to learn?
The answer is that it is one of the hardest European languages to learn.
- Vocabulary – There are a significant number of loan words from English and French, but you are going to have to dedicate a lot of time to new vocabulary. There are 3 genders for nouns and 4 cases, this means that you are going to spend a lot of time memorising word endings. That being said, the building blocks for forming words are quite logical and you can pick up new words quickly.
- Grammar – The big issue with Greek grammar are that gender, case and plurality play significant part in many aspects of the Greek sentence. Be it adjectives, verbs, noun, pronouns, demonstratives and so on, all are effect. You have to always keep in mind the possible forms and change the components of the sentence to match. Many European languages have some or all of these features so you may already be familiar with such a process, but to anyone unfamiliar, it can be quite laborious.
- Speaking/Listening – There are only a few sounds in Greek we don’t encounter in English like the guttural gh and kh sounds. There are no tones and the rules are stress aren’t too complicated. Intonation really only plays a part when asking a question. All in all you won’t take too long to overcome any speaking issues.
- Writing/Reading – There are 24 letters in modern Greek, some may look familiar but you have to be careful as many can be very misleading for native English speakers. There are also double consonants and double vowels which have also to be learnt. That being said, with a couple of days of practice you should be able to sound out new words.
So, lets take a more detailed look at some of the key components of the language.
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- The reason for the Greek language’s difficulty is that it’s less closely related to English than other languages. Greek grammar has unusual features such as cases, and you need to learn a foreign alphabet with a challenging pronunciation. Let’s look at some of the features that make up Greek and see how difficult they are!
English Vocabulary Derived from Greek. This section of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com is all about learning vocabulary derived from Greek. Many English language words come from ancient Greek. In this section of Enhance My Vocabulary, you'll find many examples of Greek words and the English words derived from them.
So, how hard is Greek to learn really?
Greek, or rather modern Greek, has taken most of its vocabulary from ancient Greek. As the language evolved it took loanwords from other languages like Venetian, Turkish and Latin while adding its over variation to these words.
In more recent years, Greek has taken loan words from Macedonian, Bulgarian and Romanian but the most significant number come from English and French.
In truth, there are a large number of English loan words across a wide ranging number of vocabulary topics.
Basic English Loan Words
- Basketball – baskelbol
- Foxtrot – fokstrot
- Grapefruit – grejpfrut
- Policeman – polilsmanos
- Sandwich – sandwils
- Weekend – wikend
- Whiskey – wiski
In order to understand the grammar of a language it is necessary to deconstruct the basic sentences to observe how the language functions.
- The appleisred — Το μήλο είναι κόκκινο — to milo einai kokino — to is the neutral article, the adjective has to agree with the gender of the noun
- ItisJohn’s apple — (Αυτό) είναι το μήλο του Γιάννη — (Aftó) ínaito mílotou Yiánni — Subject pronoun isn’t necessary, the word tou is to show possession.
- IgiveJohn the apple — (Εγώ) δίνω το μήλο στον Γιάννη— (Egó) dínoto míloston Yiánni — the verb ending is conditional on gender and tense. Direct object then indirect object.
- Wegivehim the apple — (Eμείς) δίνουμε το μήλο σε αυτόν — (Emís) dínoumeto mílose aftón — clear change of verb ending
- Hegivesit to John — (Αυτός) δίνει αυτό στον Γιάννη — (Aftós) díniaftóston Yiánni
- Hedoesn’tgive itto John — (Αυτός) δεν δίνει αυτό στον Γιάννη — (Aftós) dendíniaftóston Yiánni
- Shegivesit to him — (Αυτή) δίνει αυτό σε αυτόν — (Aftí) díniaftóse aftón — he and she pronouns are different
- IgaveJohn the apple — (Εγώ) έδωσα το μήλο στον Γιάννη — (Egó) édosato míloston Yiánni — clear change of verb form for past verb
- Imustgive itto him — (Εγώ) Πρέπει να δώσω αυτό σε αυτόν — (Egó) Prépi nadóso aftóse aftón — auxilliary verb precedes the main verb
- Iwantto giveitto her — (Εγώ) θέλω να δώσω αυτό σε αυτή — (Egó) thélo nadósoaftóse aftí — want and must follow similar structure
The language deconstruction method is by no means exhaustive, but it is a good base for understanding Greek. It operates under the 80:20 Pareto principle, in that 80% of your languages needs are covered by 20% of the functional language.
- Word Order – Greek grammar has a subject-verb-object word order, however this is not fixed. Other variations are possible. That which is being emphasised usually comes first.
- Gender – Greek has three genders for the nouns. You have to learn the gender for every noun you learn.
- Cases – In Greek there are 4 cases which describe the role the noun plays in the sentence. Nominative – which is basically the subject, accusative – the direct object, genitive – which is either the indirect object or possessive, and vocative – for when specifically addressing someone. This means that word endings of nouns can change conditional on the specific case at play.
