June 9, 2010 | Greek

Greek Vocabulary and a Free Learning Tool

I learn Greek words and visit an online language community.

I am doing a lot of yoga to give my foot a chance to recover after my last race. Having to switch from running to yoga is preventing me from doing Greek Pimsleur lessons while working out. Today I went to two yoga classes, sadly Pimsleur-free.

Steel Globe at Columbus Circle

Steel Globe at Columbus Circle

One was an iyengar yoga class. I don’t know what that means, but it was useful. The other was restorative, which seemed mostly to involve lying on the floor and relaxing. By the time I finished the second session I had chanted “om” about four times in one day. “Om” is not a word I am comfortable chanting once.

There is a young guy who sells hot dogs and sodas on a street corner in our neighborhood. I spoke to him this week for the first time. His name is Eslam, and he is Egyptian. He is very friendly and expressed a willingness to help me with Arabic. I tried out a few basic things on him, such as marhabba (hello), shukran jazeelan (thank you very much), and kiefelhal (how are you?). He understood me fine, but when he responded, I did not understand him fine.

That, unfortunately, is how it often goes with language study!

A Cute Starting Point

A Cute Starting Point

I am almost done with my Greek vocabulary book, the one I’ve mentioned previously, entitled Your First 100 Words in Greek. I have really enjoyed it! It comes with a CD, but I haven’t played it; I can’t generally be bothered to play a CD that accompanies a book. The thing is, when I am reading a book, I don’t want to be putting a CD into my computer. When I am playing a CD on my computer, I don’t tend to read books.

I like it anyway, CD-free. One thing that made it more enjoyable was ignoring the book’s advice to “not try to memorize the alphabet at this stage, nor try to write the letters yourself.”

Forget that! If I hadn’t had the alphabet mostly memorized first (by doing drills on my own), I would not have enjoyed the book at all. Incredibly, though, I have on numerous occasions since starting this project been advised by self-teaching materials to look at words that are in totally unfamiliar alphabets and just try to remember what the whole words look like.

That makes no sense to me. It’s a little like saying don’t worry about grammar when you write; we can see how that has gone for writing in the United States. Certain basics must be conquered, or more advanced skills suffer.

So: alphabet first, words second. (Part of the point here is that in the face of bad advice, you can make adjustments.)

The vocabulary in this book is divided into various thematic categories, such as animals, clothing, household items, etc. The words I had the most trouble remembering were the “countryside” terms—such as “hill,” “farm,” and “mountain”—which I think makes sense, since I am definitely a big-city girl.

A running friend of mine just told me about a website called Livemocha, an online community of language learners and learning tools. It’s pretty nifty, and also free, at least for basic lessons. I spent a little time going through the Greek beginner-level section tonight and got a kick out of it.

Comments (3)

Katherine • Posted on Fri, June 11, 2010 - 10:23 am EST

I never heard of live mocha before, I love that it’s free!  I thought it was funny that one of the first sentences they teach you is “I am fat”, although I feel bad for the woman whose picture they used with it!

Tonight there is going to be some Greek music downtown at Lafayette Bar and Grill.  Great way to get some familiarity with Greek culture, and there are sure to be some Greeks there!

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, June 11, 2010 - 4:51 pm EST

Thank you for the Greek culture tip, Katherine! Regarding Livemocha: not only do they teach you “I am fat” early on, but they come back to it multiple times. I guess there’s something to be said for a lack of euphemism.

Will Fuqua • Posted on Fri, February 03, 2012 - 4:00 am EST

About Live Mocha, it really doesn’t shine until you use the Active Course.  The free courses are very bland and on par with Rosetta Stone or worse.  Also I don’t think Live Mocha should be a primary way of learning a language but simply another resource to use to keep things from getting to boring using the same material all the time, plus I like seeing friends I’ve made on it make replies to my submited work.  Also, with Live Mocha is that I signed up for a year subscrption for Spanish and then after a half a year they gave me the “golden key” which allows me to take all the other Active Courses for free.  I don’t know why I was given this, it may have been due to me “grading” other people’s submissions for English a lot and getting scored 100% for helpfulness.  I’m not sure really.

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