Jottings by the Aegean Sea

by | Nov 28, 2019

Some thoughts on the English Language…

Mid October found me back in Rhodes with six days to do with as I will – what luxury! One thing I planned to do was write this post but with no idea of an idea for it…
Then a sunset walk on the beach on my second evening got me thinking about how difficult it must be to learn the English language. Imagine – you don’t know the difference between sea and see or beach and beech. Then add in words like sand, stone, and wind – all have more than one meaning or pronunciation. No wonder it’s considered one of the more challenging languages to master! The trusty t’internet informs me that Mandarin, Arabic, Russian, Polish, Turkish and Danish are all more difficult or as challenging as English. Depending on which website you believe…

I’d booked a Greek hiking guide to walk with me up Mount Akramitis on the third day. This is the second highest mountain in Rhodes at 825 metres. I ended up with two guides as I was the only person booked for this trip on that day. A great days hiking was had by all. Over a rest stop of traditional Greek snacks, we had an interesting conversation about learning to speak English as a second language! A case of ‘be careful what you wish for’ after my previous evenings’ musings.

I’ll be honest with you here – my basic Greek extends to four words. I can get by with kalimera (good morning), kalispera (good evening), efcharisto (thank you) and paracalo (you’re welcome). I learned, from an editing perspective, that despite their fluent use of English and my woefully poor knowledge of Greek, that we agreed that evolving and new language is a good and positive thing. The consensus was that it often reflects society, tastes, and cultural influences at the time. Language should change over time.
Indeed, from another conversation with a Rhodian I learned that as many as a 1,000 common words in English originate from Greek words. Words that begin with eco, theo, many medical terms. I learned that cataract means waterfall. And lovely evocative words such as symposium, palladium, and colosseum are all Greek.

Later in the week I took another hiking trip. And what a mix of languages, culture, and people we were as a group sharing time together. A Danish lady married to a Greek Canadian, a young man who was our guide from mainland Greece, two ladies from Singapore – only one of them spoke English – and me!
Back home in the grey, damp, and clocks-gone-forward Durham area I was catching up on Twitter chatter when a reference to Greek to Me – Adventures of the Comma Queen by Mary Norris jumped out at me. My Greek escape seemed to have come full circle! Duly ordered from a certain well-known online bookstore, I haven’t been able to put down this witty and observant book. A well recommended read whether you’re a language and grammar nerd or not.


But y’know what the main thing my sunshine break taught me was? Well, it’s that sometimes it’s not about using correct language and translation – a simple, ordinary, and humble smile that means the same in any language 😊 😊 It’s all about communication…now, where can I book some Greek lessons…

Until my jottings next time, happy reading!

Joy x

 

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