- Articles – Both indefinite and definite articles exist in Greek and they will change depending on the case and gender of the noun. In the case of definite articles, they also change for plurality. This basically means there are 9 potential indefinite articles and 18 definite articles to memorise and apply.
- Pronouns – There are subject, direct object and indirect object pronouns for 1st, 2nd and 3rd person. There are two forms of you pronouns, for informal and formal.
- Nouns – Nouns vary by gender, case and plurality. This basically means you are going to have to learn a lot of different combinations. Also bare in mind that pronouns, adjectives and articles depend on the case, gender and plurality of the noun.
- Adjectives – Adjectives are placed before the noun and are dependent on the case, gender and plurality of the noun.
- Verbs – There are two types of verb in Greek (active and stative). The ending of the verb changes depending on the subject, but the ending change combinations are different for active and stative verbs. The ending change is also different for the tense. These ending changes also have some irregular features at play for certain verbs which you would have to learn individually.
- Auxiliary verbs – The auxiliary verb goes in front of the main verb
- Be – The be verb, i·me, will change for tense and the subject.
- Have – The have verb, e·kho, similarly to be changes for tense and subject.
- Negatives – To form a negative is pretty straight forward, you just need to place δεν before the verb.
- Questions – Upward inflection at the end of a statement can make it a question. The subject and verb can also be flipped to make a question.
Greek has 26 phonemes made up of 21 consonant sounds and 5 vowel sounds. There are a few consonant sounds in Greek that we don’t encounter in English like the guttural gh and kh sounds. Greek isn’t a tonal language, however intonation is important when asking questions. In terms of stress, usually one syllable is stressed in a word but there are few different rules to learn as to which syllable.
Letter writing formal and informal examples. Formal Letter Writing: Parts of a Letter, Important Points, Format and Samples of Formal Letter Writing - Smart eNotes Jun 4, 2020 / 4:21 PM Reply person must acquire the ability to write impressive letters. Writing formal and informal letters. Understanding the difference between a formal and an informal letter. Rules for writing Informal letters: Write your full name and address even if it is an informal letter. Divide your letter in small paragraphs. Keep your writing simple. Make a good choice of words especially if you are writing an apology letter or a letter to express your condolences in case of a death. Letter of Enquiry. As the name suggests this type of letter is the source of collecting information. A letter to your friend and a cover letter for a job application are written very differently. Whether you work in business or are taking the general IELTS o.
- Consonants – m, k, j, p, n, t, l, s, b, ɡ, d, f, z, v, ɾ, ts, x, ɣ, dz, ð, θ
- Vowels – i, u, ɛ, ɔ, ɑ
Greek was originally written in a script called Linear B. It wasn’t until 750BC that the Greek Alphabet came into use. The alphabet was probably derived from the Phoenician alphabet. The most recent changes to the alphabet happened in 1982 when diacritics, small markers, used to denote stress were removed. Greek letters are often used in other languages in the fields of Science and Mathematics.
My hovercraft is full of eels – Το αερόστρωμνό μου είναι γεμάτο χέλια – To aeròstromnò mu ìne gemàto hèlia
Thered script denotes the consonant symbols and the blue script denotes the vowel symbols.
- The script is written from right to left.
- There are 24 letters in Greek.
- 17 consonants and 7 vowels.
Why Learn Greek?
Each person has their own motivation for taking on a language, but without a doubt i’d say there are three important reasons why people might learn modern Greek.
- Ancient Greek history. This corner of the world is overflowing in history and mythology. If you intend to spend anytime studying such topics then a solid foundation in Greek is going to pay dividends in the long run.
- For anyone with a passing interesting in STEAM + P. That is to say, science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics and lets not forgot philosophy. Well, in studying Greek you can take a behind the scenes perspective on the origin of a whole host of concepts and ideas.
- Culturally, Greece is just a fantastic place to visit. Take just one aspect, the food. Being able to discuss the methods of cooking, the ingredients, the secret recipes, is going to enhance your experience beyond what it otherwise would have been. Never underestimate the power of good conversation.
But, lets explore further.
Greek is an Indo-European language and part of the Hellenic branch. It is the official language of Greece, Cyprus and the European Union. It is a minority language in Albania, Armenia, Italy, Romania and the Ukraine. It is spoken by 13 million people and is regulated by The Centre for the Greek Language in Athens.
Travel, Culture, History and Economy
The country of Greece is in Southeast Europe. It has a land border with Albania to the northwest, North Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north, and Turkey to the northeast. To the east lies the Aegean Sea while the Ionian Sea is to the west, the Cretan Sea and the Mediterranean Sea are to the south of the mainland. Greece has an incredibly long coastline and the south of the coutry is dotted with many many islands. Much of the mainland of the country is mountainous.
