Day 7: Greek to The End

Greek Day 7

Yesterday was my last day of Greek Week! It’s a fun language with a nifty (and not too intimidating) alphabet. I have really enjoyed this week, even if I am still in the very early stages of learning. I can introduce myself, ask some simple quesitons and respond (“What languages do you speak?” “I speak ~”) be polite, count to 10, and slooooowly sound out my way through a sign (even if I have no idea what it means). I also now know what Greek sounds like, which is a large step in and of itself. Also, interestingly, the Greek words that absolutely won’t leave my mind are “good morning” Καλημέρα (Kalimera) and “good evening” καλησπέρα (Kalispera). I don’t know why  except they’re fun to say and kind of rhyme. But even when I’m not actively studying Greek, those phrases will pop into my head.

I want to do another Greek Week in the future where I can expand what I already know. At this point, though, I plan to tread water for a bit. I will add a little bit of Greek to my language routine to not lose everything I’ve learned – Drops and re-listening to Pimsleur and the Learning Greek: A Modern Odyssey podcast.

My Goal

My goal for my final day was to learn how to talk about jobs. Teach Yourself did NOT have any information that I could find about this (more about my disappointment with Teach Yourself below) so I had to seek out different resources. Luckily, Learn Greek with Lina had a video about professions and Greek Boston had a helpful post as well. So I studied “What do you do?,” “I am,” “He/she is,” “you are,” “doctor,” “lawyer,” “nurse,” “teacher,” and “engineer.” I had already learned “I am” and “you are” before, but I included them anyway because they were part of my target sentences for the day.

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Days 5 & 6: Greek to the Max

Greek Day 5 & 6

Last night I went to bed early and failed to post. Doing so must have jinxed me, since there was a power outage at 2 a.m. which woke me up because the bedroom became so hot (all our fans and our air conditioner of course shut off). It is so strange to notice how much ambient light there is at night with electricity (our neighbor’s porch lights, the charging light on our roomba, etc.) and how dark it gets without it.

My Goal

My goal on Day 5 was to learn numbers 1-10 and on Day 6 to say those polite essentials of “sorry,” “excuse me,” “please,” “good morning,” “how are you?,” I am well,” and “thank you.”

How I Studied 

Alphabet – More Drops (I’m really loving it for Greek so far), and practicing writing each letter of the alphabet five times, checking that I’m using the correct stroke order by looking at Foundalis’ page on Greek handwriting that I talked about on Day 2.

Pimsleur  – I listened to Lessons 4 & 5 of Pimsleur. I really loved the first three lessons because they focused on very useful, high-frequency words like “yes,” “no,” and “I don’t understand.” Unfortunately in Lesson 4 they transition into asking for directions which they always do in Pimsleur and I always hate in every single language. I’m bad at following street directions in English. And unless the person I’m talking to understands that my asking “Where is Victory Street?” is a cry for help and they take mercy on me and kindly walk with me to Victory Street, I’m in trouble. I wouldn’t know enough Greek to understand their response on how to get anywhere. Lesson 5 at least got away from directions, but it’s the part of Pimsleur that focuses on making dinner plans. I have found in other languages, and here in Greek, that they end up speaking too fast for my comprehension. “I would like to eat something,” sounds like a jumble to me when learning a new language. I think I won’t get beyond Lesson 5 this week, because I need to re-listen to it several times to feel like I’m actually able to form that sentence.

Teach Yourself – I re-listened to the three dialogues from chapter 1 and chapter 2, and listened to the audio for numbers 1-10. – Forvo is a great website for hearing how words are pronounced. I often use Google translate for the convenience, but it uses a bot voice, which has its limitations. Forvo has real people record words and phrases. It was especially helpful for words like “sorry,” which were NOT in Teach Yourself.

What I Learned

-Greek numbers are great and very similar to Latin (and therefore Romance language) numbers, which is thought to be because they are both Indo-European languages with a common origin. For example, one is ένα (ena) like uno/un, two is δύο (thio) like duo/dos/deux, three is τρία (tria) like tres/trois, etc. Of course, not every number is as close. Seven, for instance εφτά (efta) is a bit distant from septem/sept/siete

-Four in Greek is τέσσερα (tessera) which reminded me of the Tesseract (yes, from the Marvel movies). Of course, that’s because the word “tesseract” is based on the Greek number. The word tesseract (which, when it is not referring to a Marvel MacGuffin, refers to a fourth-dimensional cube) was named for the Greek τέσσερεις ἀκτίνες (téssereis aktines, “four rays”) by Charles Howard Hinton in 1888 (thank you, Wikipedia).

