It’s all Greek to me


Woke up this morning in a cold sweat. It couldn’t be a hot sweat because the apartment is too cold. Anyway, I woke with something on my mind that wouldn’t let me go back to dozing. You see, I took my first look at the Greek-English dictionary I brought with me. And, of course, the dictionary doesn’t always align with the online translator I use. But back to the problem.

Here are some Greek word examples (the first translation is from online, the second from the dictionary):

hello = Γεια σου or Xaipete

excuse me = Συγνώμη! or (sorry but I don’t know how to type the word)

thank you = Ευχαριστούμε or euxapiotw

do you speak English? = Μιλάς αγγλικά; or miagte ayyaikg

In short, it’s a completely different dictionary and letter and word-formation than anything I’ve encountered, except for Asia (think Chinese symbols and Japanese writing). Reading and then speaking the words/phrases will be nearly impossible. I will have to learn and memorize the phonetic pronunciations provided by the dictionary. The online translator does not provide phonetic help.

Then there is my usual practice of writing down translations to show when needed. This has been a fairly easy process, even in Croatia, as long as I know where I’m going and what I typically might ask in that situation. But writing Greek is like writing hieroglyphics.

In Costa Rica, I also had my own printer, which allowed me to translate on the computer and print the translation out for show and tell. I travel too light now to carry a printer. One answer, of course, is to find a tech shop in Greece that sells low-priced printers. Something I will discard when I leave. My Greek dictionary did come with a CD. That should help some.

So far, I haven’t worried about learning a little bit of the language of the next country I’m visiting until a few weeks before going there. For the first two months in Croatia, for example, I concentrated on learning enough Croatian words and phrases to get me by there before turning my attention to Italian. Now, I’m trying to get the hang of the Italian language before turning the page at the end of January to worrying about Greek.

Maybe I shouldn’t have looked at the Greek dictionary so soon. It has me concerned. Guess I need to treat this as the latest challenge and learn how to get around the problem. Languages are not my forte but I’m sure I’ll find a way to get through 3 months in Greece with hand signals, rudimentary approximations of key words and whatever English the locals know. And lots of humble smiling for my lack of knowledge. I understand signage is often also in English, so maybe it’s spoken more in Greece than in Italy. Also, if I do end up in Athens for my stay, there should be more English-speakers there than in a smaller town like Nafplio, my original destination. Athens is touristy and that often means English-speakers.

I did receive several responses to my e-mails about apartment rentals in Athens. Three people said their units were already rented for the time I will be there. A fourth said his apartment is available but he wants a month’s deposit to reserve it. I told him I couldn’t send him money sight unseen – of him or the apartment. The rent is slightly above what I’m paying here. It doesn’t look like much online (http://housing.justlanded.com/en/Greece_Attica_Athens/For-Rent_Apartments/ATHENS-Palaio-Faliro-Nice-apartement-to-rent) but it would do for 3 months. At least it’s on the ground floor. The stairs here are starting to get to my knees. If I can find an apartment in Athens in my price range, I will probably settle there for my stay. As a bonus, the apartment is only two blocks from the sea. But I’m not sure if it has Internet.

I must be insane.

Today, the weather forecast was correct. It’s drizzling, although it was a beautiful, sunshine morning for my walk. I’m hoping the forecast of slightly cloudy for tomorrow is accurate as I plan to finally take a road trip (by bus or train) to Taormina, just north of here. Just me, my camera, my dictionary and a few euros. What could possibly go wrong?

About 2bagsandapack

Lifetime journalist, author, magazine editor and publisher, now semi-retired and traveling the world. My plan, after living in Costa Rica for 14 months, was to visit a new country in southern Europe every three months to experience the culture and the challenge of adapting to a new environment, while on a fixed income. That plan was sidetracked when I was offered a job in Indonesia, providing an opportunity to explore Asia. Indonesia lasted for a 4 wonderful years but I have now moved on to Hua Hin, Thailand.
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4 Responses to It’s all Greek to me

  1. 2bagsandapack says:

    Looks like there’s a good-size Anglo expat community in Athens. I’ve had four people respond to my apartment inquiries, all in non-translated English. Might not be as bad as I think. Also, yes the Italians don’t seem interested in learning any other language but their own. Hardly anyone here speaks any English.

  2. Eric Torrey says:

    During my trip to Athens, I had no trouble with the language. Of course, I was only there for a couple of days and I was doing all the tourist stuff — most of the people I had contact with spoke English. Not sure if it will be the same in the “real” Athens of day-to-day living. I also had no problems in Mykynos, Rhodes or Corfu — but, again, I was only visiting the “tourist” locations.

    However, in Venice, there were more language/communication problems… maybe the Italians don’t like to cater to those who speak English, and maybe the Greeks do. Fingers-crossed!

  3. askewebb says:

    When I was importing from Greece a couple of years ago, the paperwork was always weeks late and communications were sloooooow….
    And definitely not a good idea to do anything sight unseen!

  4. askewebb says:

    The text looks like numbers to me. Good luck, buddy!

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