Sunday Summary #36: What’s on the Internet

Just some videos this week, but BOY are they great videos spanning my range of interests.

First we’ve got a beautifully created video about Learning a New Language.  This girl is a powerhouse creator, and I LOVE how she captures the struggle of learning a language that is not your own – not so much the mental struggle, but the emotional struggle of not being able to express yourself or even BE yourself in another language.

Then we’ve got Lin-Manuel Miranda talking about his last performance as Alexander Hamilton, and AGH, the end of an era.

Finally, we have the Buzzfeed Try Guys getting photoshopped again, but this time according to female photoshop standards.  I LIVE for their cultural awareness and female positivity while also being absolutely hilarious.

How Do You Overcome A Mental Block?

I have been slowly realizing that my lack of using Greek is something far deeper than, “Oh, I just don’t have time/don’t have as many opportunities to use it.”  It’s actually something far more along the lines of a psychological block.  I get incredibly nervous when I even THINK about using Greek, my brain mentally throws up when I try to formulate a sentence in my head, and I have reverted to only tentatively saying, “Ευχαριστὠ” and ‘Κἀλη μἐρα” on a VERY irregular basis.

What happened!?  You might remember that at one time, I was writing hilarious letters to fictional girlfriends in Greek.  Looking back, I can only conclude that taking the second level of Greek classes right after the first was a very dumb decision.  I was struggling that first month, and I just barely survived.  I needed a break, but after one short weekend, I was back in class, and everything immediately fell apart.   Continue reading

Overcoming a Language Meltdown

Last week, six weeks of daily Greek lessons finally caught up to me and melted my brain.  It was the weirdest sensation – I could “see” all the information I’d learned, but everything was behind a mental glass wall.  No matter how hard I tried to break through, the wall remained.  I am happy to report that yesterday, everything came rushing back, and I’m actually enjoying learning Greek again.  How did this happen?  Well, I can identify three possible causes:

  1. I did no homework and spoke no Greek on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.
  2. I skipped class.
  3. I repeated, “I don’t care about Greek, I don’t care if I sit there and say, ‘Δεν ξἐρω’ over and over again, I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care.”

Many, many people told me to “stop trying so hard,” and I finally understand why.  It feels counter-productive to stop doing something in order to get better at it, but….at least this time, that is exactly what worked!   Continue reading

A Week in Greece #7: Language Meltdown but Nice Classmates

Ahhh, this was the week I felt like I moved from “I know cool people in Athens!” to “I have friends in Athens!”  And it was the week I had a mental breakdown, but you know what?  You can’t have everything.

On Sunday, I met up with Tonya and her friend Janet.  If those names sound unfamiliar, it’s because they are pretty new me too!  Tonya was in Level 4 at the Athens Centre, and during one break when our classes were both out, we discovered we had some mutual friends because she’s from Seattle working in Athens with a ministry to refugees.  She’s been here for three years, so she took me to an Irish pub restaurant for fish and chips, then we ate gelato at an ice cream/waffle sweet shop.

When I got back to the school, I met up with Ioanna and Olympia to go out for wine at a hipster restaurant near the school.  There was a cat wandering around, and HE LET ME PET HIM, and it was the first time I’ve pet a cat since I left Rory seven weeks ago.  I guess it was also fun to talk with friends.  Hahaha, no really, it WAS fun, because Ioanna pushed me to use Greek, and when I got overwhelmed, Olympia said, “Hey, it’s okay, we’ll speak in English now.”  They’re a good pair to have around.

Speaking of Greek! Continue reading

Language Learning Meltdown

An hour and a half into our Greek class today, I excused myself to the restroom, stared at my face in the mirror, and allowed myself a couple silent sobs before drying my eyes and returning to the classroom.

I don’t know what happened!  Last week we started Level II, and I was feeling pretty confident!  I knew a lot of vocabulary, I was translating for myself into Greek as I went about my day, and I was trying out conversations with strangers on the bus.  But yesterday, something broke in me.  Absolutely nothing was making sense, to the point that our teacher asked me the Greek equivalent of “a or the” and I thought she was talking about a verb.  That is like, day 2 information.

But I left school yesterday determined to catch up.  I copied everything into my Official Grammar and Vocabulary notebook.  I spent four hours on homework last night, and I read through my lists of irregular verbs on the way to class this morning.  The class started, and again….nothing.  My brain could not process anything that anyone was saying.  Hence the bathroom breakdown.   Continue reading

Greek Homework

Our teacher told us, “Oh, just finish your exercise book this weekend,” like it was no big deal on top of four pages from our official workbook, creating questions and answers and stories for two dialogues, finishing eight pages in our second exercise book, AND transcribing an audio dialogue.  It will come as no surprise that yesterday, I did laundry and homework.  The end.  Happy Saturday!

That little “finish your exercise book” is still to be done today, but I found a fun way to make it bearable:  ignore the instructions and write whatever I want!

