The Best Way to Learn Greek

the best way to learn greek

The full-proof strategy that will help you reach your learning goals in two to three months. Go from Beginner to Advanced fast, easy, and without spending a fortune on private tutors or group classes that last for entire semesters. So, here is the best way to learn Greek in a step-by-step guide.

What is the best way to learn Greek?

  1. Determine your goals
  2. Assess your level
  3. Set up a plan for your learning journey
  4. Find the right sources and materials
  5. Start by memorizing words and phrases in Greek
  6. Build a strong grammar and vocabulary foundation
  7. Read, listen, and converse in Greek
  8. Stay in touch with the language
the best way to learn greek

Determine your goals

What is the reason you want to start learning Greek? Are you starting a new job in Greece or Cyprus? Are you planning to study in a Greek speaking country or travelling there for a short period of time? Is it because you are interested in the Greek history or you have Greek roots and relatives who live there? These are some important questions you should answer yourself before setting up your plan for learning Greek or any foreign language.

It goes without saying that if you are going to work or study in Greece (in Greek), then you should aim to reach an advanced level of Greek. This will require a lot more time studying and even more time practicing by listening and speaking the language. On the contrary, when learning Greek is not time sensitive or an immediate requirement (e.g. for working in a Greek island for the summer season or fulfilling your dream of studying one semester in Athens), you might want to invest less time and/or money in learning Greek. However, in both cases, learning little by little every day, instead of trying to digest a lot of information all at once, is recommended.

Assess your level

The journey towards reaching your goal begins once you have determined where you stand with your Greek skills. Are you a complete beginner? Do you have any prior knowledge of Greek, are you of Greek origin or surrounded by Greek speakers? If yes, starting with the basics might not be very productive. However, it could be the wrong strategy if you lack key information, such as the Greek alphabet and the pronunciation of the different letter combinations. It will be hard to keep up with grammar and complex vocabulary if you are unable to write or read in Greek, although you can already engage in small conversations.

Helinika has prepared a quiz that can help you assess your Greek language level:

Set up a plan for your learning journey

Whatever your goals might be regarding your Greek language skills, setting up a clear plan is recommended. How many times per week are you going to dedicate into your learning efforts? What time of the day are you going to study and for how long? How can you practice? How can you reach your learning goals within the right time frame? Adding the time dedicated to your studies of the Greek language into your weekly planner will decrease the chances of you skipping your learning time.

Start memorizing words and phrases in Greek

When babies learn their mother tongue, they are not taught any complicated grammar. They listen to their parents and other adults talk and repeat what they hear. As a beginner, it is recommended to memorize some Greek words and phrases that you can use to engage in small talk. This will boost your confidence and interest in learning more about the language. Starting with complex grammatical rules and vocabulary might be proven discouraging for a lot of people.

 Build a strong grammar and vocabulary foundation

Once you’ve learned some basic Greek words and phrases, it is important to start studying the grammar and vocabulary. This way you can communicate freely, start creating your sentences, and avoid depending on the limited vocabulary you have memorized in the beginning. Building a strong grammar and vocabulary foundation is crucial as you progress towards an intermediate/advanced level.

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Read, listen, and converse in Greek

Memorizing words and phrases and studying the Greek grammar and vocabulary is necessary but also limiting. In order to learn Greek and be able to use it in your day-to-day life, you need to read, listen, and converse in Greek. The first two is quite easy. You can listen and read the news (e.g. HuffPost Greece, CNN Greece, ERT, and more). When it comes to conversing, if you don’t know any native Greek speakers yourself or people who learn Greek, you can join a tandem group. Tandem language learning is a method of language learning based on mutual language exchange between tandem partners. Ideally, each tandem learner is a native speaker in the language the other person wants to learn, however, it often refers to conversations between people who are in the process of learning a new language. Helinika has recently created a tandem group that you can join and meet other Greek speakers!

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Stay in touch with the language

Sometimes, people get hooked on learning a new language, they invest a lot of time and money and then, once they feel they have achieved a certain level, they abandon their new skill. However, learning a new language is not the same as learning how to cycle. You need to stay in touch with it and, if speaking is not an option, reading books and watching movies can be an entertaining way of practicing your hard-earned skills.

Why Helinika’s video courses are suitable for everyone:

It doesn’t matter what your current level and learning goals are, Helinika can offer you a solution. We offer free materials and affordable video courses for different levels.

helinika video courses

Interested in Learning Greek? Join Our Courses!