Day 3: Get Your Greek On

Greek Day 3

One thing I love about learning a new language is being exposed to music from another country. Spotify makes it so easy to find music from all over the world. This year I’ve been making playlists for the languages I’m learning and use it as a reward. I can only listen to those playlists while I’m studying the related language. My Greek Study playlist already has nearly 20 songs that I love.

My Goal

Today my goal was to continue practicing the alphabet and learn how to say “What languages do you speak?,” “I speak English and Greek,” “I’m American,” and “Now I live in America.”

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Day 2: Greek It Up

Greek in a Week 2

Sometimes when I study a language I’m excited about everything I can learn. And sometimes I feel overwhelmingly intimidated by HOW MUCH there is to learn. When I start to look into the abyss of vocabulary and grammar, I walk myself back by concentrating on what I am learning today.

My Goal

I watched some Super Easy Greek videos to pump myself up and instead intimidated myself. So I re-focused on my goals for Greek today. And those goals are to get a better handle on the alphabet and study “Yes, “No,” “Where are you from?” and “I’m from America.”

How I Studied Today

Reviewing is key to language study. All the language bloggers and Youtubers agree on that. And it makes sense – unless you are a savant, you aren’t going to pick up everything in one go.

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Day 1: It’s All Greek to Me

Greek Day 1

Preparing for this project, I realized that I had no idea how Greek sounded. I am sure that I have heard Modern Greek spoken before, if only when I watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding. But I couldn’t pick it out of a language line up. I listened to a few Youtube videos, and it sounds to my very untrained ear like Italian mixed with Russian. I am sure that is wildly inaccurate.

My Goal

My goal for today was to start learning the alphabet and get comfortable saying “Hello,” “Goodbye,” “What’s your name?” and “My name is…” The essential building blocks for a new language.

My Resources

All my resources for Greek this week are free, either because they are naturally no cost or because I was able to get them from my local library. The textbook I’m using is a 2010 copy of Teach Yourself Greek (a new, revamped version apparently came out this year) from the library and also the short course Pimsleur from the library (short courses only have the first 8 lessons out of the 30 lessons available in the first level). My naturally free Greek resources are Duolingo, Language Transfer (a Michel Thomas-type audio program where a student learns the lessons along with you), Learn Greek with Lina and Super Easy Greek.

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New Project: Greek in a Week

Greek in a Week-1

I’ve been spending 2020 brushing up on languages that I’ve studied before. I thought I’d give myself a treat and do what I love to do most: dabble in a new language. Greek is a language that I’ve wanted to study for a few years, for the sole reason that I want to one day travel to the Greek islands. I have humble ambitions when it comes to Greek. When I go, I want to be able to know the alphabet so I can puzzle through the signs and to have enough survival Greek that I can order food and have the most basic of conversations.

So what am I looking to do in a week? My blog clearly shows that I’m no language prodigy – I’m not going to be fluent in Greek by the end of the week or even able to make much in the way of conversation. My goals for the end of the week is: know the alphabet and be able to give a very brief introduction that consists of my name, my occupation, my nationality, my country, and the same information about my family.

And why a week? I wanted to give a week to this project not just because it rhymes but also because I have learned that my attention is short and I tend to fizzle out about week 2 or 3. A week is the perfect amount of time to stay excited.



Swedish 2019: Day 16 – In which I adjust how I study

Swedish 2019 Day 16

I’ve been adjusting how I’ve been studying with Swedishpod101. Since I don’t enjoy listening to the full podcast, I’ve been using the website to listen to the dialogue and take advantage of the slowed-down vocabulary words. Then I skim through the grammar explanation and cultural insight sections, which I find I like a lot more when I can read them and not listen to them (it helps that I can read faster than the hosts talk). Then when I walk around I just listen to the dialogues of the lessons I’ve studied (and sometimes the “review” section as well, which is the vocabulary words read in Swedish with a pause for you to say the English, then in English with a pause for you to say the word in Swedish).

