Three month Greek fluency challenge: Part 1

Three month Greek fluency challenge: Part 1

That’s right folks, Ive challenged myself to Greek fluency in three months…ninety days…a quarter of a year…I know, it’s not long! The battle has commenced; one girl against a mighty language, self discipline versus distractions, determination meets procrastination…Ok you get the point. I’m ready, I have tea and chocolate at hand. Let the studying commence.

Trying to study the Greek language last winter…

Why I’ve set myself the challenge of Greek fluency in three months…

We’ve lived in Greece for almost two years now, and although I am progressing, it’s slow and laborious. That’s because a) I haven’t got the time, b) I’m waiting until I can afford proper lessons with a teacher, and c) Mr Sidestepping-Normal distracts me. Are you buying my lame excuses???

Okay, okay, enough of the baseless justifications. The real reason is that I’ve got lazy over the last year. I prioritise EVERYTHING EXCEPT studying, plus learning a new language is overwhelming. I arrived in August 2018 full of ambition and energy for learning Greek, but it’s dwindled. I was hoping that living in Greece would be enough to thrust me into the realm of Greek fluency, but as with all things in life, you have to put in the effort if you want results.

Apparently eating walnuts promotes cognitive health…I’m on my third bowl today…

Why now?

As some of you that follow me on Facebook and instagram know, Mr SN has travelled back to the UK for three months of work. That means that now is my time. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to focus. If I don’t make the effort now, then I never will.

I’m an all or nothing kind of person, and I don’t do things by halves. I’ve spent the last year being lazy with my Greek language learning, so now I’m going to do an intense three month programme to make up for it.

Additionally, I need something to get me through the next three months. Being without Mr SN is going to be tough, I’m prepared for that. We spent five weeks apart last summer, and that was long enough.

The man I’m lucky to spend my life with…

Why it matters so much…

I could easily continue to live here without learning Greek, but becoming fluent is one of my life goals. I want to be able to understand what’s going on around me, converse with local people and fully integrate. Learning Greek really excites me and I enjoy the challenge. When I set myself a challenge, I won’t stop until it’s achieved. You may have already read my post on 15 tips: How to achieve your dreams, which highlights how we set goals and achieve them.

The three month Greek fluency challenge…

I hereby pledge to myself, and you, that I will commit to studying and learning for four hours everyday for the next 90 days. In total that equals 360 hours of learning within the next three months. I will be using a variety of different tools to learn, such as online exercises, books, tv, music, speaking with friends and neighbours etc. 

I will be logging my progress and the hours I spend learning, so that I can keep track of my journey. Not only will it provide me with the motivation to keep going, it will also mean that I can share tips with you on here.

My ability now…

I’ve been learning Greek on and off for the last ten years, but I always hit the same brick wall and never seem to get any further. The language sounds really familiar because I’ve been hearing it over the last couple of years of living here. I can pick out lots of words I know, and sometimes I can follow the conversation, but there are lots of words I still can’t understand, so sometimes I can’t understand a thing. I struggle with the speed of Greek conversations (who doesn’t!) and because there are lots of gaps in my vocabulary, I tend to use the same words over and over again.

The vocabulary that I do have, I can use confidently, and I’m told that I have a good accent. I can construct basic sentences and use a little of the future and past tenses, as well as talking about topics such as myself, my house, my garden, pets, likes and dislikes, ordering food, asking what time shops open/close etc. I can’t speak in detail about anything, everything is in simple terms and quite repetitive! I can’t link lots of words together, so my sentences are short and stilted! Having said all of that, I can usually make myself understood somehow.

What do I mean by fluent?

The definition of fluency is: The ability to speak or write a foreign language easily and accurately. There are varying levels of fluency, but my aim is to understand and converse with basic everyday language so that I can be understood and understand. I want to be bale to walk into a shop and chat with the lady on the till, or pass the time of day with people in the village. I also want to be able to book appointments at the vets or doctors. 

What happens if I fail?

I’m not going into this challenge lightly, and I plan to succeed. As it stands, there is no reason why I can’t invest four hours every day on learning. But even if I work hard and clock up 360 hours, who’s to say I’ll actually be fluent? Even if I don’t achieve fluency, that’s fine with me. Either way, I’ll have a much greater understanding of the greek language.

