Three month Greek fluency challenge: Part 2

Three month Greek fluency challenge: Part 2

Is it possible to fit two people and a bicycle on a scooter? Can you fashion a scarf into a sling for carrying around a cat? To find out the answer to these bizarre questions and to catch up on my three month Greek fluency challenge, keep reading. 


I wonder how she got on with that three month Greek fluency challenge?

A few of you have thought it, there have been mutterings of support in the comments section and I’ve had a few emails referencing it. I was hoping you might have forgotten about the challenge I set myself. I could have deleted the original blog post along with all the comments and denied all knowledge of it’s existence. What three month Greek fluency challenge? No, You must have remembered wrong.

The trouble is, that’s not me. I can’t delete it, I can’t accuse you of being mistaken, I did set myself that challenge. Over the last 12 weeks you may have imagined me studying away, diligently glued to my books, reluctant to leave the house, hardly passing food and drink past my lips. In your mind I’m a dedicated student, relentless in my efforts to learn Greek. I really wish I could live up to your expectations but I’m going to have to shatter the illusion. I’ve let you down. I’ve been a terrible student. The guilt has been eating away at me, well you know…it has a little bit…It flashed through my mind as I did the washing up at work one morning.

At this point, by my own reckoning, I should be babbling away in Greek effortlessly. I should have almost 200 hours under my belt. I should be writing to tell you that I’m almost there. Shall I tell you about my failures or successes first? Let’s get the worst bit out the way first.

What went wrong?

Firstly, the challenge was too intense. When I set myself the task, I was at home by myself with nothing else to occupy me. Mr SN was in the UK and I’d got very used to not working and having nothing else to do. Completing four hours of studying a day was achievable, if a little excessive.

Suddenly, I went from twiddling my thumbs to working most mornings. What’s more, the chore of having to cycle to work took up time and effort. In addition my mum arrived, so I was no longer on my own, I hadn’t seen her in 7 months, so there was a lot to catch up on. Another reason is that I was also simultaneously undertaking another time consuming project. I don’t want to mention what that other project is right now, but I ended up prioritising my focus on that one.

Also, I had an unplanned trip back to England at the two month stage and Mr SN and I returned to Crete two weeks before he was originally due home. This changed my three month Greek language challenge in to a two month one. 

Have I been studying at all?

Yes, despite not living up to the challenge, I’ve still made progress and have spent time studying and learning. I’m an eternal optimist, so I’m really pleased with my progress. Even if i’d only learnt one additional word, I’d probably be patting myself on the back. It’s you I’m worried about. Can you forgive me? I feel like we’ve known each other long enough, you and I, to reveal our flaws. Just so you know, it’s not you, it’s me.

Reading the three little pigs in Greek…

Here is a breakdown of how I studied and the hours I put in between 6th July and 5th August:

I began making a log of the hours that I was studying. According to my log I’ve done 29 hours and 45 minutes of studying, but that doesn’t take into account the time I spend at work when my boss speaks to me in Greek and teaches me new words. 

I spent 13 hours and 20 minutes watching television, predominately Peppa Pig in Greek (Πέππα γουρουνάκι) I learnt SO much from watching this programme. The language is slow and repetitive but it’s not so easy that I get bored. It familiarised me with new verbs I didn’t know and sentence structure. Thanks to Peppa and her pig family, my listening skills have improved.

My neighbour helped me with some commonly used verbs in different tenses…

I spent 2 hours and 15 minutes listening to music by Nikos Vertis (Νίκος Βέρτης) In particular the songs: Κοντά Σου, Πρόσεχε Καλά and Mην Αργείς. I continue to put them on in the background and I managed to get the lyrics for a couple of them, so I wrote them out and sing along. Next step is to find the chords and play them on the guitar.

The rest of my time I spent in varying quantities learning via different methods. You can see from my log below. 

The log I kept of my progress…

How much have I progressed?

It’s hard to measure, I definitely have progressed, but I’m still a long, long way from being fluent. My listening is much better and I’ve gained more vocabulary. I still have a insatiable thirst for learning, so with the right environment I could definitely become fluent quickly. The difficultly is that I live in a house with Mr SN speaking English, and I’m an introvert by nature, so social situations don’t hold much excitement for me. I really have to force myself to go out and speak Greek with people. At the moment I’m working in a little guesthouse and my boss is a teacher. Not only is he patient with me, but he loves to teach me new words.

