As with everything we do, we have a picked a country with one of the hardest languages to learn! We never like to make things simple for ourselves and so we are rising to the challenge of learning the beautiful Greek language.
We always joke that we could have picked France as our new home! Heaven knows the language would have been far easier to pick-up and at least we could read it from the beginning. Instead, we quit our life in the UK and moved to Greece. We are now embarking on the daunting journey of mastering a new dialect.
Mr Sidestepping-Normal would be the first to admit that he’s falling behind with his language learning (sorry darling!) Subsequently, for the first time in our relationship, I have become the one who is taking the lead.
Usually I depend on Mr Sidestepping-Normal to be the more dominant of the two of us (only in public of course!) but it’s strange how the tables have turned. I am leaping forward with learning Greek and I have become the one to ask questions and enquire.
Having been here for 10 months, I have a new found confidence that wasn’t there before. Situations that would have made me feel worried and anxious now don’t phase me at all. It has taken a while, but through forcing myself, over and over again out of my comfort zone, I now feel quite comfortable out of my comfort Zone…I mean, my comfort zone is less comfortable than it was…you know what I’m saying, right?
This wasn’t the case from the beginning though. Let me share with you how I have got to the point that I’m at now…
I have had an appreciation for the beauty of the Greek language for a long time. When I was 18, I enrolled myself in evening classes to learn Greek. I sat alongside lots of retired folk, all of us grappling with a new alphabet and complicated grammar, whilst our patient teacher repeated words and phrases to us.
There I was, sandwiched between a retired teacher with a holiday home in the Peloponnese and a woman in her mid 30’s who’d fallen madly in love with a Greek man called Nikos on holiday…She didn’t turn up after the first few lessons so I’m not sure what happened with that whirlwind romance.
After the first year, I enrolled into the second year. The combination of those two years gave me a great grounding in learning Greek and I felt that I had mastered the basics.
Over the next 10 years, I sporadically picked up my Greek books and recapped on the things I had already learned and at one point I invested in a few lessons with a private tutor. Despite my attempts however, I just never seemed to progress and further. I always hit a brick wall. I started to stagnate and get frustrated.
Moving to Greece…
When we finally arrived in Crete to live, I felt a sense of relief that finally I would have the chance to push my language-learning, and progress much further. I launched myself into initiating conversations at any opportunity, whether it was at the till paying for shopping, or with a passing neighbour.
I religiously studied everyday, and had lists of new words written on the fridge. It’s fair to say that I was committed and eager.
Here’s the part where I’m supposed to tell you that I started to gain confidence and my vocabulary quickly expanded, right? In fact, the complete opposite happened.
I started to find that although I could begin a basic conversation, I was unable to understand the reply. Most of the language-learning techniques had been focused on learning from a book. I was totally unprepared for anyone to answer me!
“I was totally unprepared for anyone to answer me!”
Consequently, I began to find any excuse not to go out and test my language skills. I would tell myself that; the weather wasn’t right, the time was wrong, I didn’t know enough words yet. Any excuse would do. I wasn’t fussy.
Consequently, I started to feel really anxious about going out, which obviously had an impact on everything. How could I become fluent in a language when it scared me so much? I put more and more pressure on myself to learn at home and avoided any scenario out of my control, which is completely counter intuitive to learning.
To make my frustrations even worse, Mr Sidestepping-Normal put no pressure on himself at all. Admittedly, he was making even less progress than me (sorry again darling!) but he didn’t stress about it. Whilst I spent hours memorising words, he would contentedly watch a film without any guilt.
Everything began to revolve around my anxiety of going out and speaking Greek. This was a really foreign concept for me (excuse the pun!) because I had never struggled with anxiety before. It was completely controlling me. If you haven’t sussed me out yet, I hate being controlled or told what to do.
I was becoming my own worst enemy and I didn’t know how to solve it.
Do something that scares you everyday…
As with all good solutions, tea and cake in generous quantities really does help. In conjunction with that, a good friend gave me some very wise advice. She told me that you’re supposed to do something that scares you everyday, in order to stop the fear from controlling you. If you can ignore that little voice inside, telling you that you can’t do something, then you have won.
I started by challenging myself to do something scary everyday. Firstly I walked up to the Kafenion in our village and sat with the villagers. Next, I went to the shop and had a conversation half in Greek and half in English with the lady in the little convenience shop. I also went to the bank and asked to withdraw some money.
I couldn’t believe the euphoric feeling I got when I pushed myself into situations that only days before, I had dreaded. The fear of failing began to subside and I started to grasp the meaning of new words. On top of pushing myself when I was out and about, I also started a job.
Where I’m at now…
You can read about my summer jobs in Greece in this post. Needless to say, working in an environment where I am immersed in Greek, forces me to learn. Additionally, because I am being forced to use the language in my everyday life, I have stopped putting pressure on myself to study at home all the time. This means that Mr Sidestepping-Normal and myself can now enjoy time together, without me stressing us both out.
I will keep you informed on my journey to fluency, but I have now got to the point where I am enjoying the process of learning Greek. It’s far slower than I imagined it being, but it’s become a natural and relaxed process. I’m committed to becoming fluent, but I’ve accepted that it’s going to take time. Luckily I have plenty of that.
Never miss a thing! If you’d like to be alerted of new blog posts, subscribe to our newsletter.