"I can't remember any bloody Greek words"

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altohb
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Greek tenses

Postby altohb » Fri Feb 08, 2008 8:54 pm

Yes. I can work out in my head exactly what I want to say, and it sounds good to me.

Then........I open my mouth and I go into panic mode and it all turns to rubbish.


What a relief - I was beginning to think it was only me! I have all kinds of conversation scenarios in my head, but as soon as someone else speaks they disappear! Even the simplest thing is beyond me, sometimes - it is so frustrating, when you know what you should be saying, and it just won't come out of your mouth. We have several, very helpful, Greek friends who keep saying "you must speak Greek", but the minute they start answering our simple, polite enquiries we are lost. At least they are all willing to help us, and we have a lot of encouragement, rather than people taking the mick, as happens all too often to non-English speakers in the UK.

Just keep on thinking of all that complicated grammar, and I'm sure it will be fine in the end - if we don't end up in the nut house first!

H

Carolina
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Postby Carolina » Fri Feb 08, 2008 10:28 pm

OK here's the funny thing ... I speak Greek fluently but I don't undertsand a word of what Warwick is going on about.

The thing is that 'fluent' and 'grammatically correct' are two different things. I still make plenty of (mostly small and sometimes silly - I know I'm doing it) grammatical errors when I speak. But I can bla bla bla about whatever I want. This from about year five or six so it's not just because I've been here for decades! Yes I had an advantage - a Greek husband, but actually speaking rather than studying makes all the difference in fluency.

To press that point, I started Greek lessons again (I did all the basic grammar at the very beginning) about 13 years into living here. I felt that I had got to the point where I was no longer progressing - fluent but not learning new vocabulary and still making some awkward grammar mistakes.

Well! After a month of lessons I could hardly speak Greek anymore! I was so busy trying to work it out in my head (is that the correct stem for the past punctual, aorist, maoist, and that starts with ... or wait a minute is what I'm trying to say past durative, dural, what?! - so I need ... help help help) that I couldn't get anything out. I'd start to say something and then go through the procedure of checking and correcting myself before I spoke, then I'd stumble over my words.

Really the very best advice I can give all you Greek learners is to do lots of conversational classes and practice speaking instead of hours of grammar. Get your teachers to chat with you for an hour and ask them not to worry about your mistakes until later .. you'll soon get used to communicating more freely - and that should be the first goal - communicating in Greek.

koutouloufari residents
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Postby koutouloufari residents » Fri Feb 08, 2008 11:01 pm

Carolina I was thinking exactly the same as you. I class myself as all but fluent in the language but all that grammar talk confused me. The best thing is to be thrown into it like I was!!! I lived in my ex husbands village and there were no other foreigners so it was a case of learn Greek or go without!! I learnt a lot of my Greek when the children were at Dimotiko, helping them with their homework etc. I speak with a very broad Cretan accent!! which the residents of the village where we live now find very amusing!! Good luck to all of you learning the language.....I'm sure you'll all get there.

Retired in Crete

Postby Retired in Crete » Sat Feb 09, 2008 12:03 am

Carolina wrote:Really the very best advice I can give all you Greek learners is to do lots of conversational classes and practice speaking instead of hours of grammar.


In my experience conversational classes are hard to find.

We went to the EU funded lessons which seemed to concentrate on the alphabet and reading and writing Greek. The result of that is that I can read Greek perfectly - but often have no idea what it means.

We went to a private language school in the hope of more conversation but it was similar because, I suspect, they cannot give you conversational homework.

I have probably learnt more Greek from our local bakery than from lessons! Some while back they announced that as we had been here for a while we should be speaking Greek and that they would only serve us in future if we spoke Greek. Now, every day, I get grilled as to what we have been doing and where we have been etc. When I don't know a particular word they will tell it to me and they remember to include it in the next days conversation.

Worth their weight in bread, our local bakery!

