Insight or Perspective: If we lose the language we lose everything!

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By Eleni Elefterias.

(PART 2)

In the past, sending your child to Greek school was a big commitment. In the 60’s and 70’s students attended Greek school usually three times a week for two hours each time. That is a total of 6 hours a week!

Classes at the time were full, with some having up to 60 children in one class. These days they may only attend for a couple of hours and with only be a handful of students in the class. 

In the past, not all Greek teachers were qualified, some had not even completed Yr 12 level in Greece, and few had completed any formal teacher training. Anyone who had some education could teach in an afternoon school.

These days, especially with the recent intake of migrants from Greece, we are more fortunate to have highly educated teachers though, still, not all are trained teachers. 

There is also an expectation from the parents and grandparents that their children will become fluent in Greek if they send them to Greek afternoon school. This is highly unlikely for many reasons.

READ MORE: Insight or Perspective: If we lose the language we lose everything (Part one)

The first being that a couple of hours a week is not adequate, especially when they go home and speak English with their parents and grandparents. Also, there are no incidental situations where they can put what they are learning to practise. There is no need in their everyday life to communicate in Greek.

Therefore, our expectations of Greek Afternoon School has to change. The role of the school is to lay the foundations of learning Greek; the teaching of literacy, the love for the language and the culture in the hope that, when they grow older, they will realise it is worthy of learning and will be able to pick it up quicker.

So are private lessons better than class instruction? Next week I will discuss the pros and cons of each. 

*Eleni Elefterias-Kostakidis is a teacher of Modern Greek and University lecturer. 

Read Eleni Elefterias’ column ‘Insight or Perspective’ in Greek, every Saturday in The Greek Herald’s print edition or get your subscription here.

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