June 2, 2010 | Greek

Greek Day Two

In which I try out a bunch of different products and (so far) like them all.

The day began with more of the technical and logistical hurdles associated with the beginning of each new language. I had to set up my new iPod Shuffle, purchased yesterday after the tip of my old headset broke off in my old Shuffle, thus with remarkable efficiency rendering two pieces of equipment totally unusable. Fortunately, the new Shuffle is much better, and I like my new headphones, too. 

Greek Alphabet: Pretty, Right?

I am also having to bug people for review copies of books. A certain large publishing company has to date ignored me completely, which is deeply wounding since I have used a lot of their books for this project.

Shortly after noon, hurdle-hopping behind me, and with my Pimsleur lessons loaded up on my Shuffle, I went for a run. It was at least 80 degrees, so I opted for slow. The Pimsleur lessons (3 and 4) went really well, and I continue to like Greek. It’s fun to pronounce, even running up hills.

Later in the afternoon I took a couple of my new Greek books to my favorite café. I practiced the alphabet; I love learning new alphabets. Modern Greek has 24 letters. Any time an alphabet has fewer than the 26 letters I am most accustomed to, I feel as though someone has just added a bunch of free hours to my day.

As I was writing out the letters, I thought, wow, this reminds me of Russian. It turns out there is a reason for that; the Cyrillic alphabet is apparently a descendant of Greek. Perhaps I once knew that. I don’t remember.

According to its cover, the ambitious goal of one of my books, Teach Yourself Greek by Aristarhos Matsukas, is “all-around confidence.” Sounds good to me! I enjoyed the first several pages. I approach the book with some skepticism, though, since my most recent Teach Yourself experience, with Arabic, was extremely disappointing.

Next I turned to Rosetta Stone, which offers a multimedia experience—images, text, listening, speaking, etc. (You can test-drive a sample off the bottom center of their home page.) I didn’t really see how I would cope with trying to “read” words written in an unfamiliar alphabet when I hadn’t even received any official instruction in what those letters looked like, so I started up the application prepared to get crabby.

Strangely, it worked out well, in spite of me. I kind of began recognizing words, even without having memorized the alphabet. So then I went a little crazy and tried a bit of everything: pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary. There was instruction in words such as “girl,” “boy,” “man,” and “woman,” and the attendant plurals, and “he,” “she,” and “they,” and verbs such as “run,” “read,” “cook,” “eat,” and “drink.” All very useful stuff.

It will take me some time to get familiar with the Rosetta Stone product, which has many different facets, but I can report that so far I genuinely had fun. I do not, as I have said before, like being tied to a computer. On the other hand, I am an incredibly visual learner, so I appreciate the combination of oral and visual instructional experiences. It’s strange in some ways that I am so fond of Pimsleur, because I normally don’t do too well with audio-only anything. Of course, I supplement Pimsleur with books, flashcards, television, etc.; I like to create my own multimedia learning experience using different language sources and authorities.

Rosetta Stone does not offer a single word of instruction or explanation in English, which is not the case with Pimsleur. I thought the lack of English would irritate me and be inefficient, but it was fine, at least so far. I did not, however, always understand exactly what I was supposed to do in the exercises. For example, sometimes you are expected to match text/speech with images, and in a couple of places I got stuck trying to figure out what exactly I had to click, and in what order, to get the matching up accomplished. But I am spectacularly dimwitted about certain practical things in life that are totally obvious to other people, so that might have been my fault. I can’t say for sure.

In any case, I got a few answers wrong based on program use issues rather than on language issues. For people who like to get things right (ahem), I suppose that could be annoying, but I was fine with it and can barely remember anymore that I scored only an 88 percent in the first section.

In the Greek spirit, Brandt and I took an evening walk to a Greek church in the neighborhood; a few different people had mentioned it to me as an important institution around here. We walked through Riverside Park on our way there.

Riverside Park Dog Run: Sorting by Size

Because It's a Dog-Eat-Dog World

79th Street Boat Basin: People Live Here

Geese Do, Too

The church is located at 91st Street and West End Avenue. It was nice, but Brandt and I were both initially more fascinated by a building across the street that was covered with phenomenally thick ivy.

Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation

Nature Meets New York Condo: When Ivy Attacks!

I will go back to the church another time when there are people around to talk to.

Contraband Photo, Barnes & Noble

On our way home, we stopped by the Barnes & Noble at 82nd and Broadway, where I snapped a surreptitious picture in the language section. The yellow boxes on the right are Rosetta Stone, by the way.

You’re not allowed to take pictures in bookstores, at least not in the Upper West Side stores I’ve been in lately. But I love the language sections of bookstores; they’re like fantasylands full of exciting and global possibilities, and they are great places to hang out. They call out to be documented.

I felt like a criminal taking the photo; the weird angle is because I was afraid someone would see me if I held up the camera to check the shot.

Life on the edge.

Comments (2)

Katherine • Posted on Thu, June 03, 2010 - 1:38 pm EST

We have two Greek brothers, Cyril and Methodius from Thessaloniki, to thank for the Cyrillic alphabet.  They created the first written alphabet for Slavic languages while trying to convert the Slavs to christianity.  Cyrillic comes from the name Cyril.  Heres the wiki article:

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Thu, June 03, 2010 - 2:23 pm EST

Thank you so much, Katherine!

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