Are you struggling to learn greek? If you currently believe that you can never become bilingual, get ready to take some notes! Here are some top tips to help you boost your greek learning:
1. Know your why
This might sound obvious, but if you don’t have a good reason to learn a language, you are less likely to stay motivated over the long-run. Wanting to impress Greek-speakers with your greek is not a very good reason — wanting to get to know a Greek person in their own language is another matter entirely. No matter your reason, once you’ve decided on a language, it’s crucial to commit. So, WHY do YOU learn greek?
2. Find a partner
Having the support of another person will accelerate your learning immensely. No matter what stage you are at in learning greek, find someone who is also trying to learn the language. Even if you can’t get a sibling to join you on your language adventure, finding some kind of partner will push both of you to always try just a little bit harder and stay with it. Schedule times to meet up and share any progress and offer feedback for one another. Exchange resources or tips that have been helpful to you. This can also be a great time to practice your skills with each other. Best of all, you can set goals and hold each other accountable to completing them by the next time you meet.
It’s a really great way of actually going about it. You have someone with whom you can speak, and that’s the idea behind learning a new language.
3. Speak as Much as You Can even to Yourself
The only way language will stick is by speaking and listening often, so take any opportunity you can find to use another language. Talk to friends from Greece, try out a greek restaurant and speak to the owners in their language, or join meet-ups of like-minded language learners.
When you have no one else to speak to, there’s nothing wrong with talking to yourself in a foreign language. It might sound really weird, but actually speaking to yourself in a language is a great way to practice if you’re not able to use it all the time.
If you don’t know how to go about learning a new language, this can keep new words and phrases fresh in your mind. It also helps build up your confidence for the next time you speak with someone.
Remember to work on your accent and tones—one of the best compliments to receive is “your accent is really good!”
4. Have fun
Using your new language in any way is a creative act.
Think of some fun ways to practice your new language: make a radio play with a friend, draw a comic strip, write a poem or simply talk to whomever you can.
You’re learning a language to be able to use it. You’re not going to speak it only to yourself. The creative side is really being able to put the language that you’re learning into a more useful, general, everyday setting — be that through writing songs, generally wanting to speak to people, or using it when you go abroad. You don’t necessarily have to go to Athens or to a sunny greek island to learn greek; you can go to the greek restaurant down the road and order in greek.
5. Learn and act like a child
Try approaching greek through the eyes of a child. Children’s books and learning materials start with the basics and break them down into small fragments—and when you’re pressed for time, that can be much easier than getting into a dense workbook.
You can use children’s books and music videos to help gauge when you are ready to move past an introductory level. You can also gain confidence by speaking to younger students—they will understand your basic words, and you won’t be so worried about messing up. These conversations will give you the foundation to learn “formal” greek later.
As kids, we are expected to make mistakes, but as adults, mistakes become taboo. Think how an adult is more likely to say, “I can’t” rather than, “I haven’t learned that yet” (I can’t swim, I can’t drive, I can’t speak Spanish). To be seen failing (or merely struggling) is a social taboo that doesn’t burden children. When it comes to learning a language, admitting that you don’t know everything (and being okay with that) is the key to growth and freedom. Let go of your grown-up inhibitions!
You must learn to listen before you can speak. Every language sounds strange the first time you hear it, but the more you expose yourself to it the more familiar it becomes, and the easier it is to speak it properly.
We’re able to pronounce anything, it’s just we’re not used to doing it. The best way to go about mastering that is actually to hear it constantly, to listen to it and to kind of visualize or imagine how that is supposed to be pronounced, because for every sound there is a specific part of the mouth or throat that we use in order to achieve that sound.
7. Watch other talk
Different languages make different demands on your tongue, lips and throat. Pronunciation is just as much physical as it is mental:
One way — it might sound a bit strange — is to really look at someone while they’re saying words that use that sound, and then to try to imitate that sound as much as possible. Believe me, it might be difficult at the beginning, but you will. It’s something that is actually quite easily done; you just need to practice it.
If you can’t watch and imitate a native-speaker in person, watching greek films and TV is a good substitute.
8. Get out of your comfort zone
Willingness to make mistakes means being ready to put yourself in potentially embarrassing situations. This can be scary, but it’s the only way to develop and improve. No matter how much you learn, you won’t ever speak a language without putting yourself out there: talk to strangers in the language, ask for directions, order food, try to tell a joke. The more often you do this, the bigger your comfort zone becomes and the more at ease you can be in new situations.
At the beginning you’re going to encounter difficulties: maybe the pronunciation, maybe the grammar, the syntax, or you don’t really get the sayings. But I think the most important thing is to always develop this feel. Every native speaker has a feel for his or her own language, and that’s basically what makes a native-speaker — whether you can make the language your own.
9. Learn from every mistake
If you are living in an environment that allows you to practice greek, congrats! Now get ready to make a lot of mistakes otherwise you won’t learn greek. It’s best to leave your ego out of the situation when doing something as difficult as learning a new language. Leave any desires for perfection and any fears of judgment at the door.
You can be the smartest person in the world, but if you are stubborn or defensive, you’ll shield yourself from endless opportunities for growth. Keep in mind that many natives will be grateful and appreciative of your attempt to learn such an important part of their culture. Congratulate yourself for even the smallest mistakes because it means you are trying.
As you go about your day-to-day life and practice using your new language, resist the urge to judge each conversation as a success or failure. It’s tempting to be our own worst critic and beat ourselves up for not remembering a particular word or knowing how to clearly express a thought. Instead, approach each interaction as a new opportunity for you to learn something.
Reflect on each conversation and give yourself constructive feedback. Some things you might want to think about are:
What words/phrase would have served me in that conversation?
What new words did I hear/see?
How could I more effectively have a similar conversation in the future?
When you start embracing the ups and downs of the learning process, you’ll better enjoy and appreciate the journey, which sets yourself up for more learning opportunities.
Remember, the success comes from the simple fact that you are trying. Use these tips and you’ll be well on your way to learning a new language with grace, speed and ease.
10. Immerse yourself
No matter which learning tools you use, it’s crucial to practice greek every single day and immerse yourself if you want to learn greek fast:
Absorb as much as possible right from the start. So if you learn something, you should really, really go for it and try to use it throughout the day. As the week progresses try to think in it, try to write in it, try to speak to yourself even in that language. It’s about actually putting what you’re learning into practice — be that writing an email, speaking to yourself, listening to music, listening to the radio. Surrounding yourself, submerging yourself in the new language culture is extremely important.
Remember, the best possible outcome of speaking a language is for people to speak back to you. Being able to have a simple conversation is a huge reward in itself. Reaching milestones like that early on will make it easier to stay motivated and keep practicing. And don’t worry, you won’t annoy people by speaking their language poorly. If you preface any interaction with, “I’m learning and I’d like to practice…” most people will be patient, encouraging and happy to oblige. Taking the initiative to step into someone else’s language world can also put them at ease and promote good feelings all around:
Sure, you can travel abroad speaking your own language, but you’ll get so much more out of it being able to actually feel at ease in the place you are — being able to communicate, to understand, to interact in every situation you could possibly imagine.