However, they speak Greek Cypriot, which is a dialect of Greek that reflects the influence of the myriad of nations that have ruled Cyprus over the years. Although it observes the grammar and syntax of the Greek language, it contains certain non-standard words, including some from Ancient Greek, and some words are pronounced in a different way.
If many local words and pronunciations are used, it can be difficult for a Standard Modern Greek speaker (e.g. from mainland Greece) to understand. Nevertheless, if you speak Standard Modern Greek well, you will have little difficulty being understood, and Cypriots will happily ‘standardise’ their Greek so that you can understand them.
The second language of Cyprus is English, as the country was a British colony from 1878 until 1960. Many Greek Cypriots have lived and worked or been educated in the UK, and, in some cases, the US. English is considered a symbol of sophistication and many Cypriots strive to perfect their English. It therefore isn’t essential to learn Greek, even if you plan to live and work there.
Unfortunately, because so many Cypriots speak English, many residents (particularly the British) make very little effort to learn more than a few words of Greek and live life in isolation as if they were on an extended holiday. Although you can certainly get by this way (thanks to the language skills of Greek Cypriots) for anyone living, and certainly working, in Cyprus, it’s far from ideal.
Learning Greek helps you to appreciate the Cypriot way of life and make the most of your time in the country, and opens many doors that remain firmly closed to resident ‘tourists’. Even just learning the basic pleasantries in Greek will earn you the respect of Greek Cypriots.
If you’re planning to work or start a business, learning Greek shouldn’t be seen as an option, but as a necessity. Speaking English and some Greek will tranform both your social life and your business opportunities! There are some business sectors, such as tourism, construction and some areas of information technology, where you won’t need to communicate in Greek to do business, but if you’re a professional wanting to practise your profession, it’s essential to learn the language.
This article is an extract from Buying a Home in Cyprus from Survival Books.