The alphabet has 24 letters as well as 12 combinations or diphthongs, and if you can master it you will find speaking the language easier as well as being able to understand signs and notices. The key to speaking and understanding Greek is the stress placed on particular letters, which, when put in the wrong place, can change the meaning completely!
Greek grammar also has its difficulties, particularly verbs, but it’s easy to acquire a rudimentary understanding of how the language works. ‘All’ that’s required is a little hard work and some help and perseverance, particularly if you’re only mixing with English-speaking friends and colleagues. You won’t just ‘pick it up’ (only young children are blessed with that privilege), but must make a real effort to learn. Fortunately the Cypriots are extremely tolerant of foreigners’ tortured attempts to speak their language and any effort is appreciated, although you may find that they reply in English.
Most people can teach themselves a great deal online and through the use of books, tapes, videos and CDs. The Cypriot government, through the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC) and in collaboration with a Cyprus website (www.kypros.org), offers an online Greek course. There’s a selection of 105 lessons on audio files, online student notes and even an online Greek dictionary. It’s completely free and all you need to do is register on the website (www.cybc.com.cy).
However, even the best students require some help and you can find out about Greek lessons by contacting the Ministry of Education and Culture (Tel. 22-800 600), who can tell you about your local Government Institute for Foreign Languages.
Greek Language for Foreigners classes are held (usually in the afternoons and evenings) at some of the state schools in Cyprus during term time. Information is available by contacting the school secretary and the cost is very low (between CY£18 and CY£20 per year). Private language schools can be found in the yellow pages under ‘Institutes’. Private teachers advertise in local newspapers. Most schools and teachers offer free tests to help you find your appropriate level and a free introductory lesson.
Don’t expect to become fluent in a short time unless you have a particular flair for languages or already have a good command of Greek. Unless you desperately need to learn quickly, it’s best to arrange your lessons over a long period. However, don’t commit yourself to a long course of study, particularly an expensive one, before ensuring that it’s the right course for you. Some schools offer combined courses where language study is linked with optional subjects, including Cypriot art and culture, history, and traditions. For more information contact the Cyprus Tourism Organisation or the Cypriot embassy in your home country.
This article is an extract from Buying a Home in Cyprus from Survival Books.