Following my progress…

This post is the first of four parts. I’ll be updating you with my progress after 30 days, 60 days, and finally at the end, after 90 days. In the next post, part two, I’ll be explaining my methods, whether they are working, and how I’m progressing.


Now that I’ve informed you of my plans, there’s the pressure to follow through with them! I’m already a couple of days in, and things are going well so far. 

Are you learning Greek? How are you finding it? Have you also hit that brick wall? How have you managed to overcome it? Let me know about your methods and progress in the comments below. Any tips are very welcome ?

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42 thoughts on “Three month Greek fluency challenge: Part 1

  1. Kalo tychi….which I’m very much hoping means good luck. If it turns out to mean something inappropriate then I’m really sorry (poli signomi)! Hope you make good progress…I’ve been trying and picking things up for years, but am still struggling to get beyond the basic, so if you find a method that works well please do let me in on the secret.
    I think one of the difficulties is that it’s hard to transfer written Greek phonetically, because of the different alphabet….though conversely looking at a traffic sign, restaurant blurb or anything else and working it out (slowly, for me) is strangely satisfying.
    Not being permanently resident in Crete also means that my Greek is better in November, after half a dozen visits than it is in March or April, when over-winter rustiness has very much set in!
    Look forward to hearing of your progress.

  2. Google To Nisi on Youtube, I watched that series and thoroughly enjoyed it (and that with me knowing less than you!) (If you haven’t already been to Spinalonga we could go with Matty for a day trip when I’m back!). Also, the TV series A for Autism made it to Greek tv (Alpha) and since that was set in Crete it was fab. Alpha have a ton of programmes to watch online here –

    1. Thanks for the tips and link Emily. I found ‘to nisi’ on youtube and it looks really good. We’ve been to spinalonga, but I wouldn’t say no to seeing it again. Look forward to seeing you both soon.

  3. Hi Steph ….wishing you well with your studies, I remember learning French and for a while I was thinking in French, that’s when I think you’ve cracked it. It’s about learning the vocabulary but for me also I had to understand the grammar too. I did lots of lessons with a lady who asked me to translate sentences into French to her which she would correct and ask me to write down after the lesson. I was so shy at school I barely said a word in French classes so the teachers were shocked I when I did so well ! Your such an inspiration my goal is to do more landscape painting while the theatres are shut.
    Lots of love Sophx

    1. Hi Sophie ? I really like the method that your teacher used. I’m going to steal that approach, as I have some Greek friends that speak English that are going to help me.

      What a breakthrough to be able to think in French. That’s what I’m aiming for…but in Greek ?

      Hope you are all well ❤️ xx

  4. I wish you the best of luck! I was resident, full time in Greece for twenty years, in a quite remote corner of the mainland, four hours from Athens. y greek is now far better than it was when I arrived but I still struggle to follow details of the news on radio and can read the papers only with the aid of a good dictionary (The large Oxford one, Greek – English only, with invaluable tables on the back pages.). While I can now reasonably easily make myself fluent, I am far from fluent!

    1. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand the news! It’s so quick, they don’t seem to come up for air! On the upside, I quite enjoy not hearing about depressing world events ?

  5. I hope you’re not learning Greek from that goat, she only knows the swear words.. λολ

  6. Wishing you all the very best over these next few weeks, it sounds like you will be extremely busy with all of your usual daily chores (especially with Mr SN not being there to help) as well as this wonderful plan to improve your Greek. Immersing yourself in something you love to do will help to make the time fly by, and I guess you will also be immersing yourself mostly in only speaking to Greeks which will also help you to focus on trying to speak and ‘think’ Greek a little more.
    My husband and I tried learning a little ‘holiday Greek’ for six months over the winter a few years ago and we went on off quite impressed with ourselves. We tried it out in bars/cafes with the friendly staff who we already knew – they were lovely and patient but they all speak such good English they found it easier and quicker to understand, than our Greek attempts! We also made the usual mistake of not knowing the next thing to say, as in learning to say ‘A Glass of Red Wine Please!’ But then they would say ‘Sweet or Dry?’……..oh darn! Not to worry, I am sure you are streets ahead of what we were and it won’t take you too long to refine it.
    With your optimism and zest for life, and with plenty of beautiful Cretans around you, you will be
    fine! Look forward to hearing all about it over the next few weeks.