I’ve also stopped writing out the dialogues by hand, since I found myself avoiding it because it was so time consuming. Instead, I have created a table of all the new words from the dialogue, with a translation and a pronunciation guide. Below is a sample:

…eller? right? correct? eller
Det stämmer That’s right/correct Day stemmer
Flickvän Girlfriend Fleeck-ven
Alltså So, therefore, consequently All-zo

Doing it in Word also lets me copy/paste helpful explanations. For example “som” appears frequently in the dialogues but is never explained. Transparent Language’s helpful blog post, reveals that it’s a word that means “that,” “which,” or “who” and connects sentences together (what is known as a “relative pronoun”). Instead of copying out the reference by hand, I can just plug it into my document. In general I like having language notebooks and writing things out by hand (even with my cramped and badly shaped handwriting), but it’s likely I will stick with Word for the rest of the month.



Swedish 2019: Day 14 – In which I complain a bit

Swedish 2019 Day 14

I have a confession: I don’t really like listening to Swedishpod101. I find myself putting of listening to it during my walks because of how much I hate the stilted chatter that comes off as scripted as an Emmy presenter’s banter and the overly technical grammar explanations. In general, for podcasts I either click with the hosts or I don’t. And that is the single biggest determining factor whether I like the podcast. Pre-2018 Chinesepod is my gold standard of language podcasts. The hosts have natural, easy chemistry, the explanations are clear and easy-to-follow, and the dialogues are level-appropriate. The Coffeebreak series also has pleasant, appealing hosts with natural banter, and it’s another language podcast I enjoy.

The way Swedishpod101 is set up, the dialogue is repeated three times (natural speed, slow speed, & natural speed followed by the English translation), then a “cultural insight” is given, which is sometimes interesting and sometimes not, then a vocabulary review and then a “grammar point” which is not always actually a grammar point (for example, in Lesson 11, which is about the weather, the “grammar point” is discussing how to count from 10-19). I wish that instead of this, they would break down the sentence line by line and go over the grammar and new vocabulary in each line. Chinesepod does this and it is so helpful. In Swedishpod101, sometimes new vocabulary is never actually addressed. For example, in Lesson 2, one of the sentences is “Jag bor i en tvåa med min tjej” which means “I live in a two bedroom flat with my girlfriend.” The phrase “Jag bor i” (“I live in”) is in the vocabulary section, but “tjej” and “tvåa” are not,  even though this is the first time these words are introduced. From the English translation, I can certainly figure out what they mean (just like I could figure out what Jag bor i means), but I don’t understand why they are not in the vocabulary section. A little googling clarifies that tvåa is an apartment with one kitchen and two rooms, and a tjej can mean “young woman” or “girlfriend.” These bring up interesting cultural as well as linguistic points that could be addressed organically in discussing the dialogue, if every single lesson wasn’t shoe-horned into a strict formula.

Because each lesson only deals with a specific grammar point and set vocabulary, complicated dialogues become even more confusing. In Lesson 11, the weather lesson, the sentences involve both past and future tense, but those tenses have never been taught. If each sentence was broken down, then the hosts could explain “this is the past tense, this is how it is used, and this is the future tense, we will talk about this more in Lesson X.” Instead, new tenses and vocabulary words are sprinkled in randomly then studiously ignored.

For students of Swedish who are self directed and like puzzling things out for themselves, such dialogues and lessons can be a blessing – every single part of the sentence is not spoon-fed to the listener, so it gives the student an opportunity to explore for themselves if they wish. Or, for those who need a little more direction, a Swedish tutor (maybe on iTalki) who you can go over and practice the dialogues with would be ideal. They could explain the grammar and vocabulary and help breakdown the sentences. I am not using a Swedish tutor this month, so I’m breaking down the sentences myself with the help of my friend Google. Unfortunately, this means that Swedishpod101 is moving away from something that I can do while walking around, and is more something that I have to make sure I have a pen, paper, and my computer handy to do. Being forced to engage with the material this way does help me “own” it more, but I prefer to have an option that I can engage in during my dead time, where I can fit in language study no matter how busy my day.

Despite my complaints, I’m still glad Swedishpod101 exists. For languages with fewer resources, anything with a bank of audio recordings is a blessing.