Greece is just familiar and just foreign enough to be bewildering sometimes.
Ancient Greek: sooo old-school
When I was planning this leg of my trip, I thought I’d be way more prepared than most Americans. Yes, Greek is not only a challenging language but also a whole different alphabet. But I studied Ancient Greek! I’ll be cruising right through this, no problem. *shrugs confidently*
Turns out, expecting your Ancient Greek knowledge to help you with modern Greek is like studying Chaucer’s Olde English and trying to use that in America.
Old but beautiful but also old.
So what’s a modern woman to do?
Even my Ancient Greek tattoo has caused confusion here. Also turns out, most of my studies were reading Plato, and very few people here or anywhere go about their days discussing beauty and wisdom and shooting arrows at the enemy.
But! My vague knowledge of the Greek alphabet is useful, and it’s not too hard to pick up yourself.
Getting around here is 10 times easier if you can decipher the signs on the buses, towns, and restaurants. It’s very difficult at first, because not only is it a different alphabet, but the letters look like ours but are often very different. ρ is actually r. ν is n. There are three versions of e. Everything is upside down.
Welcome to your AirBnB and thank Athena that Google Translate exists.
So practice! Every sign I see here, every bus I get on, every menu I study, I make myself figure out what I think the Greek characters mean and then peep the English to see if I’m right (the google translate app is amazing for this). And now I’m… adequate!
Aim for competence, not fluency
Being here for a month doesn’t lend itself to deep language immersion, especially where so many people speak such excellent English. But you can practice the basics everyday: hello, goodbye, please, thanks, yes and no. It’s just polite to at least try a little of the language of the country you’re in, after all.
But maybe leave the ancient languages at home (even the Romans would be very confused if I tried to speak Latin to them).
As I did in France though, try. Try badly, try awkwardly, but try to embrace everything about the country that’s taking you in right now. Travel is about getting out of your comfort zone and into a new world.