John

filippos
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Postby filippos » Sat Feb 09, 2008 12:21 am

Our Greek teacher is great. he is actually a teacher in a dimotiko and has infinite patience. He comes to our house and chats but what is really good is that he has studied ancient Greek, too, and can explain where certain word come from e.g. "The root is from the old Greek etc., etc." He also knows a huge amount about Cretan culture and language so we frequently get things like, "This is correct Greek but in Cretan dialect it is ....." We also get lessons in Greek and Cretan culture which are very helpful.

Unfortunately, like Warwick, "Δεν θυμάμαι τις λεξέις" so I'm completely snookered. I also die when speaking (or trying to) our teacher as I'm very conscious of trying to get things right. If I'm in a shop, say, I just burble on regardless and usually make myself understood, perhaps with a little 'finger-painting' in the air, a bit of pantomime and a lot of laughing at myself.
Some useful phrases I've learned:-

"I'm old and can't remember the words." This usually gets the satisfying response, "Δεν είσαι γέρος ......"
"Speak to me as you would to a baby ...." One woman promptly tickled me under the chi and started the Greek equivalent of, "Couchie, couchie, coo .... "

I suspect, like everyone else, I occasionally get something right. The unfortunate response is the assumption that I'm fluent in Greek and an incomprehensible stream of words, at machine gun rate, goes right over my head.

latsida

Postby latsida » Sat Feb 09, 2008 11:23 am

For good conversation try downloading podcasts from www.hau.gr they also offer other services even exams!!!. :) Podcasts are free and you can also download a transcript of the conversations :P

Carolina
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Postby Carolina » Sat Feb 09, 2008 6:45 pm

Retired in Crete wrote:In my experience conversational classes are hard to find.

John


Maybe on a course, but those who have private lessons can ask the teacher to do more conversational lessons ... and no stopping to ask complicated grammar questions, do that at the end of lesson. People like your baker are the best people to learn from - everyone should have their own Greek mentor!

Filippos it's no good dieing when your teacher asks you to speak!

Fluent means able to 'express oneself readily; flowing effortlessly' - it doesn't mean that you don't make mistakes - I do!! Don't worry about mistakes - I'm sure I still wouldn't be speaking Greek after 20 years if I worried about the mistakes I made.

You could also try getting a high school student to do conversational lessons with you - maybe a friend or a neighbour's son or daughter - they'd probably appreciate the extra pocket money, and the laugh .. :wink:

koutouloufari residents wrote:I speak with a very broad Cretan accent!! which the residents of the village where we live now find very amusing!!


When I had my first Greek lessons in the UK my teacher was Cypriot but I didn't pick up on his accent back then. I try to speak Greek not Cretan but don't always succeed... like it's so much easier to say oiy or oshi than ochi !

filippos
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Postby filippos » Sat Feb 09, 2008 7:41 pm

Carolina wrote:Filippos it's no good dieing when your teacher asks you to speak! ......... Don't worry about mistakes
I only do it with the teacher, perhaps simply because he's the teacher. Anywhere else, shops, telephone, dentist's waiting room I just carry on regardless, warts an' all. 'Er Indoors will tell you practically everyone in Kalyves area knows me on the basis, "He speaks to everybody." I am getting better with teacher, too.

koutouloufari residents
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Postby koutouloufari residents » Sat Feb 09, 2008 9:35 pm

Carolina Cretan just comes automatically now!!! I don't think I've ever spoken proper Greek!!!! LOL!!

Kilkis
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Postby Kilkis » Sun Feb 10, 2008 1:59 pm

I think different people learn best in different ways. Also the different methods each have their advantages and disadvantages.

An analogy, which isn't perfect but goes some way to highlighting the differences. When I was young we were taught to read phonetically. We learned the sounds that each letter of the alphabet made and then learned to string those sounds together into syllables and then into words. The main disadvantage of this method is that initial progress is slow and painful. The reading is very stilted and difficult to understand. The advantage is that you can apply it to any word even if you have never seen it before. Some years later schools introduced a method using flash cards. This has the advantage that you learn complete words and say them exactly as you already do. Initial progress is very fast and the reading is quite natural and easy to understand. The disadvantage is that you can only read words that you have already learnt. I see learning Greek by learning the grammar similar to the first method and learning it by immersion as similar to the second.