The frustrating thing is that I know I can become fluent, but without being immersed, the process is slow. I’ll keep going until I get there.

Can you read the Greek text?

Fitting a bicycle on a moped and making a cat carrier from a scarf…

You may, in eagerness, have skipped straight to this point to find out the answers to those bizarre questions I mentioned in the first paragraph. What do they have to do with the Greek fluency challenge? Nothing, nothing at all. Nonetheless, let’s talk about the maximum load on a scooter and unusual methods of carrying a cat. Maybe you’ve been wondering about these things too?

Fitting a bicycle on a scooter…

One scorchingly hot day as I was cycling home, a very kind man on a scooter took pity on me and offered me a lift. I lifted my eyebrows in surprise. Me?… was he really intending to accommodate me and my bicycle laden with panniers…and him…all on his tiny scooter? I wasn’t sure it could be done. He grinned at me enthusiastically. Any fleeting doubt was quickly overtaken by the prospect of the other option – to keep cycling up the hill.

I liked this man’s optimism, and so without much persuasion, I found myself sat on the back of a stranger’s bike, struggling to hold the back end of my bicycle, as he executed a very fine balance of holding the front of my bicycle with one hand whilst simultaneously driving the scooter with the other. Initially there was a lot of wobbling, but as we gained momentum, my Greek knight in shining armour pulled back the throttle and we soared along as he garbled in Greek. By the time he dropped me off in Perama, we were bound by an inextricable bond which he sealed with a business card for his mobile DJ service based in Heraklion.

Fashioning a cat carrying device out of a scarf…

Our cat Ruby loves to be held. She’ll happily be bundled around all day as she purrs with delight, and even accompanies us on lengthy dog walks. She may well be a dog stranded in a feline body. As much as we love to carry her about, it’s not conducive to getting things done. With that in mind, I give you…the cat carrier, made from a scarf.

Ruby in her cat carrier…

Life has been revolutionised, I now have my hands free to get things done whilst keeping Ruby happy too. The weather has become unusually hot for October, but I predict that as the winter creeps upon us, Ruby will be spending many an hour being hoisted around like a baby.

Things I’ve learnt over the last 12 weeks…

I may have let you down on the Greek fluency front, but hopefully by blinding you with cats and scooters, you’ll soon forget. I’m on a long and bumpy road heading towards Greek fluency, but as always, there’s an opportunity to learn and take stock, let me regale you with the lessons I’ve learnt recently: a) Learning Greek is difficult when you can survive without needing it, b) The Peppa Pig theme tune wears thin after a while, and c) If you need a DJ, my new acquaintance Manolis might be your man.

How are you doing with your Greek learning? Are you anywhere near fluency yet?

Never miss a thing! If you’d like to be alerted of new blog posts, subscribe to our newsletter.

17 thoughts on “Three month Greek fluency challenge: Part 2

  1. ALL languages take time and lots of practice. Don’t be hard on yourself; what’s the rush? Slowly and surely is the thing. Try and encourage Mr SN to take it up too. It will make it a lot easier for you. Good luck.

  2. I am in awe of your effort towards fluency. Genius idea watching kids TV (if you can tolerate it).

    I’ve not long returned from our holiday in Crete (followed by quarantine) with my handful of phrases used only a few times. I can vouch for how hard it is, especially when you speak your few words of Greek and then are replied to in fluent English.

  3. Hi,
    I am very relieved that you “didn’t succeed” (I won’t say “failed”!) in your quest – it’s simple!
    Life get’s in the way but that’s a good thing and means you can look forward to learning more in the future. Had you actually become fluent, that pleasure of always discovering new words may have been lost to you but now you can enjoy knowing there will always be something new.
    Also, it makes me feel better that I (we!) can spend weeks living in Greece, simply re-learning words and phrases we have already learned!
    Fear not, in ten years time, you (and us) will be much better, even if never fluent.

  4. Hi Steph

    I love reading your stories. You write so well. I think you’re doing great. Take it easy and don’t be so stressed. Greek is so difficult as it is. Love your cat carrier and what a gorgeous kitty. She’s beautiful. I am from South Africa and am so desperate to go to Crete. (will definitely look you up.) My hubby’s pressie for my birthday in February was a ticket to go to Tuscany on a culinary tour. Unfortunately this virus is spoiling all my plans for now.. Hopefully things will improve soon.. Keep the flag up and carry on with your studying. Take care lots of love Irene .

