Yesterday I saw an English-language book titled “Learn Greek in 25 Years.” I thought this was pretty funny, especially since I am having quite a bit of trouble with the language. Greek is an Indo-European language, quite possibly the oldest in Europe with an oral tradition dating back 4000 years and a written tradition dating back 3000. Though it has some similarities with other European languages, I find that much of it is counter-intuitive to me. Take for instance the word for ‘yes,’ which is pronounced ‘neh.’ I am constantly using this word to mean ‘no’ when it means just the opposite. Also, Greeks use the semicolon in the same way that we use the question mark. So, while sentences that end with a semicolon look odd enough on their own, they are actually questions! Also, where you place your emphasis in a word is very important here. Though you may find it intuitive to emphasize the beginning or middle syllable in a word, the emphasis may actually be at the end (e.g., ‘parakalo,’ which means ‘please,’ is not pa-RA-ka-lo or pa-ra-KA-lo, but pa-ra-ka-LO). Sometimes, misplacing emphasis can really foul up what you’re trying to say. The word pronounced ‘misos’ means ‘half’ when the emphasis is placed on the second syllable, but ‘hatred’ when it is placed on the first. Oye!
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