For one exercise, we had to read a letter from Sophia talking about how she will go to Hydra after she finishes her class to hang out with her friends Eleni and Alexandros.  We were supposed to write back about what we, her fictional boyfriend Kostas, would do while she was on the island.  This is what I wrote instead:

Σοφἱα μου,

Εἱμαι ευχαριστημἑνος για εσἑνα αλλἁ ανησυχὡ.  Γιατἱ θα εἱναι ο Αλἑχανδρος στην ᾽Υδρα με εσἑνα;  Σου αρἑσει ο Αλἑχανδρος;  Τον ΑΓΑΠΑΣ;;; Εἱναι ψηλὁς και ἑξυπνος και πλοὑσιος…καταλαβαἱνω.  Εμεἱς τελεἱωσε.  Λυπἁμαι αλλἁ θα εἱμαι καλἁ.  Σε θυμἁμαι πἁντα.

Καλὁ ταξἱδι!


Translated, this means:

My Sophia,

I am pleased for you but I am worried.  Why will Alexandros be in Hydra with you?  Do you like Alexandros?  Do you LOVE him???  He is tall and intelligent and rich…I understand.  We are finished.  I am sad but I will be okay.  I remember you always.

Have a nice trip!


Who knew channeling my inner jealous boyfriend would make Greek so much more fun?  (Everyone knew.)

Okay, on to the next exercise!

A Week in Greece #5: Level I Ends, Other Things Happen

I’m done with my Level I Greek class!  YEAH!  I’m going to celebrate this weekend by going to Sounio, which I will talk about in a separate blog post sometime in the next few days.

I need to celebrate the occasion, because on Monday, I’m going back to class to start Level II.  This time I’ll be taking a three-week course for FOUR hours every day.  I’m already exhausted just thinking about it.  But not nearly as much as I could be, because I’m really looking forward to continuing to hang out with Elvira and Emi (and maybe Stewart – he is undecided).  Plus, this week I had a decisive shift toward self-confidence that actually makes me excited to keep learning Greek.  It first happened at the grocery store when I handed the cashier €20 and said, “Oh, I think I have change, just a second.”  When the transaction was finished, I grabbed my bags and walked out the door and suddenly realized: I could have said that in Greek.   Continue reading

A Week in Greece #2: First Week in a Daily Greek Class

Υεια σασ!  Τι κανετε;

Δεν ζερω ελλινικα ακομα, αλλα καταλαβαινω λιγα.

This week has been all about GREEK.  I’ve gone to class for three hours a day (we’re supposed to get a half hour break, but some days we get only fifteen or twenty – one day we went over by half an hour).  It’s crazy intense.

Every day I leave feeling like my brain is about to explode.  This is compounded by the fact that my classmates have lived in Greece for several months.  When we practice speaking in class, they’ll throw in phrases they’ve heard or learned, and it’s all I can manage not to throw a fit and scream, “You can’t say things we haven’t learned in here!!”  I feel very dumb, especially since the girl who struggled the most dropped out.  I’m now definitely in the bottom three.

It’s easy to focus on that, because, well, perfectionism.  But on Wednesday I skyped with my mom and later with my grandparents, and I read them a paragraph from my textbook.  I mean, I read it in Greek.  “Do you know what you read!?” my mom asked.  “Yeah,” I said dully, because I’d mispronounced “δυο.”  “WOW,” she enthused.  “Three days ago you didn’t know any Greek.”   Continue reading

First Day at Greek School

I have started my month-long intensive Greek lessons!  It’s in downtown Athens, which means it takes about 1.5 hours to get there.  There’s a bus very near the school where I’m staying, which takes about 40 minutes to get to the metro station.  I get on the blue line, and ride that for another 30 minutes or so to Syntagma Square.  I exit aboveground at the place where, eight years ago, I rang handbells for a crowd in front of the Parliament building.  From there, I walked through the National Gardens, exit near the Olympic Stadium, and walk up a sweat-producing hill (altogether about 25 minutes) to the Athens Centre.

The blue line is my walk from Syntagma to the Centre.  The red blobs are tourist destinations.

I arrived at the Centre with enough time to fill out a registration form and grab a cup of free coffee.  I wasn’t really nervous about the class, but I was…on edge? Ready to be nervous? But I think I’m finally experienced enough that I can walk into an unknown situation with new people and not immediately hyperventilate. Of course, it helped that the Centre is small, beautiful, and comfortable.  There’s a fun view of the Acropolis from the roof.   Continue reading

You Don’t Have to be Fluent in a Language to Communicate

I hate learning foreign languages.  It necessarily makes you feel dumber than a three-year-old, and there are few things I hate more than feeling dumb (maybe pulling teeth  or horror movies).  But there is one huge benefit:  with a grasp on only a handful of phrases, speaking in a foreign language forces people to be more intimate and vulnerable.

I like to use words to my advantage, spinning out sentences that make me seem self-effacing or funny or smart.  The more I say, the less it really means.  But when I’m in Mongolia, I cannot say, “You didn’t have to do that!”  I can only say, “Thank you.”  When I’m in Senegal, I cannot say, “That dress is really flattering, and wow!  Your hair!”  I simply say, “You are very beautiful.”  When I’m in Greece, I cannot say, “I really appreciate what you did for me, that was great!”  I have to say “I love you.”  Continue reading