If you read my blog, you know I come (mostly) from both Greek and French lineage. My Greek lineage is how I most identify and define myself. I was raised in a "Greek" home and ate Greek food. I attended Greek-style family gatherings and Greek weddings and funerals. Greek was/is spoken by my grandparents and other relatives. I have family in Greece. Get it? I'm Greek! As it also happens, Greek and French cuisine just happen to be among my favorite foods to both cook and eat!
Although being Greek is how I identify and define myself, I do not speak the language. I have always been sad about this. I used to beg my grandmother, Mary, to teach me but she never wanted to because she deemed it 'silly.' You see, both sets of great grandparents immigrated from different areas of Greece in the late 1800's to early 1900's, via Ellis Island. Both sets of great grandparents wanted nothing more than to be "American" and to "fit in." They passed down this desire to be "American" and "fit in" to both my grandparents who grew up as neighbors in San Francisco, California, where my family eventually settled. In fact, my grandfather, John, was the eldest of seven children! (Think "The Sound of Music.) My grandpa slept head to foot with his brothers and was forced to work and be the disciplinarian of his many younger (and naughty) brothers. I have always heard stories of the parties and the food and of the island where his parents immigrated, called, Samos.
I have been fortunate enough to visit Samos, twice. (My grandmother's family came from (what is now) Istanbul in Turkey. I have been there too.) This past visit renewed my desire to learn to speak and read Greek. I am happy to say, I am learning to do both! It is a challenge to say the least. Short of some basic phrases like "Good Morning," and "Thank you," some endearment terms and a few choice swear words my grandfather taught my brothers and I as children, not much of the Greek language has penetrated my skull. I do so much miss hearing Greek in the house. As a child it would irritate me when my grandparents spoke Greek to each other over tea in the evenings. Now, I miss it and appreciate how special it is to have such a connection to ones heritage.
What to do? Well, learn the language of course! I am lucky there is a Greek school in my town. The class's charming and angelically patient instructor, Georgia, has assigned us with first learning the alphabet. Twenty-four little symbols that are the gateway to real learning of the language. At first, the letters were just squiggles with a few familiar symbols mixed in like Omega and Delta. After careful (and impatient) study on my part they are beginning to take on meaning. The meanings of the letters are beginning to have association with sound. (I have also learned the Greek letters are completely mispronounced! For example, Pi is NOT pronounced "pie" but "pee." The fact Greek sounds have been "Americanized" is a sore subject for Georgia because, like all Greeks, she takes great pride in all things Greek.) Anyway, I am beginning to be able to assemble the sounds into words. So far, the words I wrangle out are not staying in my skull but I hope they will eventually. I really want it ALL to be Greek to me!
Are you trying to learn a language? How is it going? Share your experiences in the comments section.
If you don't know how or where to start to learn a language, try a community college, community center or church of that lineage.
Avid home cook and passionate instructor