My plan to become fluent in Greek
What does success look, feel, sound, taste, like?
I’ll use the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) to gauge my progress. My goal is to reach level B2. I’m currently at Level A2.
Level A1: Super Beginner
“Hulk Smash” – the Hulk at A1
At the A1 level, I had a rough working vocabulary of about 700 words. Some were derivatives (“run” and “running”), some I was able to recall quickly, and others only slowly and with a lot of effort.
Grammatically, I was able to understand some really simple past and future constructions, some comparatives and superlatives (“this is larger than that”, “this is the biggest”), basic questions, modal verbs (“could”, “should”) and a little more, but overall my ability was pretty basic.
I could explain simple things in a very basic way and interact with native speakers only if they really were willing to slow down and work with me.
At A1, I was not having really sophisticated conversations with people. I could get things across, but it wasn’t easy on anyone involved.
Level A2: Slightly Less Beginner (Where I am right now)
“the Hulk likes to smashes things” – the Hulk at A2
At the A2 level, I’m building a working vocabulary of about 1,500 words and far more grammar than at A1. I can have some real conversations, but they’re still simpler and every sentence is sprinkled with “um’s” while I search for the word. I can talk very basically about my family, my past, a movie I saw, my favorite foods, things like this. I’m still pretty dependent on my speaking partner slowing down and working with me a lot, but it’s not quite so painful for them as A1. I can write funny dialogues and songs in Greek that impress my tutor and Greek relatives, but as soon as I open my mouth people know that I had some major help from Google Translate.
Level B1: Intermediate
“Both the advantages and disadvantages of being the Hulk is the constantly need to smash things” – the Hulk at B1
At B1, I’m getting more comfortable. I have a working knowledge of around 2,500 words total, maybe half of which I can recall and use pretty quickly. This makes conversations much more fluid generally.
I still hesitate if it’s a topic I haven’t talked about much, but this is where I can start going into stores or ordering at restaurants and it’s not much of a burden on the people working there. I can read simpler books or read a good amount of newspaper articles if I know the context. I can even watch TV if the subtitles in the target language are on – it’s still pretty rough without them.
Level B2: Basic Fluency (Where I want to be)
“Being the Hulk is difficult, because although I don’t want to smash things, it’s quite hard for me to resist the urge to” – the Hulk at B2
Reaching B2 is generally considered by most people as having basic fluency. I’ll have a working vocabulary of around 4,000 words.
It’s not always effortless and it’s not always perfect, but at this point neither I nor my native speaking partners are having a really hard time in most circumstances. Conversations about wide ranges of things are pretty easy for everyone involved. Most television or movies in the target language are understandable. I will be able to talk to my Greek relatives without inflicting pain on them or myself. Am not sure what fluency will taste like, but it’s probably creamy like tzatziki. And it will feel really good.
WHY am I putting myself through this?
I’ve always wanted to learn another language and admire people who can speak more than one language. Each language is like a new life. It’s a tremendous challenge mentally to learn Greek, but it will be so gratifying to make progress. Plus, there has never been a better time to learn a language. The technological support has never been greater and the lockdown has freed up some time. I want to be able to talk to my brother-in-law Vageli and nephew Elias, and get to know them better. With a language barrier, I feel I am always at a distance from people when I travel in Greece. Next trip to Greece will likely be Spring 2022. My goal is to be B2 fluent by next Orthodox Easter, Sunday April 24, 2022.
SWOT Analysis (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunity and Threats)
- my creativity: I can use my imagination to make learning Greek fun by writing lyrics and funny dialogues (“Mrs. Zeta goes to the Monastery” was a classic!)
- track record: was able to get fit with daily consistent action, and this approach will serve me well in language learning
- Although I often tell myself I don’t have an affinity for language learning, I did win the German award in high school (albeit without much competition)
- tendency to procrastinate! (Why does cleaning the handle on the garbage drawer always seem like more fun than flash cards?)
- tendency to rush/skim
- belief that I don’t have a knack for languages
- my tutor Nefeli is excellent, and I look forward to my twice-weekly classes
- lockdown has given me the luxury of time to study
- technology: never before in history has there been so many language-learning resources!
- as things open up and the temperature warms up, available study time will decrease
- Greek is a difficult language—2x as hard as French (although 2x easier than Mandarin)
Plan (as described to me by a polyglot)
Kudos to you for signing up with your tutor, Nefeli. This was the smartest thing you’ve done so far as it’s imposed some order and discipline on you. Also, kudos for using your creativity in service of language learning. Writing dialogues featuring a funny fictional character and writing a Greek song were brilliant ideas! And, most importantly, fun!!
On the negative side, you continue to procrastinate. Greek is difficult, but you can make progress with daily effort. Think of learning Greek as a job, not a hobby you’re dabbling in. Rather than set a daily time goal that lures you into procrastination because your brain doesn’t know what you’re going to do with the time, draft a weekly schedule with clear objectives just as you do with exercise.
For example: Monday
- Complete homework assignment
- Translate and analyze the lyrics to one song
- Read ahead in textbook to next dialogue
- Review cognate flashcards
Make better use of the technology you have. Augment your sessions with Nefeli with dialogues and lessons from GreekPod. Rather than read the (depressing) news, review flashcards or read a random page from your frequency dictionary over breakfast. After each lesson, capture new words Nefeli has highlighted on flashcards and review what you’ve learned rather than continually moving forward, forward, forward, and counting on chance exposure to concepts you’ve learned as a proxy for review.
My best advice to you is to make better use of your husband. Unlike most people who are trying to learn a new language, you are living with a native speaker! Pick a meal—lunch or dinner—during which you only speak Greek and gradually expand that time frame until it fills an entire day. You can do it!
Θα μάθετε ελληνικά!
(Cover image: English words borrowed from Greek)