Learning Greek: pros and cons
Modern Greek is the language that we Greeks speak today. The Greek language in general is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. It has the longest documented history of any other language of the same family and 34 centuries of written records, so surely, this is a huge legacy for all of modern civilization to keep and to enrich.
Today, Modern Greek is the official language both in Cyprus and the Republic of Greece. It is also spoken by Greek communities which are spread all over the world, known also as the Greek Diaspora (Διασπορά in Greek is equivalent with the dispersion).
But is the Greek language so important today? And if not, why should someone learn Greek.
The answer is obvious. Modern Greek has no special importance in the financial or scientific fields. Unless you are working in the tourism industry or you have a firm in Greece you would probably not need to learn Greek; it is not an international language and due to its difficulty it is a rare choice as a second language.
Modern Greek is ranked 61st according to the number of native speakers, but is quite widespread due to the Greek Diaspora and there are Greek communities in almost every industrialized country. We can trace also massive indigenous communities in Egypt (Alexandria), south Albania, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine.
So, why learn Modern Greek?
There is no other reason, I think, unless you have a genuine interest in the Greek culture and civilization. The literature importance of the Greek language cannot be denied and many people learned Greek for academic reasons, but it was Ancient Greek they leaned and not Modern Greek.
Still, many Greek words have been widely borrowed into other languages, in fields like mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, etc. Greek word elements in common with Latin words are the foundation of the scientific and technical modern vocabulary. And this also means that you know a lot of Greek words if you already speak a European language.
On the other hand, these two forms of Greek (Modern and Ancient) are not even mutually intelligible. You will not find anyone that speaks Ancient Greek, not in Greece or elsewhere, I suppose. But this is not a reason not to study it, particularly as the retreat of the humanitarian studies in our ages is not a good sign for future.
Sanskrit, Latin, Classic Arabic, Ancient Greek and others of the like are all very important for a deeper understanding of cultures and of our past.
Another group of people that learn Modern Greek is mostly Europeans who have settled in many places of Greece like the Mani Peninsula, Pelion and Corfu and learned the language not only for practical reasons, but because they love to communicate with locals. Moreover, Greece is a host country for 1.1 million immigrants, most of them coming from the Balkans or other countries of the Middle East. They also learn Greek to an intermediate level for reasons of daily communication (mostly for verbal communication).
Regarding difficulty levels, Modern Greek belongs to the group of languages with significant linguistic or cultural differences from English. That brings it in the same group as Armenian, Finnish and Hungarian which means that you need 7 weeks or 1100 class hours to reach fluency, but this approach can be quite gloomy and discourage any effort.
In a blog that I maintain about Modern Greek I have already explained how you can start learning on your own. If you are not just learning for academic reasons, you should probably start with Modern Greek. It is much simpler that Ancient Greek and it will not be hard to find someone to talk with, because there Greeks in every country. In any case, you can give it a try at your own speed. And don’t get stressed about it, language learning takes time…
This article is an extract from www.lexiophiles.com