Too much vocabulary!

By MARINETA PAPAHIMONA*

When I start my beginners Modern Greek class, I feel my students’ panic for the language class and their inner dialogues. – My God! Too much vocabulary! And different pronunciation..!

There are sparkling moments in your life, which mark your career: teachers, books, friends, theater, family, college. I was lucky enough that I had around me great, ordinary people (teachers, professors, friends, family) full of energy and imagination, full of knowledge, responsible, fighters of life, not afraid to expose themselves, laughing at their own mistakes. All this experience helped me in education, married life, friendship, work, writing together with my friend Dimitra (Mimika) the series of books Ellinika Tora, 1+1 and 2+2.

When I start my beginners Modern Greek class, I feel my students’ panic for the language class and their inner dialogues. – My God! Too much vocabulary! And different pronunciation..! – Nouns don’t have one article the, and genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. I’m Kostas (ο Κώστας) as a bakery (ο φούρνος) and my girl friend η (η φίλη) as a salad (η σαλάτα) and the child to (το παιδί) as a table (το τραπέζι)… – The verbs! You hear an ending and you must understand whom it is referring to in order to answer correctly… the moment all these sound to me as new vocabulary… She speaks too loudly and all her mouth muscle moves up down, up and down… I have to smile not to have thick sounds; smiling chocolate… Now she teaches the endings of the verbs and she is moving her hands like a rap… – And when she says “Glad to meet you she shakes my hand very strongly! – Oh and …she says that the Greeks don’t say Oh, but A! Because they open their hearts. Why do most of them call them Ela (Έλα)? And now… she says it means come..! And when I said, “Ι understand nothing ” she said that I spoke like the Philosopher Socrates who knew a lot and he was wise… Are they logical? She says this is a Greek word (λογική) and when I speak English I use many Greek words… Language is culture and culture is language …is life.

Yiannis Ritsos said in a poem (translation by Edmund Keeley):

Το Νόημα της Απλότητας

Η κάθε λέξη είναι μια έξοδος
για μια συνάντηση, πολλές φορές ματαιωμένη
και τότε είναι μια λέξη αληθινή, σαν επιμένει στη συνάντηση

The Meaning of Simplicity

Every word is a doorway
to a meeting, one often cancelled
and that’s when a word is true: When it insists

* Marinetta Papahimona has many years of experience teaching Modern Greek to American students. Before coming to CYA she served as Academic Director in a number of language institutes that teach Greek and English as a second language. She has trained Greek language teachers in a dramatized and practical methodology. She has written scripts for Greek radio and is experienced in the theater, both as an actress and director. With Dimitra Dimitra she wrote the highly regarded Modern Greek language textbooks Greek Now 1+1 and Greek Now 2+2 , as well as supplementary materials (now in their 4th and 3rd editions respectively, with multiple reprintings) and of series of novels for beginning students of Modern Greek.