The internet has changed how we learn languages, such as Greek, forever. Suddenly all sorts of resources are available for free, wherever you are in the world, and companies such as Rosetta Stone and Pimsleur are having to really struggle to stay competitive and justify their extortionate prices. But that doesn’t mean that it’s always obvious how you can put the internet to best use for your language learning. With so many resources available, how do you know which ones will actually help you?
Below is a list of ten great free resources that you can use to help you learn Greek. Use them to complement a course, get a feel for the language, or stay in touch with Greek culture. Whatever your needs, these will help. And they’re easy on the wallet.
WARNING: Do NOT buy the ‘Teach Yourself/Complete Greek’ Course under any circumstances. I was horrified when I looked at this to see that it completely ignores aspect in verbs, one of the most important features of the language. It passes them off as ‘the future tense’ or ‘the simple past’ when this is not the case by any means, and will be extremely confusing for anybody who pursues their studies afterwards.
This is a sign up and please make a donation site, but everything is free. There are a lot of lessons accompanied by audio recordings and extensive notes, forums, and a ‘personal journal’ for you to put your learning experience to paper. The lessons go to quite an advanced stage in terms of grammar and teach fairly specialised vocabulary by the end.
But: the course seems quite old. While the language is correct, the voices sound a bit like a 1930s cut-glass BBC accent. Don’t pick this up for going to Greece or Cyprus as you’ll sound like your great grandmother (or at least mine). Balance it out by listening to other sources for a more modern guide to pronunciation.
This site is really thorough and will tell you everything that a £40 course from the bookshop will. It includes great examples and doesn’t shy away from showing you everything in verb tables complete with irregular patterns and exceptions.
But: just a small point but the information is all presented to you in PDF files that you have to download. The plus is that you get to keep them and print them off and organise them as you want, but it might be an inconvenience if you have a slower internet connection.
Also: check out this website by Harry Foundalis. This has very clear explanations of grammar and syntax and exercises on handwriting and some other useful phrases.
- Hellenic American Union podcast
These are fantastic!! There’s a huge selection of episodes, no longer than ten minutes or so maximum that play you a dialogue, go through with new vocabulary, and then give you some basic exercises. They start incredibly basic and carry on to a respectably advanced level. This is a fantastic way to learn phrases that are so useful, and that will get you speaking in no time. The episodes are all based in Athens and are fairly modern and up to date. You’ll be amazed how much you learn just by listening to these every other day.
But: they won’t offer you a thorough explanation of grammar, but will at least give you a good idea of how to use it in important phrases.
- BYKI (Before You Know It)
This is free flashcard-style software available from Transparent Language that’ll be great to learn some basic phrases and vocabulary, and maybe even some grammar points. It’s very simple to use, the slides come with audio, and there’s an enormous selection of topics for you to choose from. I like to download as many of these kinds of free materials as possible – you never know when you’re going to come across a useful word!
But: this really is just flashcards. Don’t look for explanations here, and don’t rely just on this to learn the language.
- YouTube courses
This channel has some really useful videos for getting used to the alphabet, consonant clusters and pronounciation, as well as then moving onto some basic vocabulary. Greek spelling is not that straight forwards so it’s important to have a good grounding in it so you don’t get lost later down the line! The videos are clear, there’s even some kind of audio in them, and there nice and concise at no more than 3 minutes each.
But: the videos aren’t particularly exciting. If you’re happy to just watch a powerpoint presentation with words fading in and out then you’ll be fine. If you think you might get bored, try something else.
- Online dictionaries
It’s a great shame that there aren’t more of these. The one in the link (Word Reference) is good but it only really works for English to Greek. If you speak German then the online Pons is one of the best available online in any language, and got me through my time at the Greek embassy in Berlin last summer!
But: these resources are limited. Hopefully one day they’ll release a proper one for Greek. Langauges like French and Italian always seem to get priority.
- ERT (Greek TV online)
Don’t start off here, but this will be really useful for when you start reaching an intermediate level. You can watch nearly all Greek TV channels live for free, and you can watch recordings of past programmes as well. Greek TV often plays a lot of foreign (especially English, Russian, Turkish and Arabic) series with Greek subtitles rather than dubbing them, and they show a wealth of foreign films too. This is fantastic for anyone learning Greek – try and follow the subtitles and work out the words that you don’t understand while listening to the original English. I learnt a lot about vocabulary and grammar structures this way!
But: make sure you’ve found something you actually want to watch, and don’t lose heart if it’s hard to read the alphabet quickly at first!
- Greek Radio
Music is so important in language learning, and even more so in Greek. Derti FM plays only traditional Greek (laïki) music – this is all about love, pain, suffering, Spring, and all the melodrama that Greek culture has brought us. You might also want to check out Mad FM which is slightly more modern, and Athina 98,4 which has a mix of music, current affairs and feature programmes.
But: it has been brought to my attention that not everyone likes Greek music. I believe this is something that can be changed. And don’t get too depressed every time they read out the weather forecast.
- Diaspora publications
Not always strictly in Greek, but they cover Greek stories that you might hear or read about in the Greek media. It’s great to brush up on what’s going on in English first before you read up about it in a real Greek newspaper. This will help you follow it better. Greece has an enormous diaspora community across the world numbering several million. These communities often very much maintain their Greek identity and pass the culture on to their children and grandchildren (like me!)
But: diaspora communites are always slightly more conservative and out of touch with what’s going on back home. Don’t use this as your only source of information for Greece or Cyprus.
- Greek newspapers
All available online and with impressive and accessible websites. The Kathimerini even has an English language subsection.
But: (and this is a big but) Greek newspapers are notoriously difficult to read. This is really for when you’re at an extremely advanced stage of learning. The language used is very different to the language of the street and is largely based on words of Ancient Greek origin that you may never come across otherwise. However, one day academic Greek will be an important stage in your learning journey, and online newspapers are an excellent way of accessing it for free.
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