GREEK FAMILIES AND GREEK LANGUAGE
By the Greek language teacher Kyriakos Georgiades
Routine number 1: Parents and children daily rushing about, to be in time for after-school activities (sports, music, ballet, foreign languages, etc.), grandparents co-operating with and supporting parents, everyone looking constantly at their watches! A reasonable (for most people) question is the following: Why is not Greek one of our basic priorities, as youngsters’ poor vocabulary has been a public discussion issue for decades?
Routine number 2: Children walking on the streets, watching and playing with their mobile phones, risking even their bodily integrity. Question: What is that which attracts their attention in such an exclusive way? Why can’t they part with their mobile phones for a while, not even when they are in a café, drinking orangeade? Don’t they have anything to say to each other? Don’t they enjoy communication? Do they feel such embarrassed, that they turn to their “miraculous” mobile phone, as if it were a lifeline?
Critical question: What do children do in their free time (that is when they are really free to do whatever they like)? The answer to that question will give us the crucial information about what really happens. If a child plays videogames or watches TV or plays with their mobile phone in their free time, then things are not easy. Everything shows that there is a type of addiction in that case, which can be proved by the boredom children feel (at best), when they are forced to part with gadgets even for a while.
On the other hand, if playing traditional games (on their own or with other children), reading literature or knowledge books, making things and doing“experiments”, going for a walk and communicating with others are some of their choices, then things are good. And you will see that such a child can be and is as a student should be. That means that they like learning, they get excited about new information, they are open to new ideas, they are not bored, they have choices, and they ask questions. On the contrary, in the first case, they are called students in name only. They basically do not think learning is fascinating. That is why they rarely ask questions, they are easily mentally tired, and they find excuses, so that the others leave them alone.
My case and suggestion
Having had the advantage of interacting with senior high school students by teaching them Ancient and Modern Greek, Latin, and History since 1994, I have been observing the gradual decrease of the students’ knowledge level, in regard to both their language and their general knowledge and critical thinking level. I mean that they are no more interested in knowledge itself; they do not have any questions anymore, they are not the least excited about learning. Thus, they have ended up in being “professional students”, who learn something provided it is necessary, so that they will be accepted in universities and technical colleges with employment prospects in mind. Now that those have been declining, the situation has been worsening.
So, experiencing this situation and also havingbeen a parent since 2005, I decided to do something. And I did.
I have been teaching Ancient and Modern Greek language, history, and culture courses to everyone, from kindergarten pupils to adults, since September 2012. I have presented and written down the experiences I have had from those lessons in a lengthy article, which you can find here: http://gnomonpedia.com/en/ancient-greek-language-history-and-culture-classes-for-all-ages/
Here, let me mention that this is the first timeduring my teaching career that I can see tangible results. I am experiencing for the first time the “famous” interaction, the students’ eyes looking eagerly, the excitement, the desire to learn new things, in such an extended level. A usual question would be the following: But how can it be possible, nowadays, in the century of technology and of too many obligations and afterschool activities, that a child learns Ancient Greek since such a young age?
I am answering with a question: If a child is taught to use technologyin moderation and learns the AncientGreek language from an early age, not only as merely a language, but also connected to the AncientGreek civilisation, what will the result be? Won’t it be a child who can think critically, with lots of interests, ready to enjoy the gift of life as an active member of society? I believe the result will be exactly that. Now, with respect to our courses, the positive consequences are visible, yet with differentiations which are due to the way each child has been raised. A child that has never watched TV and is not “stuck” in video games (Believe me, such children do exist.), can learn more quickly and can understand something in a deeper way than a child who has been reared watching TV and playing videogames as if those were something necessary, so they have turned to be an essential part of their everyday life. However, in any case, children enjoy attending the lessons –in fact a little boy stated that he will keep doing that in the future, because learning is like playing! Since students feel happy when they are involved in the lesson, etymology, history, Greek novels, Orthodox hymnology, musical poetry, lives of Saints and heroes can give food for thought to them (both to children and adults).
The parents’ reaction: It is difficult for many parents to see the usefulness of such lessons. That happens probably because Greek has been intentionally marginalised for many years. So, it is something not promoted by the media. Therefore, while there is no need for someone to persuade others of the utility of learning one or even two foreign languages, they would have to use strong arguments in order to persuade them to learn Greek. And even then, you could not be sure they would make it! It is not that parents are against this. They just do not realise the importance of the right time to begin. The key words are: IN GOOD TIME. The attachment to technology during early childhood can cause to the children plenty of problems, the majority of which are irreversible. Some of them are: undue haste, poor memory, lack of patience, divided attention.
Many ask me if there is a book or a method of learning Greek. The answer is the following: There is nothing unknown. Everything is open to all. The material of each lesson depends on the students’ knowledge level. There are three basic factors which can lead to the success of such an undertaking: