Speak Greek Now...... CAREFULLY!!
We first arrived here on a package holiday with Catherine Secker (Crete), a small family company having villas and apartments at Kalathas where her partner Michaelis Kalligeris. and his wife Alleka looked after your welfare.  Michaelis at that time could speak only a few words of English, but that was a few more than my Greek none!  One word we had in common - 'POLICE' and the remaining two 'want it!'  Or could he have said "Wanted?!"  His accent wasn't anything like I had heard before...  The villa had a housebook which explained that the information Michaelis was collecting - names, addresses etc was for the (pre EEC) police who required the appropriate form completed by visitors on arrival.

The book also asked visitors to take the plunge and speak a few words of Greek when out and about - the Cretan population the book said, would greatly appreciate it..  A list of words with their phonetic explanation was provided.  To be honest we tried only 'please' and 'thank-you' on our first holiday which was perhaps just as well, as only a few short visits later I was, with great flair and a big smile,  advising a venerable old gentleman petrol pump attendant that he was a stuffed tomato!  His reaction was immediate and effective.  It was several months before I  returned to his station.

So do you need to?...
The short answer is 'no.'  Crete is an Island of Filoxenia, hospitality towards strangers is incomparable.  Many Cretans are well used to tourists of several different nationalities and know enough words to establish basic rapport with many of them. The people you may deal with in tourist areas - waiters, shop-keepers and the like - probably speak good English, and certainly enough to get by when assisting you.  If you have a serious problem the people you deal with, for example the specialist tourist police, will speak your language.  So if you don't want to speak Greek you don't need to - the locals don't expect it (Greek is a difficult language) and won't mind at all.  However, attempting a few words will get you a very long way into the Cretan heart, no matter how much of a mess you make of it, and you will get a lot of help with your attempt!  But don't tell the guy at the petrol station that he is a stuffed tomato!


Kalimera - (Kal i mair a) - Good Morning
Kalispera - (Kal i spair a) - Good Evening
Signomi - (Sig no me) - Excuse me - Sorry
Herete - (Hair et tai) - Hello
Andio - (Adio) - Goodbye
Kalinichta - (Kali nee chta) - Good night
Efcharisto - (ef char risto) - Thank you
Parakalo - (para kalo) Please
Ochi - (O khee) - No

Learning more Greek.....
If you manage just a few words at first rejoice!  But before you do remember, that the safest way is for you to speak second.  If you speak first you have invited a reply and you probably won't understand one word.  It simply isn't possible to learn Greek in a few minutes so if you really do want to then why not start before your holiday?
If you are serious about learning Greek language...
Then I would give the traditional British method of learning long lists of verbs the elbow, at least in the beginning, unless you intend to take up a profession or perhaps teach English as a foreign language to native Greek speakers.  You will have to learn some verbs of course, and I would advise that the ability to read Greek should not be overlooked.  But in the beginning you should seek mostly to overcome the reservation that many Britishers have to utter foreign sounding words; learn some simple words and phrases and try to find some American or English Videos with Greek sub-titles!  Here are a few suggestions which might help:-
  • Get By in Greek - BBC Travel pack - 2 cassette tapes plus a short hand-book.

  • Survive Greek - Longman Survive Travel Pack - 90 minute Cassette plus 350 page handbook.

  • Breakthrough Greek - MacMillan - practical language course - 3 cassette Tapes plus 235 page workbook.

  • Greek Language and People - BBC televised Greek course.  Book and cassettes available.

Find yourself a local Greek-school if you can.  These are small voluntary classes set up by Greek communities in some parts of the UK - primarily to help English-born children of Greek families to learn the language of their parents.  A local Greek Orthodox church is a good place to look for contacts.  We simply placed an advert in our local paper in the UK and they found us!  Expect traditional Greek type schooling if you are lucky enough to find one - adults are usually taught separately to stop you distracting the kids!  Lots of serious book work but also lots of Greek culture and the accents are genuine.  Be prepared to make many friends.

Failing that - or even as well as - your local college may well run evening classes.