  5. I took Greek lessons as a pre-teen. I can sound out the words I read, but have no idea what I’m saying. I’ve tried a few online programs, but life and other projects always seem to get in the way. It doesn’t help that on my annual visits to Kefalonia, everyone speaks English. I have a Greek friend who teaches English there. I’ve been thinking of asking her to provide virtual tutoring. I’m taking an online singing workshop out of Australia that will teach us 4 different folk songs about unorthodox Greek women. It is called Ain’t Misbehaving. Unfortunately, with time zones, I have to join weekly at 3 a.m.! One day, I will get someone to teach me Greek dances at our nearest Greek Orthodox Church, about an hour’s drive away. You are so lucky to be living there. That is on my “bucket list.”

  6. Thank you for cheering up my day with this blog.
    I had been wondering whether you’d be able to learn as much as planned, when your Mum arrived. I didn’t realise you were working too, and of course having extra chores, with being without Mr SN. It was a tad optimistic but it sounds like you have actually done wonderfully well, and there is nothing at all wrong with optimism.
    I love the idea of learning Greek via Peppa Pig and your Boss, the mind boggles as to what kind of conversations you could have! Whatever they are they’d be a lot better than any I could manage so Well Done You!
    I have to admit to being far more disappointed that you don’t have photographic evidence of the scooter/bike ride, that would have been something to see for sure! It sounds so typically Greek….brings back a memory of one day when we were on Rethymno beach and a truck drove down from the promenade. It was a big heavy, dirty looking beast of a truck, but the two guys in it carefully and gently lifted an elderly lady, (assumed it was their Mother) out of the back and carried her to a lounger…….along with all her bags and paraphernalia for her afternoon in the sun, just the normality of the Greek way.
    You’ve made up for it with the photo of Ruby though, she looks delighfully happy, she will keep you cosy when winter does come for sure.

  7. I don’t think you should be yourself up for one moment about the progress you have made/not made with your Greek. All of us who have been visiting for 20 years or more get by on about 10 words and lots of smiles ( and in previous times, shaking hands) I think it’s brilliant for you to even try. Lx

  8. Thanks for this. Really interesting – and I’m going to see if I can find Peppa Pig in Greek! I have lessons online every monday, with lots of homework, but it’s the sort of ‘listen to this greek pop song and fill in the missing words – and watch Friends in Greek’ kind of homework that keeps me motivated!! At the moment I’m also doing a 30 day speaking challenge. 30 days of different topics. I have to record 30 seconds or so of myself talking about the topic and send to my teacher, Maria. Sounds simple – but ‘what are your goals in life’ in Greek!!! It’s been a good boost of confidence though, as I wasn’t saying much before and although my reading of Greek was going OK that’s not much use in a conversation in Kritsa! Now all I need to do is find my way back to Crete to use it!

  9. I can sympathise; I had good intentions of improving my Greek when we moved here last summer, having had lessons in the UK for many years, however I have yet to pick my books up again, so well done you. I’m hoping to be more successful this winter! I have learnt the odd additional words through necessity so I don’t feel a total failure.
    Keep it up!

    1. Thank you! She’s fine, all growth seems to be going on her legs! She’s getting leggier by the day! Her temperament is so sweet. x x

  10. I also send my respect for all of the work you are doing and all of the challenges you have taken on!!! You’re braver and stronger than most of us!

  11. Σιγά-σιγά, και θα τα καταφέρεις τα Ελληνικά.

    ….then a whole new world will open up to you in Crete. Every new word you learn will add a little more color to your experience living there. As you know, it’s all about the journey and not the destination. Congratulations on what you have accomplished so far!

  12. THose are some good language learning ideas. I will see if I can find Πεππa on YouTube. Also songs. Problem here is my husband is a composer and so music cannot just be let loose around the house. I will try your siggestions. You have a good advantage in daily interaction with a Greek speaking boss. I feel as though my comprehension is going backwards. My teacher is setting up a Zoom conversation group. At the moment only 2 of us but if you are interested, mail me and I will pass on details. There will be a charge – not sure how much. I guess if we could pull together some others, we could set up our own.

  13. howzitt just found you web, i am thinking of getting the hell out of the uk next couple of weeks, ilive in ZA but thought about riding to greece, but just wanted to say the bit i read about your thoughts on the brits , i could not agree more , from being a “not bad place to be ” it has become a right S##it hole, and i am not the only person who is sick of this place!!! anyway hope you enjoy your new life ,and do not even think of coming back it,s only going to get worse!! enjoy life and have fun

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *