The most important expression a traveler can learn before visiting a foreign country is “Thank You.” The Greek word for thank you is ευχαριστώ (ef-hairy-stow). If you learn only one Greek word, learn how to say ‘ef-hairy-stow.’ Your thoughtfulness will be greatly appreciated.
Does the saying, “It’s all Greek to me,” pop into your head when trying to learn a few words in Greek? The Greek language with its unique alphabet is difficult for foreign travelers to learn. The good news is, most road signs in Greece include an English translation. You will also find menus in English in many restaurants. However, shop and restaurant owners outside of the main tourist areas may only speak Greek.
For those times when speaking Greek to a local is necessary, there are smartphone and tablet apps available for translation from English to Greek or vice versa. Simply type or speak the English word or phrase and play back the Greek translation to the person with whom you are speaking. You can also show them the written translation provided by the app. My go-to app is Google Translate, which also includes a camera, handwriting, and drawing feature for input of words and phrases. The only catch is you need either a cellular or WiFi connection to use the full power of the Google Translate app.
While apps offer an effective high-tech way to communicate, a personal connection is always better. Here are a few helpful Greek words and phrases with my spin on the pronunciation. Give them a try!
|I don’t understand||Den katalavaino||Then cat-ah-la-venno|
|Where is||Pou einai||Poo eeneh|
|What time is it?||Ti ora einai||Tee ora eeneh|
|Café||Café or Kafeneio||Café or caffa-knee-oh|
|White wine||Lefko krasi||Leff-ko craw-see|
|Red wine||Kokkino krasi||Coke-ee-no craw-see|
|Ferry Boat||Ferry boat||Ferry boat|
A few more things to know before you go:
- Greece is a tourist-friendly country. You needn’t worry about language barriers. Many Greeks speak English, and if they don’t, they will find a way to communicate with you.
- Unless headed for a destination outside of Athens, don’t ask for directions to a train station. It’s the Metro that will take you places in the Athens area.
- Don’t be surprised if a local doesn’t understand you when speaking Greek to them, even if you pronounced the words correctly. They may have been caught off-guard expecting you to speak English. Try asking again in Greek and hopefully, they will understand you.
- When exploring off-the-beaten-path places, you may find yourself in a taverna with a Greek-only menu or even no written menu. It’s likely for traditional tavernas to display cooked dishes or for the owner to tell customers the specials of the day. When the cooked foods are displayed, simply point to what you’d like to order. When there is no written menu or food display, it is helpful to have a photo of a Greek menu (with the English translation) to show a taverna owner foods you like to eat.
καλό ταξίδι. Happy travels!