    1. You’re absolutely right. Now that I’m here alone, the ‘chores’ in the morning and evening are certainly keeping me busy!

      I know that feeling all too well, I often learn a phrase and feel very smug as I reel of the sentence, until they reply and then I haven’t got a clue!

  7. Hi Steph, hope all goes well with your Greek lingo learning, I am sure you will reach your goal!! Sharon saw of you and heard of your Greek on TV ,You will definitely get there!!
    Kali Tychi!!!

  8. After visiting Greece multiple times, including 2 months here in Crete in 2018, it is also time for me to learn Greek. We are living in Marediana, near Kissamos, looking for a building plot. Initially planned to stay for 2 months, now very happy to be in voluntary Cretan lockdown. Anyway, I signed up for a Greek course with International Language School in Bristol, then shifted to private lessons with the same young Greek teacher. We carried on over Zoom, and will re-start when she settles in Athens. I am following a standard course Greek for You A1. It is very systematic and may be what you already know but it leads up to A2. It could be good revision, though. There’s an audio CD with listening excercises. I started with the Michel Thomas method but it sounds as though you are well past that. I also use Duolingo as a kind of top up. If I could put a psychologist’s hat on for a moment, I would say that ‘spaced practice’ is best. Don’t make the study sessions too long. Daily practice is clearly good and I find that it’s hard to get a solid 2 hours to myself! You won’t have that problem! I love the Greek alphabet and writing Greek. If you are not writing regularly, I would say, give it a try. Google translate is helpful for unusual words, and I enjoy the luxury of an iPad and iPencil. (Not in the simple lifestyle!) I have been in touch with you before via comments. If you would like to get in touch feel free to email – maybe there is a way of helping each other. There are some good resources out there – Cooking Lab. is a nice one on You Tube,

    1. I just looked up Cooking lab on you tube and ended up watching Akis Petretzikis you tube channel (I’m not sure if this is what you were referring too, but either way is’t fantastic!) Cookery programmes are my favourite ?

      I began with Michel Thomas too. I’m going to get it back out and see if the last CD of the second series seems easy now, I remember it seeming hard but that was a couple of years ago now.

      I definitely think you are right. Spacing out the studying is more productive than clocking up the hours for the sake of it. I’m trying to add lots of variety so that nothing gets boring!

  9. Way to hold yourself to a high standard of accountability! Greek fluency is a challenge best faced with wine and cheese. I have been working to achieve fluency for many years and I applaud and encourage you to stick with your intensive. Καλό μάθημα, Good Studies!

    1. Exactly my thoughts…now I’ve told you all, I have the pressure to do it! I’ll apply the wine and cheese to my studies and see if it helps ?

  10. I have tried in person lessons while in Greece but the technical aspects always bore me and I am sidetracked by an opportunity to share coffee with my tutor! Also have spent months on Duolingo, but, after returning to Canada from frequent trips to Greece, I do not know anyone to converse with! My aging brain retains the basics and the rest just melts away. Good luck!!

    1. The technical grammar really is tough. I’ve asked lots of Greeks why I should use this word here or that word there, and most of them shrug and say they don’t know, it’s just the way it is! ?

      I think it takes a specific set of circumstances to really learn a language. I, like you have tried for many years without really breaking it. I wish I could live with a lovely Greek family for a few months…that would do the trick I think.

      1. I’ve lived with my Greek wife for 30 years and I still know little Greek. I’ve learned more on my own. For I’d say I listened to Pimsleur’s Greek language course (for over a year I’m guessing) WHILE DELIVERING THE MAIL! Try doing that and not misdeliver the mail! Lol! But I learned a TON during this time! But…..times change, I changed stations, and honestly the course got harder and the words. I got discouraged and I dwindled off course. I still watch Greek news, Greek master chef, (Oh! I can read 99% Greek) and my wife shares a few Greek words here and there, but it just quickly dissipates in 2 minutes.
        All the best to you yo learn the beautiful language.