What are the Greeks celebrating on March 25?

Every year, on the 25th of March, millions of Greeks around the world meet with their families and friends to dine together. In Greece, military and student parades are held and similar parades also occur in hotspots of the Greek diaspora, such as New York. You may or may not have heard that the 25th of March is the Greek Independence Day. However, who were the oppressors of Greeks at that time? Who did they revolt against?

To begin with, it is important to highlight that, if the events surrounding this day had never occurred, the Hellenic Republic of Greece might have never existed. The 25th of March signals the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Empire that lasted between 1821 and 1830. The events changed drastically the political, social, and cultural situation in Greece and in the Balkan peninsula. They also influenced central and western Europe in various ways, including the arts, aesthetics, and even the architecture; with examples being some of the most important European capitals, like Vienna. The term “philellin” (φιλέλληνας), meaning a lover/friend of Greece, was coined at that time. But now let’s dive into the history.

The Greek Independence Day. The Concise History of The Greek Revolution

Once upon a time, 200 hundred years ago, an idea had started to flourish. An idea of a liberated Greece which would embrace the cultural and political ideas of its ancient past.

In the 18th century, affluent and well-educated Greeks who studied and lived in western Europe came into contact with the radical ideas of the European Enlightenment. Known also as the “Age of Reason”, the movement questioned the traditional ideas of that time. The Enlightenment thinkers embraced rationality and focused on scientific discoveries that could improve humanity.

“Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!”

Immanuel Kant

These ideas had yet to reach Greece or – to be more precise- the areas that we consider Greece now and the ones were, traditionally, Greek tribes used to reside (e.g. the western coastal areas of Turkey). That was because Greeks had being living under the Ottoman rule since the fall of the Byzantine capital city of Constantinople in 1453.

Greek scholars abroad, such as Adamantions Korais, were intrigued by the ideas of Enlightenment. They despised the lack of education amongst the Greek orthodox clergy at that time and the distinct influence of the Ottomans (and sometimes of the Byzantines) on the Greek culture. Their vision was that of a democratic Greece, that would recapture the glory of the Golden Age of Pericles. They were Influenced by events such as the French Revolution and they dreamt of a Greek national revolution that would liberate the Greek state with the following establishment of a proper constitution.

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These ideas, in addition to the unfortunate fates of influencers such as Rigas Feraios, soon influenced three young merchants from the Greek diaspora in Russia to found the “Friendly Society” (Φιλική Εταιρεία) in Odessa. It is worth mentioning that, within the captured lands, klephts and armatoloi, anti-Ottoman insurgents that resided in the Ottoman Empire, were, in the meantime, undermining the dominance of the Ottomans in the area.

With the help of wealthy Greek communities in Britain and the United States and the support of Western European aristocrats, such as the poet Lord Byron, who were fascinated by classical Greece, the vision turned into a plan. And the Greek War of Independence finally started in spring 1821 with the legendary general Theodoros Kolokotronis being one of the most prominent leading figures in the battles that occurred. And the rest is history.

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The Greek Revolution in detail:

Note: History is a highly controversial subject. The influence of certain ideas, such as the Enlightenment, over the Greek Revolution are not widely accepted. The same goes for some of the narratives mentioned above. Please note that the importance of the role of certain people on the Greek Revolution is debated from time to time. For any further information regarding this topic, you can refer to the linked sources.

You are pronouncing the Greek letters wrong. Here is why

wrong greek pronunciation video

Alpha, beta, gamma, delta…?

Many non-native Greek speakers tend to pronounce the letters of the Greek language in a way that is similar to the phonetic values of their own language. As a result, they find it difficult to communicate with native speakers, although they know the basics of the Greek vocabulary and grammar. Of course, they are not to blame. Many schools are teaching Greek the wrong way. Here is why:

If you are interested in learning how to pronounce Greek the right way, you can read (and listen) to our free materials:

And, of course, join our courses:

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Writing Greek on Paper

greek handwriting

Writing Greek on paper is different from typing Greek on a computer.

Although most of Helinika’s visitors have no problem typing the Greek letters, they often find it difficult to write those letters on paper. That is why we prepared a short video on our YouTube channel that you can use to mimic a common writing style for the Greek letters. It goes without saying that there are many more handwritings out there and you can develop yours with a lot of practice. Writing in a different alphabet is not easy but it is definitely worth the effort!

