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Greece Travel Guide

It’s Greek to Me

Though it's a byword for incomprehensible ("It was all Greek to me," says Casca in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar), much of the difficulty of the Greek language lies in its different alphabet. Not all the 24 Greek letters have precise English equivalents, and there is usually more than one way to spell a Greek word in English. For instance, the letter delta sounds like the English letters "dh," and the sound of the letter gamma may be transliterated as a "g," "gh," or "y." Because of this the Greek for Holy Trinity might appear in English as Agia Triada, Aghia Triada, or Ayia Triada.

In most cities and tourist areas, all Greeks know at least one foreign language. It's best to use close-ended queries, however; if you ask, "Where is Galissas?" a possible answer will be "Down a ways to the left and then you turn right by the baker's house, his child lives in Chicago, where did you say you went to school?" If you only have 15 minutes to learn Greek, memorize the following: yiá sou (hello/good-bye, informal for one person); yiá sas (hello/good-bye, formal for one person and used for a group); miláte angliká? (do you speak English?); den katalavéno (I don't understand); parakaló (please/you're welcome); signómi (excuse me); efharistó (thank you); ne (yes); óhee (no); pósso? (how much?); pou eéne …? (where is…?), … ee twaléta? (… the toilet?), … to tahidromío? (… the post office?), … o stathmós? (… the station?); kali méra (good morning), kali spéra (good evening); kali níhta (good night).

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