When I moved to Greece in 2012, I imagined I would be fluent in Greek within a year. I’m not sure why I thought that was possible, but this dream has proved to be one of life’s big disappointments. It’s been four years, and my Greek continues to be appalling. This is not for a lack of honest effort. I’ve attended almost every Greek school in Athens, I’ve had private tutors, I’ve read books, I’ve watched cartoons, I’ve tried nearly everything. It seems, in the end, I am not good at foreign languages—a devastating realization. But the one thing that is helping me turn the corner was the day YouTube decided I should learn Greek.
It began simply enough. I am a big fan of Monsieur Minimal and while I was writing my book, I would listen to his new album in the background on YouTube. Until one day, the album ended, I forgot to press replay, and YouTube decided what I would listen to next: 9 μήνες.
9 μήνες is a Greek soap opera based mainly in Cyprus. I’m not sure why YouTube decided to link a Greek musician to a Cypriot soap opera, but the Universe has its own method… 🙂 It took me about 30 minutes to notice I wasn’t listening to music, but when I realized what I was listening to, I was immediately sucked in. And so it began. Each day I would listen to more.
For the first 20 episodes, I couldn’t really understand what they were saying, but it didn’t matter. The show is so dramatic, you can speak no Greek and generally follow along. A girl is crying, she keeps patting her stomach, she takes a pregnancy test and then a sonogram, hmmm..she must be pregnant. And so I learned: είμαι έγκυος (I’m pregnant).
I’m now at episode 72 and I’ve learned a fascinating array of words and phrases:
Η Δάφνη κινδυνεύει: Daphne is in danger!
Με απειλείς;: Are you threatening me?
Θα φρικάρω!: I will freak out!
Πρέπει να μιλήσουμε για τη συμπεριφορά σου χθες το βράδυ: We must talk about your behavior last night.
Βαρέθηκα με τις υποσχέσεις σου: I am bored with your promises.
And many, many more…
My current system is to listen to one episode per day, over and over and over. It’s thrilling and inspiring as I never know what relevant vocabulary will be presented in each new show. It’s really the combination of Google Translate and 9 μήνες that makes it work. The soap opera is totally repetitive so I hear the same words over and over. And Google Translate has auto correct so Ι write what I think Ι heard, Google Translate corrects me and gives me the meaning. Genius.
So for all of you out there who are struggling to learn Greek, try it–9 μήνες. I swear it works. 🙂
I’m including below a quick summary of four of the language schools I’ve attended while in Athens.
The Athens Centre: Located in Mets, this was my first language school in Athens and is a great choice if you want smaller class sizes (2-10 people) and a sort of traditional old-world feel to your school experience. And if you can get Roza Perakis as a teacher, she is amazing.
Hellenic American Union: Located in Kolonaki, this is a very structured, modern school experience. Class size varies, and there are ongoing tests throughout the semester to track your progress. This is a great choice if you have specific language goals or if you are targeting the official proficiency tests.
Lexi-Logos: Located in Monastiraki, this is a very flexible school and is ideal if you travel a lot or have trouble keeping with an ongoing set class schedule. Plus I always loved going to the middle of Ermou Street for classes.
Apostoli: Located in Neos Kosmos, this school was different than all the rest. It was a very diverse experience and the teacher, Yiannis, led us through fascinating discussions about the nature of anger and other psychological topics. The good news is the school is free. The less good news is it runs only from Oct-May each year.