Interested in Learning Greek? Join Our Courses!

Writing the alphabet on paper:

Writing random Greek words on paper:

Interested in learning Greek? Watch Helinika’s Videos and Learn Greek at Home!

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The Greek Punctuation Marks | Τα Ελληνικά Σημεία Στίξης

greek punctuation mark

What is the Greek question mark? Why do the Greek quotation marks look so different?

One of the most common assumptions Greek language students have when starting their learning journey is that the Greek punctuation marks are the same as the ones used in English or other European languages. Although most punctuation marks are used in the same way, there are also many differences.

The Greek Question Mark: “?” or “;” | Το Ερωτηματικό

If you are using this question mark (?) at the end of a question in Greek, you are grammatically wrong. Most people will understand that you are asking a question, however, the correct Greek question mark is the following: ;

Yes, the Greek question mark is the English semicolon and it is used at the end of all direct questions. Many programmers, in fact, take advantage of this to prank their colleagues by replacing the semicolons in the JavaScript with Greek question marks.

Example:

«Τι κάνεις;»

“How are you?”

The Greek Semicolon | Η Άνω Τελεία

If the English semicolon is the Greek question mark, what symbol represents the Greek semicolon? The punctuation mark that is used in this case is the «άνω τελεία» or “up dot”, which is basically an interpunct: ꞏ

Example:

«Δεν είχε χρήματαꞏ ξέχασε το πορτοφόλι του.»

“He had no money; he left his wallet (at home).”

The Greek Quote Marks | Τα Ελληνικά Εισαγωγικά

As you might have already noticed from the above examples, the Greek quote marks are the same as the ones used in the French language: «»

The English quotes are used only when it is necessary to add another set of quotes in the quoted sentence.

Examples:

«Τι έκανες;», ρώτησε.

“What have you done?”, he asked.

«Τι σημαίνει “κέφι”;»

“What is ‘kefi’?”

Other Punctuation Marks | Άλλα Σημεία Στίξης

The rest of the punctuation marks, such as the full stop (.), the comma (,), the exclamation mark (!), and the suspension points (…) are the same as in English.
Here are their names in Greek:
• Full stop= Τελεία
• Comma= Κόμμα*
• Exclamation mark= Θαυμαστικό
• Suspension points= Αποσιωπητικά
*The word “comma” in English derives from this Greek word. «Κόμμα» also means “(political) party”.

If you would like to learn more about the Greek language, read our free study materials and watch our complete video courses. Learning Greek has never been easier!

Untranslatable Greek Words

greek words

Are certain Greek words untranslatable?

The Greek language, one of the oldest languages in the world, has many words and phrases with no English equivalent. We provide you with a list of untranslatable Greek words, their etymology, and meaning.

Popular Untranslatable Modern Greek Words:

Μεράκι – Meraki

There is no exact equivalent of the word “μεράκι” in English. This noun describes the love, devotion, and passion that a person displays for his/her art, craft, profession, field of study or hobby. It can also be used for day-to-day chores, such as cooking or cleaning, as long as they are completed in a ritualistic way. The word describes a part of the Greek culture that places quality over quantity and dedicating time and care in the creation of something.

μερακι

For example, let’s use tea as an example. If you sloppily dip a tea bug into a cup of hot water for a couple of seconds, you are definitely not making tea with meraki (and probably not even tea). On the other hand, if you carefully select the type of tea you fancy drinking, let it steep and brew, and if you pour it into a nice cup, stir it nicely and maybe add some other ingredients in it, then you prepared your tea with meraki.

The word actually derives from a Turkish word: “merak”. The Turkish term has a broader meaning and can often be used to describe concern, worry, but also curiosity.

Examples:

«Έχει μεράκι για την δουλειά του.»

Translation: “He has meraki for his job.”

Meaning: “He is passionate about his job.”

«Σου έφτιαξα αυτόν τον καφέ με μεράκι.»

Translation: “I made this coffee with meraki.”

Meaning: “I made this coffee with love.”

Φιλοξενία – Philoxenia

“Φιλοξενία” is an ancient Greek word that is still used today. It derives from the verb “φιλώ” (to love in ancient Greek; to kiss in modern Greek) and the noun “ξένος” (foreigner, stranger).

