Greek Language 101

How difficult or easy it is to learn the Greek language?

If you plan to travel to Greece, then you might want to learn a few Greek phrases so you can at least ask for directions and/or help when you get stuck somewhere or are in trouble. Learning a few phrases is not a huge problem, learning the Greek language properly, however, is a completely different story – and not a very easy one. Learning Greek takes a lot of time and dedication as it is generally seen as a language that is not very easy to learn.

One example: When you say hello to someone, you do not only have to take the time of the day into account but it also depends on whether you speak to one person or more than one person, plus it also depends on how well you know the person.

English words with a Greek origin

Greece was a center of culture in the past, and many words from medicine, philosophy, astronomy and maths that we use in English these days have a Greek origin. Here are some examples:

  • Harmony
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Telephone
  • Pathos
  • Strategy
  • Democratic
  • Apathy
  • Oxymoron
  • Biography
  • Bibliophile

The alphabet

The basic thing you should learn when you go to Greece is the Greek alphabet. Many buses in Greece will only display their destination in Greece, and if you want to end up in the right place it is important that you can decipher the Greek alphabet. Some of the letters like alpha, beta and pi, should still be in your head from your maths lessons.

Αα Alpha Νν Nu
Ββ Beta Ξξ Xi
Γγ Gamma Οο Omicron
Δδ Delta Ππ Pi
Εε Epsilon Ρρ Rho
Ζζ Zeta Σσς Sigma
Ηη Eta Ττ Tau
Θθ Theta Υυ Upsilon
Ιι Iota Φφ Phi
Κκ Kappa Χχ Chi
Λλ Lambda Ψψ Psi
Μμ Mu Ωω Omega


Numbers in Greek

Not all of us like dealing with numbers, but when you have to deal with prices in Greece, knowing a little bit of the basics comes in handy. One important thing to know is that they use commas and points different. One thousand for English speakers would be written as 1,000. In Greek, however, one thousand is written like this: 1.000. So they kind of use it the other way around. Another example: You go into a shop and see a wonderful piece of art with a price tag that reads 1.999,99 Euro. This might confuse you, but for the Greek this simply means one thousand nine hundred and ninety nine Euro and ninety nine cents. And just so you know a few numbers, let us count from one to ten in Greek:
1 - ena
2 - thio
3 – tria
4 - tesera
5 - pente
6 - exi
7 - efta
8 - ohto
9 - enaia
10 - theka

Some Greek phrases to start with

Here are some Greek words and phrases that can come in handy when you are traveling around in Greece and meet someone who cannot understand a word of English. This will definitely happen to you if you travel a bit off the beaten track and explore some of the remote, small villages that still have a typical, traditional Greek atmosphere).

Hello (to one person) Yaa sou.
Hello (to two people or more) Yaa sas.
How are you? (singular) Ti kanis?
How are you? (plural) Ti kanete?
I am well. Ime kala.
Yes. Ne.
No. Ohi.
My name is... Tou onoma mou ine...
What is your name? Ti ine to onoma to thiko sou?
Thank you. Efharisto
Excuse me. Signomi
What time is it? Ti ora ine?
Where am I? Pou ime?
Where is the toilet? Pou ine i twaleta, parakalo?
Where can I catch a bus? Pou boro na paro to leforio?
Sorry, I do not speak Greek. Signomi, ala then milao elinika.
Do you speak English? Milas anglika?
How much does that cost? Poso kostizi afto?
Water Fagito
Milk Gala
Salad Salata
Coffee Kafe
Tea Tsi