Insight or Perspective: What is the problem with Greek language learning in Australia?

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By Eleni Elefterias

What do you think is the problem with Greek language learning in Australia and do you have a solution?

Today I speak with another Australian born mother and recent grandmother, Christine Gazepis Stravropoulos of the Athenia Association and the Dionysus Theatre group.

Christine says “It takes a concerted effort. I only spoke Greek to my children when they were young.”

Her daughter Amanda, a new mum herself, interrupts to say “we learnt a lot from Yiayia and Pappou.” 

“Yes but these days most grandparents may not speak Greek very well themselves,” Christine continues.

Did you go to Greek school?

“Yes and my experiences at the local Church school were not good so I employed a tutor for my children.”

Is that the best way for children to learn Greek?

“I think children need consistency and dedicated effort from their parents and grandparents, Many are from mixed marriages so it complicates things. Children need to be taken to the theatre, to music events and to Greek school. In fact, I have learnt more Greek in the last 10 years from my involvement in the Greek community and the theatre.”

Christine has a good point, language without a context does not work. Children need to have a connection with something Greek, be it a children’s dancing group, a Greek school where they can make friends, or a children’s theatre or Drama Group.

An excellent Drama program for children is available at the Hellenic Theatre at Addison Road run by director Steve Economidis and his talented troupe. Singing and music is also a great way to help with pronunciation of Greek words. Listening to Greek songs and watching Greek movies on Youtube from a young age are all good activities.

However, reading to children in Greek from a young age is probably the best way to increase their vocabulary and understanding in context.

If you have young children or grandchildren, or an interest in learning Greek, you are all invited to the launch of my children’s book and song, a free event at Pratten Park Bowling Club Ashfield on Saturday March 20th from 2 to 5pm. Free games, music and refreshments for the kids. 

*Eleni Elefterias-Kostakidis is a teacher of Modern Greek and University lecturer. Read her column ‘Insight or Perspective’ in Greek, every Saturday in The Greek Herald’s print edition or get your subscription here.

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