Notes From The Greek Class
So what’s Verena up to? Haven’t heard from her in ages.
Well, dear imaginary friend, when I’m not writing or taking pwetty pictures, I’m going to a Greek language class. And, to leave all the quipping and sarcasm aside for a moment, that is something that is very important to me.
My husband grew up in Greece, it’s a part of him. Not only that, but through marrying him I also gained a large number of terribly nice, generous Greek relatives. The cousins are no problem, they all speak fluent English, but as far as the older generation, his aunts and uncles, goes, I am sadly and utterly unable to communicate with them. They only speak a smattering of English and German (and a bit more French; fat lot of good that does) and my Greek is basic verging on non-existent. And sign language only takes you so far, I fear.
All of this has been, if not a cause for sadness, at least the cause of some wistful discomfort. So now, only three or four years late, I’m finally making good on my promises and taking a Greek class.
If it all works out the way I want it to, I’ll be able to speak something resembling basic Greek in one or two years. Basic, mind you; with the exception of English I can hardly be called a language buff. But I’m still very happy that I’ve finally taken this step.
Also: if my classmates continue to be as amusing as they were in the first session last Wednesday, I’ll be making this a weekly column. Because, let’s face it, Greek is a difficult language and Germans can be so damn hilarious.
Today we shall cover the alphabet. The teacher, Konstantinos, is a nice guy. Late fifties, I’d have to guess, and soft-spoken. His German is a little broken – as he says himself, he didn’t pay any attention to the articles, der/die/das, when he learned German, and is regretting it to this day. Personally I don’t mind, I’m there to learn Greek, not German. The class is full, fifteen people. Probably, anyway. A father/daughter team doesn’t yet know if they’ll stay on. Konstantinos – we’re all on a first-name basis here – is confused, the class list he got from the school only has eight names on it. Chaos reigns. Please take out your books, he says. Blank faces meet his smile. Book? Nobody said nuffing about any books. He sighs, doesn’t seem very surprised. Plan B then.
The Greek alphabet. 24 letters. Careful, they’re a little different from what you’re used to. Here’s how it goes: Alpha. Beta. Gamma. Confusion arises, the class breaks into whispered conversations. Surely that one is pronounced like an r. Or maybe a g. J, someone volunteers with some certainty… or maybe ch? Konstantinos lets it all wash over him, I’m sure he’s heard it before. No, he says, actually it’s pronounced γ, like in this εγώ. That means I, as in yourself. Also, and here is where it all goes wrong, that’s basically the same word you know as ego (a word which in German can among other thing also mean self-esteem or self-assuredness). Aha, crows a red-haired woman in her late forties (you know the type: perm, colored hair, neat black costume, perpetual frown on her face, looks like a Doberman): “Ego, that’s so typical for you Greeks.” Aha, I think to myself… you’re learning the language, but you hate the people. Fan-fucking-tastic.
Konstantinos ignores this and moves on. Delta. Or rather Δ. (Pronounced like the th in this.) A hand shoots up. “Excuse me, sir, why aren’t you saying delta?” The letter d hangs heavily in the stale air. Hmm, lady, dunno… maybe because that’s not the way it’s pronounced? Unfortunately Konstantinos doesn’t say that. Instead he looks a little helpless and then ignores the question. It’s hard to tell people that they’re utter idiots, I guess. The rest of the alphabet is less eventful, although it seems hard to grasp why a language needs this many versions of the i. When Konstantinos reads out a few Greek place names, including some islands, the woman next to me giggles. “Funny,” she says, “they say Ρόδος, not Rhodos.” There’s that sneaky delta again. Tsktsktsk. I sigh. But we’ll get there, won’t we?