If you look up a Greek to English dictionary, the translation you get will probably be the term “hospitality”, which defines the relationship between a guest and a host. Although this is the most accurate translation you can get in English, “φιλοξενία” has a history that takes up way back in time.

φιλοξενία

“Φιλοξενία” was a set of rules defined by the gods, and specifically of Zeus Xenios. It describes the attitude towards people who are not part of the household, strangers or people from a different origin. The ethical obligations of “Φιλοξενία” are: a) to be offered to anyone, whatever his or her financial, political or other position is b) to respect everyone equally c) to never raise weapons against each other (the host and the visitor). The material obligations are: a) to welcome and take care of the visitor b) to offer him/her a meal c) to offer him/her a bath and/or the opportunity to sleep d) to offer him/her goodbye wishes and gifts.

Many modern Greeks live by these rules, offering food and care to their guests. Hotel guests in Greece are often surprised to find welcoming gifts, such as food baskets, which are usually charged in hotels abroad. Although “φιλοξενία” is not followed religiously by all Greeks today, it is still something that is highly associated to the Greek culture.

Example:

«H Ελλάδα φημίζεται για την φιλοξενία της.»

Translation: “Greece is well-known for its philoxenia.”

Meaning: “Greece is well-known for its hospitality and welcoming attitude.”

Κέφι – Kefi

If you ask a native speaker to describe the noun “κέφι”, he/she will probably say it is about being in a good mood. Although this is not completely wrong, having “κέφι” is more than simply having a good mood.

“Κέφι” is something that you have or you can lose. It is also something you can make, do and ruin. Is the feeling of light-heartedness, the desire to be spontaneous or the willingness to do something with your whole heart. It can describe the positive ambiance in a room, the party-spirit at a joyful event like a wedding, or simply the interest in doing something.

κεφι

The verbs used along with “κέφι”, such as “χάνω” (to lose) and “χαλάω” (to ruin/mess up), imply that the normal state for humans is to be happy and have a passionate and joyful view of life. If you lose your “κέφι”, fear not; you can also find it.

This word derives from a Turkish word, “keyif”, which has a similar if not the same meaning as in Greek.  

Examples:

«Έχασα το κέφι μου.»

Translation: “I lost my kefi.”

Meaning: “I am not in a good mood anymore.”

«Δεν έχω κέφι για δουλειά σήμερα.»

Translation: “I do not have kefi to go to work today.”

Meaning: “I am not feeling like going to work today.”

«Βρήκε το κέφι του.»

Translation: “He found his kefi.”

Meaning: “He is happy again.”

Of course, these are not the only untranslatable Greek words with no English equivalent. Do you know any Greek words you are fascinated with? Leave a comment down below.

Learn Greek: Vowels, Consonants, Digraphs, and Diphthongs

greek vowels greek consonants

The first step in your learning journey is the alphabet. Once you’ve become familiar with the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet and their individual pronunciation, it is important to learn the various letter combinations. To begin with, let’s start with the seven vowels and 17 consonants.

The Greek Vowels

There are seven vowels in the Greek language and their sounds are distinct. These are:

Αα – Άλφα

Εε – Έψιλον

Ηη – Ήτα

Ιι – Ιώτα

Οο – Όμικρον

Υυ – Ύψιλον

Ωω – Ωμέγα

There are three different letters for the “e” sound (“e” as in “hero” or “zero“): Ηη, Ιι, and Υυ.

There are two different letters for the “o” sound (“o” as in “oven” and “open”): Οο and Ωω.

Εε is pronounced similar to the “e” in “hen” or “pen”.

Αα is pronounced similar to the “a” in “parrot” and “carrot”.

Listen the entire Greek alphabet pronunciation here.

There are no separate vowels for the sounds of “i” (as in “island” or “highland”) or “u” (as in “ultra” and “utility” ). Therefore, some letter combinations are deemed necessary to pronounce words borrowed from foreign languages.

The Greek Digraphs

A digraph is a pair of characters used in the orthography of a language to write a distinct sound. The term itself derives from Greek (di= double/twice, grapho= to write).

The modern Greek digraphs are the following:
αί, εί, οί, υί, αύ, εύ, (ηύ – rare)

The Greek Dipthongs

A diphthong is a combination of two adjacent vowel sounds withing a single syllable. The term itself derives from the Greek word “δίφθογγος” (di= double/twice, phthongos= sound), however, it applies in any language that uses combinations of vowels.

