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How To Speak Tourist Greek

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Municipal Gallery, Athens Greece - just one of many destinations you may need directions for.

Municipal Gallery, Athens Greece - just one of many destinations you may need to ask directions for.

Nothing makes your travels easier than knowing a few words in the local language. In Greece, even a few words will warm your welcome and may even inspire a lasting friendship.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 20 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Greece greets differently depending on the time of day. In the morning, say kalimera - kah-lee-MARE-ah - and in the afternoon, you can say kalomesimeri - kah-lo-messy-mary - though in practice, this is rarely heard.
  2. Say it three times right now. Very good!
  3. In the evening, say kalispera - kah-lee-spare-ah
  4. Say it three times! Very good!
  5. To say good night, say kalinikta - kah-lee-neek-tah.
  6. You can also just say 'Hello' anytime - yia sas or yiassou or giasou - yah-sooo - this can also be said in parting, or as a toast. Yia sas is more respectful and should be used with seniors and with almost anyone for extra politeness.
  7. Need something? Remember to say 'Please!' - parakaló - par-ah-kah-LO.
  8. Parakaló can also be used to say 'Huh?' - as a shortened version of 'Please repeat that!'
  9. And always say 'Thank you!' - efkharistó- eff-car-ee-STOH. To help one struggling tourist, I suggested they quickly say "If car I stole" - and try to drop the last "le".
  10. Right is deksiá - decks-yah.
  11. And left is aristerá - ar-ee-stare-ah.
  12. A general affirmative is entáksi en-tohk-see - right, okay, uh-huh.
  13. To say "Where is -?" just say "Pou ine?" That's poo-eeneh. You may find "Pou ine toilette?" one of your more frequently-phrases - it means "Where is the toilet?" Poo - eeneh - twaletta.
  14. Now it's time to say goodbye! Antío sas! An-tyoh sahs! Or just Antio (sounds almost like Adios in Spanish).

Tips:

  1. Don't confuse 'yes' and 'no'. Yes is né - which sounds like 'no' or 'nah' to English speakers. No is ókhi - which sounds like 'okay' to English speakers.
  2. Think you're really mangling your Greek pronunciation? Smile wider - this will completely compensate for any mistakes you may make.
  3. Avoid relying on your understanding of spoken directions. Get a good map to use as a visual aid when you ask - but make sure your informant knows where you are to start.
  4. Greek is an inflected language - which means that the tone and accent of the words changes their meanings. If you mispronounce something, even words that look or sound alike to you, many Greeks truly will not understand what you meant. They are not being difficult; they really don't mentally classify their words that way. Getting nowhere? Try emphasizing a different syllable and have directions and names written down whenever possible.

What You Need

  • Open mind
  • Willingness to learn
  • Big smile
  • Patience
  • A good local map
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