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Tips for Learning Greek Fluently

B. Tips for Vocabulary Learning

In the beginning focus on pronunciation

As you learn how to hear the sounds of the Greek language, your listening comprehension gets a boost. Furthemore, as you become familiar this way with the spelling of the language, you retain better new words in your memory.

Core vocabulary

It is estimated that ‘basic’, common used words stand for 80% of the language we use every day. You see this is your second learning target. It is these words that you will put together with the basic grammar you will be learning in the beginner lessons and start to speak the language. Try to form with these words small phrases and then start building sentences.

"The bets on the best way to learn vocabulary”.

Well, I have to say there isn't one. It's a personal matter. Which technique is more efficient for your memory? But even if you think a particular one is appropriate for your learning style, combining that with others will have better results for you.

The most traditional one are the lists

Write a two columns list in Greek and your native language, rewrite the list, translate the list and check your errors, do this again after some time/a day and pass on to the new list of unknown words the words you didn't remember.

Flashcards (paper or 'digital') is also a widespread technique.

Anki is very famous and also Memrise make your list. On the one card you write the new word and on the other the translation together with examples (at least one). Bear in mind though that the soonest you stop translating in your mother tongue, the soonest you will become an independent user of Greek! So, instead of translating to your own language, you can put instead an image (from google images and google images basic). In addition, it helps to add a short reminder of the new word (someone's name, for example). Using these cards, you see the new words repetitively until you learn them.

Beware though, seeing new words repetitively with smaller spaces in the beginning and larger ones over time is important for learning and identifying the word. What you should be aiming nonetheless isn't just identifying the new word but retrieving and using it. So, to that direction, what I always advise my students is to try and make connections in their minds when meeting a new word. Perhaps 'souvlaki' is known before setting foot in Greece. Let's take as an example 'gigantes' that you find often on a tavern's menu. We make a picture in our mind - they look like that, they have a particular color and smell and taste, they are cooked and served in a particular way, perhaps we like them perhaps not and the sound of the word is made up of three 'explosive' sounds.

Apart from the above eight connections for the word 'butter beans', we can also take advantage of the 'keyword' technique. When he hear and read (easier in written form) the word, we identify a similar word in English and French and so on ('giant'). Thus, by transferring knowledge from your mother tongue or another language , we can guess the meaning of the new word. By the way, the particular word is of Greek etymology ('γίγας').

This is why many people when starting learning Greek or any other language look up the loans from and to their native and their target language. This is advisable so that learners realize the similarities and differences between the languages and start with things already known to them. Etymology is quintessential for learning effectively a language. And the fascinating thing is that by looking up the word parts, you are bound to understand more or less a new word, since Greek is considered a 'semantic' language (each word has a meaning, not just letters put together).
Summarizing the above, it's the elaboration on the new word that makes it easy for us to learn and use it. Thus, it is recommended to use flashcards mostly with hard to remember words.

Moreover, it is recommended not to learn groups of similar words as is makes it harder for learners to learn and remember. In order to learn new words more efficiently either learn them randomly, in unrelated groups or learn word 'chains' of relative words that can form a little story that will be easy to remember later. The answer to meaning interference is to try and make similar words look as different as possible.

Carry or download a dictionary in Greek and your language.

It takes just two seconds to look up a word during a conversation. And because you will be searching and using this word under particular circumstances , you are much likely to remember it next time (or perhaps next next time).

Reading is a big help also for you meet new words, often most than once, in different contexts. That, apart from boosting your memory, helps you grasp the different nuances and uses of words.

Whereas, using bilingual books or just bilingual texts (dialogues usually or songs) is a thorough way to learn topic vocabulary. How do you do this? Start by reading both pages, the Greek and the translated text. Then, try reading and understanding the Greek text only and check on the other page the words you don't remember. Then, try to translate from Greek to the other language. After a break (you determine what this may be), try to translate from your first language to Greek. Repeat. These 'back and forward translation' exercises help enormously to remember words.

Also, to boost your short-term memory when learning a new word, try using the word a few times right away. Listening to yourself using the language is very important. You can then go ahead and add this word to your notebook or write it in a yellow sticker and put it in your office or on the object itself.

Start watching one of the TV series

As they provide plenty of audio content with an interesting plot, vocabulary and different voices, by the time you start feeling comfortable you will still have many more hours of watching. To make the first few hours easier, read episode summaries ahead of time in Greek.

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Last revision: Jan 29, 2017 -- Rita Koukoulaki -- Check