  11. Good luck I’m sure you will do it with your determination. I lived and worked in Corfu and Athens back in the 80’s for a travel company. After 2 years I could hold a basic conversation ..v basic! Especially if about work. I love the greek language and like you wanted to be able to chat with people. I tried Greek classes in the UK but didnt want to learn ” George has a red pencil” etc. So they didn’t last long! The BBC had a Greek language and people book and tapes ( well it was the 80’s!) that were good! Now I just do my best on holiday and in the UK have been known to follow people around shops if I hear them speaking Greek! Will be interested to read about your progress and tips! Good luck!

    1. A friend who lives here in Crete was telling me about her son who was trying to learn Greek in the Uk. He had the same problem and was learning phrases such as “Nikos has a green bicycle.” We joked that when he came out to visit her, he would spend the entire holiday looking for a green bicycle so that he could use his phrase!

  12. Great challenge! I will follow your updates with interest! Living in Crete now and busy setling I can’t find the time yet because of all the other goals at this time! One day at the time for us and still learning English as well! Always welcome here when feeling to alone! Have a nice day, Truus and Gerard in Xirosterni.

    1. I know what you mean, when you first arrive, there are so many things to sort out and explore. You’ve definitely mastered English by the looks of it ?

  13. Good luck Steph, I’m sure you will achieve. I’d rather learn the Greek dancing whilst eating Greek yogurt with honey and almonds! Oh well……

    1. You and Reg should have a Greek evening and have a go at learning the dancing from you tube ?…stock up the fridge with honey and yogurt too!

  14. Yes, I’ve taken a Duolingo subscription, and found it very helpful, but there isn’t any substitute for immersion learning, and face to face with a teacher or a willing mentor! I’ve been married to a Greek for forty years, and we always communicate in English. We have Greek friends who just take off when talking to him, but they’ve realized that I can understand the gist of the conversation so they say, σιγά σιγά, so that I can also follow. Years ago our Greek church had adult Greek language classes, so I signed up. Very good start, but other adults were not so keen or missed assignments. I had to drop it, but I did keep the desire to learn burning. So now that I’m retired, I have taken up the challenge, once more, to learn conversational Greek. I am fluent in Spanish, and proficient in reading French, rusty in language skills as no one to practice on. I like using the Google translator app for Greek (or whichever language you’re learning). We can chart our progress. Perhaps you can test us with a phrase here and there, and we’ll answer briefly in Greek. For now, Κάλι νύχτα!

    1. Good luck with your studying too. Maybe everyone that’s commented here can all help each other out and chat in Greek from time to time. When I write part 2 of this series, I’ll add in a few Greek phrases ?

  15. I struggled trying to speak Greek. We spent five weeks, spread over three trips, each year in Greece and every visit I picked up a few more words, but I was still left with little understanding of the grammar or the alphabet. Peter was happy to leave the speaking to me so, I bought teach yourself books and CD’s which helped and when we in Greece I always tried to use my limited conversation. This worked well up to a point but youngsters wanted to improve their English so it was difficult to maintain a dialogue in Greek. Older folk were easier and I remember in particular when we stayed in Omalos so we could do some walking in the mountains. The small Exari hotel was run by husband and wife and she spoke to me in Greek and if I didn’t understand, she re-worded in simpler language. Before we went out she asked us where we were going. With no mountain rescue this information would be used, if we failed to return! BUT staying in Omalos was when I was having Greek lessons. Making no real headway with the books and CD’s, I decided it had to be lessons. Our initial group of twelve reduced to five. This was great, as Ireni was able to give us more attention and we students had more opportunities to talk on the subject of the week. Here comes another, BUT after a couple of years we decided on a life change, packed up work, moved to a quieter part of the country and stopped travelling. Here comes one final BUT, I still write (as far as possible) my shopping list in Greek, mumble to myself in Greek (Peter has got used to this), and it is unbelievably useful if you have one of those unwanted telephone calls to break into a tirade in Greek – confused at the other end soon hangs up! So, Steph with your determination, I know you are going to give it your all and I am really looking forward to reading your blogs as you progress, but maybe put a wee suggestion to Mr SN that he puts a little of what he earns over the next three months aside for a possible Plan B…..lessons.

    1. Hi Janet,

      Great to hear from you. I’m sitting here typing whilst munching on cucumbers and tomatoes from the garden ? with a little olive oil and salt…naturally!