The modern Greek diphthongs are:
αη, οη, αϊ/άι, οϊ/οι

The Greek Consonants

The Greek language has 17 consonants that are often mispronounced by non-native speakers. Here are the consonants of the Greek language:


Ββ – Βήτα
Γγ – Γάμα
Δδ – Δέλτα
Ζζ – Ζήτα
Θθ – Θήτα
Κκ – Κάππα
Λλ – Λάμδα
Μμ – Μι
Νν – Νι
Ξξ – Ξι
Ππ – Πι
Ρρ – Ρο
Σς – Σίγμα
Ττ – Ταφ
Φφ – Φι
Χχ – Χι
Ψψ – Ψι

The Greek consonants are separated between:

• Labials, which are formed with the lips (e.g. “Ππ”).
• Dentals, which are formed with the tongue and teeth (e.g. “Ττ”).
• Palatals, which are formed with the tongue and palate (e.g. “Κκ”).

Double Consonants in Greek

There are certain consonant sounds that are not represented by a single letter in th Greek alphabet, such as “Bb” or “Dd”. As a general rule of thumb, the words that require these phonetic sounds derive from other languages, usually Turkish, English, and French (e.g. “μπαχτσές”).

These are: μπ, ντ, γκ/γγ, τζ, τσ.

Μπ is pronounced similar to Bb (as in “Black”, “Back”, and “Band”).

Ντ is pronounced similar to Dd (as in “Disc”, “Dusk”, and “Duck”).

Γκ or Γγ is pronounced similar to Gg (as in “Gallon” and “Gulf”).

Τζ is pronounced similar to Jj (as in “James” and “Joy”).

Τσ is pronounced similar to Ch (as in “Choice” and “Challenge”).

Note:


It is important to highlight that all Greek vowels and consonants have a distinct and clear sound, similar to Spanish and Portuguese. There are no “hidden” sounds when reading a word aloud. This is why, contrary to popular belief, Greek can be one of the easiest languages to pronounce!


Would you like to challenge yourself and become an avid speaker of the Greek language? We know you can – join our video courses, where we delve into details, and learn Greek like a native!

Exercice: Try to pronounce the following words correctly. Listen to the audio and repeat after.

greek pronunciation exercice

For more exercices and additional help/guidance from Helinika’s team, join our video courses!

February 9: International Greek Language Day

November 9 was declared in 2017 as the international Greek language day. After years of efforts, the initiative to dedicate a day in the calendar year to one of the oldest spoken languages in the world suceeded.

The aim of the initiative was to promote the Greek language and remind the members of the Greek diaspora and everyone who is fascinated by the Greek history and culture, to keep the language alive by speaking it and teaching it to the next generations.

Helinika’s goal is to help everyone access free study materials and affordable Greek language courses online. Keep updated by following our Facebook page.

The Greek Alphabet

Introduction to the letters of the Greek alphabet. Learn how to read and write in Greek.

You’ve seen them in trigonometry, in physics, and probably in chemistry. Or you might have noticed them over the entrances of fraternities and sororities in many American Universities. The symbols look so familiar to the ones in the Latin alphabet but, at the same time, they are so different.

The letters of the Greek alphabet are indeed very popular. However, they are often mispronounced and used incorrectly. Here, you will learn how to properly write and pronounce them. This should be your first step in your learning journey. The alphabet is the A and Ω of every language.

Facts about the Greek alphabet:

  1. The Greek Alphabet derives from the Phoenician alphabet.
  2. It has been used since the late eighth century BC.
  3. The Greek alphabet consists of 24 letters – from Α to Ω.
  4. Each symbol has its own name (e.g. the name of the letter “A” is “Alpha” or “Άλφα”)
  5. The English term “alphabet” is a combination of the first two letters of the Greek alphabet (“Alpha” and “Beta”).

The Greek alphabet letters and symbols:

greek-letters

The names of the Greek alphabet

greek-alphabet-names

Pronouncing the Greek letters

One of the biggest mistakes that people who study modern Greek make is pronouncing the Greek alphabet according to the Erasmian pronunciation. Many schools in the West are using alternative pronunciations of ancient Greek that change the phonetic values of the letters. The aim is to imitate the phonological system of the student’s native language, hence making ancient Greek easier to pronounce. As a result, many non-native speakers assume that modern Greek uses the same alternative pronunciations. The reality is that the Greek letters are pronounced in this way: