Friday, October 15, 2010

Still learning Greek



I'm embracing today's 10-hour bus ride to Athens as a chance to become master of the language, and jack off none (well, that would be inappropriate behaviour on a bus).

After the embarrassment of getting around in Italy with just a weather-beaten print-out to remind me of key phrases - and to be honest, cruising by on little more than ci, buongiorno and grazie - I was determined to put more effort into learning the language during my visit to Greece, with help from Pimsleur's Modern Greek Short Course which I sort of stole...

Did you know you can rent audio language courses from the library free of charge? At least that's the case with Edinburgh City Libraries. I thought about taking out their entire collection before I left and ripping the CDs to steal some free learning, but figured they would be onto me. So I just stole some Greek.

Sadly, mental mental images aren't as useful for learning individual words and phrases as they are for numbers, so instead I've come up with some word associations to help me remember the basics. Only time - and the confused expressions of Greek shopkeepers - will tell if I succeed.


Greek phrases


Note: These are phonetic spellings according to how I hear them on the language course, and should not be taken as standard English spellings of Greek. I apologise for not stealing a textbook too. You want the moon on a stick.


1. Hello, you Greeks

sereday - hello (remembered as 'sunny day!' - will also help me give off an artificial/exaggerated air of happiness)

aglioses - goodbye ('ugly asses!' - a cheeky farewell)

ne/ochi - yes/no (I don't have a system for remembering these, apart from them sounding like they're the wrong way round, i.e. 'no' and 'okay')

kirier/kiria - sir/madam ('career' - as usual the male title refers to all men, while kiria will usually be a more mature or professional lady, hence the career…)

vespinich - miss ('veg spinach' - I actually associate this one with someone I know, who is a vegetarian and qualifies as a miss. That not good enough for you? Find your own young female vegetarian!)


2. How's it hanging?

A good thing about Greek is it assumes the subject of the sentence, so most of the time you don't have to state whether it's 'you' or 'I.' And verbs can be turned into questions just by making your voice go up at the end of the sentence? Like the way Australians speak? All the time?

di kanade - how are you? ('di Canadians?' - A Rastafarian man wondering where all the Canadians are)

eesta gala - are you well? (…because I haven't seen you since the Easter gala)

gala - [I am] well (I'm so well, I'm throwing a gala in my honour!)

boli gala - [I am] very well (seriously, a bloody gala!!!)

ochi boli gala - [I am] not very well (no bloody gala here; I feel like shit)


3. Help me, I'm lost and confused

sivnomi - excuse me (remembered as 'you know me' - as if you're old friends and they will be only too happy to impart information. This also helps me to mentally break the ice before opening a conversation, by pretending I'm not imposing)

efilisto - thank you ('hey, Philistine!' - you didn't even bother to learn how to say thank you? You barbarian!)


4. I can't speak your language, but bless me for trying

cadalavenede - [you] understand ('cattle' - I remember this much and the rest just stampedes out on its own)

cadalaveno / ven cadalaveno - [I] understand / [I] don't understand (I see a Venn diagram of understanding, with concentric circles of 'I understand' and 'I don't understand')

liho - a little ('Lil' Leo' - a micro-lion that lives in the overlapping centre of the Venn diagram, i.e. cadalaveno liho - I understand a little)

aglika - English ('Anglican' - Thomas Becket stabbed to death in Canterbury Cathedral in the traditional English way)

elinika - Greek [language] ('& Lineker' - a packet of Walkers Salt and Lineker crisps emblazoned with Gary Lineker's beaming face)


That's what I gleaned from disc one of eight. Hopefully, my brain will be swimming in a sea of ridiculous wordplay by the time I arrive in the City of the Violet Crown, and I can accurately proclaim cadalaveno liho elinika.

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait until I have to try to learn whatever the locals speak where I'm going. I've been told it will make no sense to me at all.

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