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Greece fires up the passion for learning Greek

17 April 2009 / 17:04:18  GRReporter
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Americans say “it sounds Greek to me” but it seems that for many people around the world, Greek is nor a foreign language. Who are those Greek language fans? “The colors of Alonisos Island enchanted me, I liked the fact that Greeks are open and social,” says the 40 year old Veronique from France. “I found out that I can make friendships in Greece, which will last,” shares the 48 year old Gerhard from Austria. The student list grows each year and according to the teachers, everybody who start learning Greek, become more relaxed: “Westerners become more open and the Arabs less conservative,” notes Katerina Zaharidaou from Dubai.

“Every September, they come back tanned from the beaches and want to learn Greek,” says Alkistis Foti, Greek teacher in Austria, for Katemerini newspaper. “It seems that the ancient Greek civilization does not interest them that much. They are interested in socializing when they go on their vacation,” says the young teacher, who has been teaching Greek in Zalsburg since 2004. “Many Austrians are planning to move to an island in the Aegean after their retirement,” shares the teacher. “Of course they do not miss to complain from the nonfunctional hospitals, from the lack of good transportation, and from the prices… As a teacher I get very sad that all their questions about Greece come down to the tzatziki and sirtaki,” stresses Ms. Foti.

“I know many languages, because I had to learn them. Greek I learned because I wanted and for my own pleasure,” says 40 year old Veronique Filipo, who is studying Greek for the last eight years in the education department of the Ministry of Education in Paris. The most centers for Greek learning are in France, because of the Hellenistic culture of the country. “We have 280 students between the ages of 18 and 70. And because the lessons are free we have many others who are in the waiting lists,” explains Theodora Emanouilidou. The French people have many motifs to learn Greek: “Most of them are in love with Greece and the Greeks. Some of them have a Greek heritage, others are students, who want to learn a rare language,” continues Mrs. Emanouilidou. Veronique started learning Greek after her third visit to the country. “Even though I couldn’t understand the language, I felt I could make friends in Greece easier than in France. At the beginning I was dreaming of moving to Greece. After that I understood that this will remain just a dream,” says disappointed Veronique, “but I still visit the country three times per year.”

“In 1997 a student born in the occupied part of Cyprus, started gathering signatures so we can start teaching Greek,” remembers Mrs. Chrisi Sidiropoulou, a Greek language teacher in the University of Bosporus in Istanbul. “At the beginning the atmosphere was magical. The young Turks had such an opportunity for the first time. This is why everybody was curious and enthusiastic. Unfortunately, in Turkey we do not have a center from where they can get a diploma, this is why they leave for Greece, where they can earn one.”

“As parents raising their children abroad, we were very worried that our children will not learn Greek on a good level,” admits Daphne Sakopoulou. “But thanks to the Greek Language Center, from 2007 there is a Hellenic Council Dubai, which is an official center for learning the language.” People are very interested in it and already there are 14 classes for children and adults and 9 teachers. “Except for mixed marriage children, our classes are multicultural – representative of the society here,” comments Catherina Zahariadou. “Westerners admire us for the ancient culture, they know many scientific conceptions, which come from the Greek language, and the Arabs think of us as friends.” Georgia is an Italian married for a Greek: “I do not have a passion for foreign languages but the Greek language enchanted me. It is a very rich language and it is very interesting for all Latin speakers. I found out the roots of many Italian words through Greek!”

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