I have just come back from a trip to the gorgeous Greek island of Crete and, as someone who has an interest in languages, I was a little dismayed, but equally not surprised, how few attempts from tourists there were to speak the local language. In Crete, English tourists continue to have the advantage of having the majority of information provided to them in their own language and, as tourism is one of the major forms of revenue here, many of the locals are pretty fluent in English too. Greek is certainly not one of the easiest languages to learn, but with its ancient origins, perhaps one of the most intriguing.
This week eSense Translations shares 8 interesting facts about the Greek language that may inspire you to try and learn a few phrases before visiting the country.
1) Greek is the oldest recorded living language, with written records spanning over 34 centuries!
2) Over 150,000 English words have Greek origins and Greek is also often used to create new words.
A word that is even more relevant now in the 21st Century than in the ancient Greek time when it was created. Democracy — from demos (δήμος, “people”) and kratos (κράτος, “power”) — literally translates to ‘Power to the People’.
Planet comes from the Greek verb planomai(πλανώμαι) which means to wander. To the Ancient Greeks, planets were wandering stars.
3) The word “alphabet” is actually formed of “alpha” and “beta”, the two first letters of the Greek alphabet.
There are 24 letters in the Greek alphabet, two less than the English. Some of them we recognise as being the same as our own English letters, some from our use of symbols in mathematics, but for those who are unfamiliar with the likes of algebra and trigonometry, several of the letters will appear alien. This is one of the reasons why this language has proved to be tricky to learn.
4) The Greek language has three genders, similar to German: masculine, feminine and neuter.
5) Almost every English word that starts with ph comes from Greek; e.g. philosophy, photograph and phobia.
6) The Greek alphabet was the first to use vowels, before then written languages only used consonants.
7) In early Greece, texts were written with no punctuation. In fact there were no upper or lower case letters or spaces either; the words just ran into one another.
Scholars were expected to take time to examine texts and were certainly not expected to understand them the first time!
As written text became more commonplace, the requirement for punctuation became more apparent.
Today, Greek punctuation differs in places to that of the English language. For example, in Greek, the question mark looks like a semicolon and is used at the end of a sentence.
8) Greek is spoken by 13 million people worldwide, 10.7 million of those being in Greece and 1.1 million in Cyprus. It is also one of the official languages of the EU.
With the beautiful country, fabulous food and welcoming people, Greece, and its Greek islands, make a great holiday destination and tourists should make that extra effort to learn the language for their trip. It not only enhances the experience, but even a small effort will also be well-received from the local Greek people.
If you have a Greek language requirement, just get in contact with eSense Translations. We have fully qualified and experienced interpreters and translators ready to assist.
By Lorna Paice