I trained as a physicist and I think like a physicist. I find it relatively easy to learn relationships and to see patterns in collections of things. I find it very difficult to learn unrelated facts. Hence I find the grammar relatively easy. I can see the patterns in the way the words are structured to convey different meanings and I can then apply those patterns to other words to construct different sentences which are grammatically correct. Don't get me wrong. I am not pretending to be good at it. It is still a slow and laborious process but it is a process that I understand. Where I struggle is with vocabulary. There is no relationship which will lead me to the conclusion that a small furry animal that you keep as a pet and walk on a lead is called a dog in English and ο σκύλος in Greek. When you think of the number of words we use every day that becomes a pretty daunting thought.

I considered trying to explain further what I wrote earlier for the benefit of those that didn't understand it but they do say when you are in a hole stop digging.

Warwick

Eleni13
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Learning Greek

Postby Eleni13 » Mon Feb 11, 2008 11:36 am

I recognise myself in all of these comments except Caroline's.
The truth is, as with learning any language, native speakers are just delighted when you make the effort to say anything at all in their language.

You do have to be prepared to be laughed at, though. I remember a Greek friend in fits of giggles after I said that a villa was 'stuffed' when I meant 'full'.

I see that as my function in life now - to make Manolis laugh.

altohb
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Postby altohb » Mon Feb 11, 2008 2:10 pm

I seem to make quite a lot of Greeks laugh, especially when I can't remember what I'm supposed to be saying! They are VERY patient with us. The man who sells agricultural supplies laughs at and with us a lot, but we end up with the right stuff for our olive trees, so that's what matters, and it is fun as well.

Carolina
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Postby Carolina » Mon Feb 11, 2008 7:51 pm

I think your analogy is off base Warwick. You are implying that learning by immersion means that you cannot apply what you learn.
As you hear something repeated over and over again it eventually becomes clear. The more advanced you get the more you can pick out different verb conjugations, tenses etc and decipher their meaning and patterns. You hear things said a few times and start recognising the pattern, then you work out (or ask - this is also a learning process!) how they are used and before you know it you are using them yourself naturally in conversation. Just because you don’t have a textbook in front of you doesn’t mean that you don’t learn to apply the grammatical patterns, or question word roots and formations.


On a general note, I am not saying that starting out learning at least the basics of the grammar in order to construct correct sentences is not important – it is. But concentrating heavily on grammar at the expense of conversation makes it hard for learners to understand the spoken word and to speak Greek, while surely that is the main objective?

P.S. my least favourite Greek word - μνημόσυνο. Say it out loud a couple of times and then try to say it again without reading it a few minutes later.

Nita
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Postby Nita » Tue Feb 12, 2008 6:52 am

Carolina wrote:As you hear something repeated over and over again it eventually becomes clear.... You hear things said a few times and start recognising the pattern, then you work out (or ask - this is also a learning process!) how they are used and before you know it you are using them yourself naturally in conversation.


I've learnt more Greek this way and continue to do so. Greek lessons have been very helpful in providing a base, but if I were to try to learn solely from lessons, say if I was still living in the UK, I would find it hopeless and would have given up in despair a long time ago. I still make many grammatical mistakes when I'm speaking but, and this must be the most important thing, I am understood, and normally after being corrected - or hearing it said correctly - a few times I get it right.

My biggest problem still is the speed at which the Greeks speak (for that matter my Greek friends cannot understand me if I speak English too fast), but with time it is getting easier.

latsida

Postby latsida » Tue Feb 12, 2008 12:16 pm

My daughter has a friend who she met at University who can speak many languages.She is a lecturer at a Welsh university and one of the requirements was to be fluent in the language so she learnt it in just a couple of weeks.Have done some research into why some people can pick up languages so easily and the experts say for those people it is like hearing a song, a melody even, which is then remembered.I am sure if she came here she would be conversing with the locals in just a few days. 8) [/u]


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