The Failed Greek Experiment: Never speak a language you don’t know, with the conviction of a fluent speaker.

During the three years of my degree I befriended a whole bunch of Greeks who felt it necessary that I learn as much Greek as they could possibly force me to learn. Add to that I was living with an aunt married to a Greek. Over those three years I picked up quite a bit of Greek which made allowed me to understand the gist of my friends and Aunts conversations. I am decent with languages and tend to pick them up relatively quickly.

At the end of our degree I joined some of my friends in Greece for a little holiday. The six days I spent there I was ‘forced’ learn more Greek because once they become ‘sufficiently inebriated’ (i.e. drunk) all their English would disappear and short phrases which would come naturally when sober, took minutes to complete while drunk. Here’s a sample of the fun I had:

“Toniii… You… emmm” (Asks someone next to them for the translation). “Ah! Toniii, you are a…… emmmm…” (More translation required). “Ah ok!  Toniii, you are a good… ehhhhh…” (more translations). “Ok ok! Toniiii, you are a good guy”

So during this week I picked a lot of Greek words and phrases and could understand a lot of conversations , without knowing the meaning of every single word. The other thing that impressed my friends was that when I did speak my little Greek, I did so with a perfect accent

So one day while me and my friend Alex were waiting for a bus, I told her I was going into the store to buy batteries for my camera. She said she would come with and I told her she didn’t need to. So I went into the store full of confidence that my newly acquired Greek would make the transaction painless. The following is what happened :

Tonito                   : Kalimera! (Good morning!)

Greek woman   : Kalimera!

Tonito                   : Parakalo, thelo batteria. (I would like some batteries please)

Greak woman   : Edaksi. (Okay)

Tontio                   : Posos?(How much?)

Greek woman     : Tesero Euro

It’s at this point I realize I don’t know the Greek numbers

Tonito                   : Ti? (What?)

The Greek woman repeats the price.

Tonito                   : Signome, then milao hellinica. (Sorry I don’t speak Greek)

The Greek woman at this point starts shouting at me and waving hands wildly while I quickly run outside to fetch Alex in order to avoid a beating by a swarthy Greek woman! Alex comes with me and asks the woman what happened. The woman explained what happened and Alex bursts out laughing! She explained to the women I wasn’t Greek and just knew a few words and phrases and that I didn’t know the numbers in Greek. The woman smiled and looked at me while pointing to her head and said “You Crazy!”. We all laughed for a bit.

Fortunately I didn’t use some of the other phrases I learnt (one in specific being that I’m Albanian and I’m in Greece illegally) during the trip as the results would have been either arrest or beatings.

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3 Responses to The Failed Greek Experiment: Never speak a language you don’t know, with the conviction of a fluent speaker.

  1. Leo says:

    This is one of my all-time favorite stories of yours.

    “I don’t speak English. I only know enough English to tell you that I don’t speak English and explain myself. Please give me my change now.”

  2. Biella says:

    woow so interesting

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