      You sound very determined too. It’s such a tricky language to crack, especially, as you said, because lots of Greeks want to practice their English! I wish I had some money for lessons, luckily I have some friends and neighbours I can call on for some conversational practice.

      I’m off to watch Greek tv now ?

  16. speaking Greek in three months? its quiet a challenge but you can do it with the help of the goat.
    By the way is the villa ready? i would like to rent it when I visit Crete around next Christmas.


    1. I agree, the goat is the key to fluency!

      Unfortunately Walnut Cottage won’t be ready for renting until Spring 2021. If you’re planning a trip next year then keep us in mind ?

  17. Good summer challenge!
    Duolingo is good, if a little repetitive. Using ear phones helps in learning any language from apps or cds, as it cuts out the background noise.

    My friends speak in English to me and I speak in Greek to them, strange I know but it helps with my sentence structure in Greek as they tend to construct English sentences using Greek grammar.
    Also try to speak just Greek when shopping or out for a coffee, even if the reply is in English…. this one is hard, but worth it. Eventually they will only speak to you in Greek at your regular haunts.

    Don’t worry about the tenses too much… there are at least seven! Most locals I know don’t use them all anyway.

    I’m nowhere near fully fluent but I have fun trying….

    Best of luck. Xx

      1. I found this useful, listening to ERT, the Greek national radio station in my car. I live in Chania. My wife and I moved here in 2007. I did a basic course in Greek with a useful course book called “Επικοινωνήστε στα Ελληνικά”. Ιt’s a three-book series but I only found books one and two useful. My opinion is that the only real way is “use it or lose it”. I teach English and have to communicate with my students’ parents in Greek. Another useful thing I found is to learn the language shortcuts.

        1. Thanks for the tips. You’re definitely right, unless you need to use the language, your brain doesn’t bother retaining it! What do you mean by the language shortcuts? They sound like something I need to learn!

  18. When you are not explicitly studying, you may want to consider listening to endless amounts of Greek radio in the background while you work on other tasks. Radio talk shows are much easier to understand than the nightly news, and the music is usually upbeat and entertaining. Music is also a window into Greek culture, and helps you get used to the different sounds and word pronunciations in a passive way. Good luck!

    Θα τα καταφέρεις!

  19. Hi Steph, just wondering how things are going?
    Like you, I started learning Greek in the UK (about 5 years ago) and probably like you, I’ve done various types of learning along the way. We’ve only been in Greece 11 months and I presumed being immersed in the culture would help but I found it didn’t. We live in a traditional village where English isn’t spoken and I’ve found myself being more and more afraid of the language. Every time I try a chat I end up feeling worse and lose confidence.
    I’m now having twice weekly lessons by Skype and it’s helping a lot but it does feel like a lot of money. The frustrating thing about language is that you need a decent amount of vocabulary and understanding of grammar to even be able to start to chat and people generally don’t have the time to listen to me struggling. I came to the conclusion that it is a necessity like food and water so I just pay up and try not to think about it.
    Like you, I’m currently here alone but only for 9 weeks. My husband is in the UK working also. You’d think that would spur me on but no, I’d rather watch the birds in my garden and listen to the goats. If you have cracked fluency while Matt has been away I could do with some tips please x

    1. Hello! It’s lovely to hear from you. I can empathise with everything in your message completely, that’s exactly how I have felt. I definitely haven’t improved as much as I’d have liked, but I’m still feeling optimistic…I’ll be able to explain in more detail in an upcoming blog post coming soon…I’ve been a bit lax on the blog front, but I’m back again and full of energy?

      It’s taken me two years to feel okay with the fact that it’s going to take time and that I can’t be fluent instantly.

      I love how you mentioned that learning the language is as important as food and water; I feel like that too and I just wish I had lots of money to pay for an immersive three month homestay.

      Matt has just returned home and it’s the best feeling in the world. I hope the nine weeks without your husband fly by too. ?

  20. Hi Steph, I am sure you’ll get there in the end, but try not to let it take over your enjoyment of life!
    Well, we have found a place to rent over the winter, we are in Agia Marina right now, return to UK tomorrow 10th of Oct, and return in 31st for 5 months so will get in touch again once we settled in, if that’s ok with you!! Would be lovely to meet you both!!xx

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