“Modern Greek and ancient Greek,” told me a very much established linguist back in 2011, “are two separate systems. They cannot be described at the same time. That is impossible!” Therefore, this book aims at the impossible. Indeed, they are separate, but the back-and-forth of language switching within the centuries has made the two separate systems less distanced from each other.
It is essential to make clear from page one that we do not aim to answer identity questions such as whether the modern Greeks are descendants of the ancients, whether the language is one and continuous, or whether it is the only language continuously spoken for thousands of years. There are indeed two systems, one, the present one, deriving from the other, the ancient one, with all its ups and downs, changes, conversions, advances and preservations. Movements such as Atticism and Catharism have brought ancient forms back into newer uses, sometimes with a political aim or otherwise. This does not imply, however, that anyone who knows modern Greek has complete access to or even use of the ancient ones. This book does not aspire to cure or correct modern Greek.
In particular, we believe it is vital for our fellow classicists to recognize the implications of studying antiquity in the modern world. As Johanna Hanink put it:
So why is it that Modern Greek still has no place at the classicists’ table? This is, bluntly put, largely because our discipline continues to take a colonialist view of, among other things, Greece, Greeks, and (Modern) Greek. Historians and anthropologists who work on Greece have been much more willing than classicists to acknowledge the country’s legacy of metaphorical colonization: not by the Ottomans, but by the early European antiquaries and travelers who planted their flags in the ruins of Greek antiquity.1
1 Hanink Johana (2016) ‘On Not Knowing (Modern) Greek : Disciplinary Action.
In an attempt to give Modern Greek a place in the field of classical studies and a voice in the debate, this book is aimed at readers who are familiar with Ancient History, Ancient Greek and Latin, or Archaeology: in other words, classicists who want to refresh their Modern Greek or learn the differences between Ancient and Modern Greek.
This is not an introductory Modern Greek textbook, but rather a reading companion for those who have already had some exposure to the Greek world – be it a solid foundation in Ancient Greek, some knowledge of the Greek alphabet acquired while studying Latin, or even just a few set phrases memorized to communicate with locals during a summer trip to Greece. It works as and is structured as a graded reader and a comparative grammar, with fictional narratives in Modern Greek, followed by comprehension and discussion questions designed to facilitate language learning.
Much is owed to the idea realized by the Jules David in the 19th century, as this has been very deeply described by Lelia Panteloglou2.
2 Panteloglou Lelia (2019) ‘Teaching Modern Greek to Hellenists: Jules David’s Case’
Finally, comparative grammar highlights the two parallel systems.
The story is based on the myth of the ancient Greek hero Hercules, with much room for new interpretations and comparisons with the reality of modern Greece. In the last decade, Greece has gone through a period of rapid change and political circumstances. A huge refugee wave, part of the European migration crisis, started in 2015 (even though it does date back in the war in Afghanistan, in 2002) and continues to have a tangible impact on Greek society.
Although these issues are not directly addressed in this book, they do affect the lens through which we view the past. The main character, Hercules, comes from two different worlds simultaneously: the mortal and the divine. Tortured by Hera, he could be described as a refugee in the land of mortals. Is he welcome or will he be forever considered an outsider? Is he struggling to find a place in society? How can he combine the two cultures that affect his identity?
As Greek society is changing rapidly, its language is also changing rapidly. For example, some scholars have recently proposed the use of new personal pronouns and nouns that contain both masculine and feminine genders, using the grapheme @ therefore writing αυτός – αυτή – αυτό – αυτ@. We find this proposal attractive and look forward to similar developments in the future.
But also, we could suggest a new signification of the Ancient Dual Number, which was not gendered and could be used in Modern Greek as a non-binary signifier.
How does this book teach Modern Greek? Gradual repetition and progressively more complex readings play a key role in our pedagogical approach. Rassias’ method and Stephen Krashen’s Comprehensible Input-Output Theory are underlying the pedagogy of this book.
We believe, along with Rassias and Krashen, that when highly motivated students have confidence in their abilities and an environment with low levels of anxiety, they will be better equipped for success in second language acquisition.
Therefore, we strongly encourage readers and students to take risks and feel free to make mistakes without fear of judgment and constant corrections. We want every lesson to be a playful, enjoyable activity. To that end, dialogue and animated videos will eventually stimulate humor and fun throughout the learning experience.
That’s why we strongly encourage readers and students to take risks and feel free to make mistakes without fear of judgment and constant corrections. We want every lesson to be a playful, enjoyable activity. To that end, dialogue and animated videos will stimulate humor and fun throughout the learning experience.
Most importantly, this book is designed to feel like a book you can pace yourself with. You can read it at your own rhythm, whenever and wherever you prefer, with whomever you like. That is, slowly. Slow learning, without divine intervention has always been leading to Language Acquisition.
As you continue to use this book, you will notice that learning Modern Greek is both possible and inspiring. If you are looking for further assistance, you can contact us (email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org) at any time for online courses and student support services.