More Notes From The Greek Class

I still go to Greek class, in case some of you were wondering. I would also have written about it more regularly, but Jonas had this idea about doing a game whose graphics wouldn’t take me long at all to draw… right. Four weeks later I reluctantly return to the blogging world, but at least the game is beautiful and almost done.

My Greek is improving steadily if slowly. This first semester of the class concentrates on “tourist Greek.” Introducing yourself, asking someone’s name, address, phone number. Ordering food in a restaurant and asking for directions. Useful things, but sadly not entirely useful for me. I know where Jonas’s relatives live, and if I think a little I can even remember what all of them are called. But part two of the class beckons in the fall, and that will bring new, exciting challenges.

For now I am torn between struggling to remember the different forms of “to be” and marvelling over the boundless stupidity of the other students.

Did you know, for example, that the Greek question mark looks like this:

;

Did you also know that that is incredibly hard to understand for Germans? “So,” says Sonja, “you are saying that the Greeks don’t have a question mark at all?” And Costas, our teacher, says yes. “But,” Sonja continues, slightly puzzled, “I only see semicolons in this text.” And I sigh.

Did you know, for example, that you can’t write sch, as in the word schtick, in Greek? The language doesn’t contain this sequence of sounds. “But,” asks Miss Schmitt, “how do I spell my name then?” Smit, is the answer, or rather Σμιτ. “But that’s not my name!” she exclaims. Yep, I think, and Εὐριπίδης wasn’t called Euripides either, live with it.

Finally: did you know that in Greek you always use the article and the name when talking about or to someone. Η Βερένα. Ο Ιονάς. “But that’s so rude,” says Heike, the German teacher that’s afraid of speaking in front of people (kids are okay, though).

Heike’s story is funny, but not stranger than some of the others. The people taking this class are as diverse as they come. There’s Thomas, whose estranged wife took his two daughters to Greece twenty years ago and now the only way for him to communicate with his children is to learn Greek. Nico, who wanted to learn Greek in order to be able to talk to his future wife’s parents and family (he’s also since disappeared, taking the only copy of the textbook’s accompanying CD with him… go figure). Johanna, who loves all things Greek and likes to sit in on four-hour Greek orthodox services, not understanding a single word, but happy to soak up the atmosphere. (She was also very enthused when she learned that Jonas is from Thessaloniki and asked me if I knew that delicatessen shop in the city. Right. You’re from America? Wow, do you know George Arbuckle?) Next up is Gerhardt, who reminds me of my uncle, and who always tries to analyze every little bit of information that he has gleaned to death and always fails to understand any of it. Martina, the militant feminist who hates all men (especially Greek men!). Esther, who seems to be as rich as Croesus and who has spent a month in Greece every summer for the last fifteen years and has yet to pick up a single word. And Steven, the most likable of the lot, a Brit with an atrocious Greek accent who dreams of going to Greece when he retires in a few years.

Interesting people, all of them. If only they were a little less dense.

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