I’m on my hols to Kefallonia in a couple of weeks’ time. I’ve been trying to learn Greek using Elisabeth Smith’s Instant Greek, which should give me a reasonable vocabulary in six weeks, it reckons.
So far, it’s been really good, although it skimps on the flash cards. I’ve not had to learn the script – I already know it from maths and physics, thankfully, but reading it at any speed is still tricky – and it seems to cover more or less all the useful stuff needed to get by in Greece. Apart from swearing that is: surely a useful skill in the sweariest country in Europe? And we’re talking seriously nasty swearing that’ll make you blush, here.
From a linguistic point of view, it’s fun spotting all the similarities and differences between Latin and Greek, as well as between Greek and Romance languages. I don’t know any of the other Slavic languages, so I can’t spot similarities there, but it seems to have mostly the usual tenses, declensions, etc.
One annoying thing about Instant Greek, at least to me, is that it dispenses with ‘unnecessary’ grammar. I like grammar. Grammar is fun. I want tables of adjectives and pronouns in nominatives, accusatives, genitives, vocatives, etc. I want to know which prepositions/post-positions require the accusative and which require the dative and so on. Without the grammar, it feels too much like learning phrases by rote, when I really want to understand the language.
This Instant Greek has set me thinking, though, particularly in light of my inability to speak Spanish when I went to Spain this week. Rather than dedicate my life to becoming fluent in x number of languages (my lifetime ambition is to be a hyperglot), why don’t I start by taking eight Instant… courses? I won’t be able to debate Sartre or Socrates (not that I do that in English anyway, or could do in French or German, either) but I’ll be able to do rudimentary things and get by in various countries and with various people, which ultimately is more useful.
So here’s my list of initial ones to learn, in no particular order: Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Welsh, Portuguese, Chinese, Russian, Hindi, Danish. That’ll take a year, but I reckon that’ll let me cope with most countries and people. A bit, anyway.