Let’s start with a puzzle: which language has the longest history of written records in the Western world? Did you guess it? It’s Greek! The oldest written evidence of the Greek language dates to between 1450 and 1350 BC. Greek is the language of Homer, of the great philosophers who influenced the western thought, of Herodotus – the first historian -, of the great dramatists who shaped theater and inspired the world of art.
Although their Greek is not the Greek that is spoken in Greece today, the language has not changed that dramatically; it is the change one would expect to happen through the centuries — and there have been many centuries between now and then!
It is estimated that English has borrowed around 100,000 words from Greek, which makes up about 12% of the English vocabulary.This Greek is used mainly in science and philosophy, but there is also the perspective that every English word has come from Greek — as Mr. Portokalos from my Big Fat Greek Wedding argues.
Seriously though, what are the reasons to learn Greek? Well, here are just some of them:
But why should you learn it if you visit for just ten days or a month? Because you want to be a true traveler, not just a tourist, and you want to enjoy what your travels offer you. You do not want to spend your time traveling for these ten days and continue to be a foreigner in a foreign land; you want to savor everything that land has to offer. And to do that, you need to speak to the heart of its inhabitants; and to speak to their heart, you need to speak their language. It’s not me who says that — it’s Nelson Mandela. Learn a few words, learn the basics, and you will have the key.
Is Greek a difficult language? Well, yes, but it’s not over-complicated. You already know the basic vocabulary , believe it or not. Besides, if you learn it, German and Russian will be a piece of cake: since you will have understood grammatical intricacies and slight differences in use, you will be able to pick up many other languages. The spelling seems a bit complicated, but this is the price you pay for an old language. You will notice though, that the irregularities are much fewer than the regularities.
After a while, you will stop saying “It’s all Greek to me!” By the way, have you ever wondered how the Greeks say “It’s all Greek to me”? Obviously, they cannot say that! They say “It’s all Chinese to me!”
Where to start? First off, you need a strong motivation. You need a strong motivation even when you need to shed those extra pounds — so this is no news! Then, you need to break up your goal into small, doable tasks — little rocks that you will build upon to surpass the mountain, the difficulties of learning the language. Lastly, you need a big dream, like attending an ancient tragedy in one of the oldest theaters in the world. Epidaurus was built with amazing acoustics where one can hear a pin drop on stage. This, coupled with the lush landscape behind it, a full moon, a light breeze and the song of cicadas is synonymous to bliss.
If theaters are not your strong suit, are you maybe interested in literature, history, archaeology…? Two poets have been awarded the Nobel prize in the 20th century and many others are world famous: Have you ever heard of the poem “Ithaka” by C. P. Cavafy? If no, please read it, I’m sure it will reveal big truths to you! And if you are like me who believes that something is always lost in translation, here is your chance to prove it.
Are you still unsure about learning Greek? I hope not! Check out our Greek course to learn Greek the Mango way, the easiest and most fun way!