The culture and history of Greece has evolved over thousands of years. Ancient Greek civilisation, so basically everything from science, mathematics, politics, philosophy, art and literature, has had a huge impact on much of Europe and Western Asia. A great many Greek figures from history also stand out – Aristotle, Homer, Plato, and Alexander. The modern nation state of Greece emerged in 1830.
The Greek economy is an advanced, high-income economy although in recent years this description has been tested. Nevertheless, Greece is a developed country with pretty solid standard of living and it also has a high Human Development Index ranking. Its economy is mainly made up of services with a small portion of manufacturing. The more important industries include tourism and shipping.
The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) has put together a relative comparison of world languages including Greek.
They rate Greek as a category 4 language along with languages like Persian Farsi, Hindi and Zulu. They believe it would take 44 weeks (1100 hours) to achieve a L3 proficiency in speaking and reading.
In attempting to learn anything it is best to first deconstruct the problem and then break down the learning task into manageable chunks. It is with this in mind that I recommend the following resources to help you in learning Greek.
Learn american english conversation youtube. Learn American English and much more with captioned news reports that are read at a slower speed. Learn American English Online! This free website has helped students worldwide improve English grammar and vocabulary skills since 2003. There are seven levels of instruction: blue, red, yellow, green, purple, orange, and violet. “McGraw Hill’s Conversational American English” McGraw Hill is a well-known textbook publisher, so.
- Fluent Forever or Anki – The Fluent Forever method details exactly how to use spaced repetition to quickly build functional vocabulary and learn common grammar rules.
- italki.com – Italki gives you access to very cheap video chat lesson with teachers from around the world, dive straight in.
- lang-8.com – Lang 8 allows you to input writing and have it corrected for free in a matter of hours. This community is very helpful and is a great way to practice online.
Sample of Greek
How many words derived from Greek have you used today? British Council teachers in Greece, Martha Peraki and Catherine Vougiouklaki, explain why English owes so much to the Greek language.
Antique, idol, dialogue, geography, grammar, architect, economy, encyclopaedia, telephone, microscope.. all these common English words have something in common: they're derived from Greek. To this list, we could add thousands more words, some common and others less so. Clearly, the Greek language has had an important influence on the English language. Let's take a closer look.
A very brief history of the Greek language
Greek is one of the oldest Indo-European languages and is usually divided into Ancient Greek (often thought of as a dead language) and Modern Greek.
Modern Greek is derived from Koine, a common dialect of Ancient Greek that was understood throughout the Greek-speaking world at that time. In the 19th century, Modern Greek became the official language of the Kingdom of Greece.
According to Peter T. Daniels, the Ancient Greeks were the first to use a 'true' alphabet, that is, one representing both vowels and consonants. Indeed, the word 'alphabet' is formed of the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, 'alpha' and 'beta'.
What English owes to the Greek language
The Oxford Companion to the English Language states that the 'influence of classical Greek on English has been largely indirect, through Latin and French, and largely lexical and conceptual..'.
According to one estimate, more than 150,000 words of English are derived from Greek words. These include technical and scientific terms but also more common words like those above.
Words that starts with 'ph-' are usually of Greek origin, for example: philosophy, physical, photo, phrase, philanthropy.
Many English words are formed of parts of words (morphemes) that originate from the Greek language, including the following examples:
- phobia (fear of), as in arachnophobia – the fear of spiders
- micro (small), as in microscopic – so small it's hard to see
- demos (people) as in democracy – government by the people
A great example of the influence of the Greek language are the two speeches written in English but actually consisting of only Greek words (with the exception of articles and prepositions) by the former Prime Minister Prof. Xenophon Zolotas, who was also an economist.
English expressions derived from Ancient Greek culture
Greek mythology has been very influential in Western culture, particularly its art and literature. Unsurprisingly, some common expressions in English derive from these ancient myths and beliefs.
To have an 'Achilles heel' means to have a weakness or vulnerable point. Achilles was a Greek hero and central character in Homer's epic poem, The Iliad. He was only vulnerable at his heel. Example sentence: I'm trying to eat more healthily, but chocolate is my Achilles heel.
The 'Midas touch' is another common expression deriving from Greek mythology. Describing a near-magical ability to succeed at anything one undertakes, the expression originates from a story of King Midas, who is remembered for his ability to turn everything he touched into gold. Example sentence: My brother's business is so successful, he really has the Midas touch!
An idiom which has its roots in Greek antiquity is ‘crocodile tears’. The phrase might come from the popular ancient belief that crocodiles weep while eating their victims. In fact, crocodiles do lubricate their eyes via their tear ducts, usually when their eyes start to dry out after being out of the water for a long time. Nevertheless, the behaviour is also thought to occur when crocodiles feed. It's used in English to describe expressions of sorrow that are insincere.
About the illustrator
Chris Tompkins is a print designer with a focus on book and poster design, identity creation/branding, illustration, layout and art direction. See more of his work at christompkinsdesign.com.