The word barbarian derives from the Greek word barabaros which means one who babbles in an unknown language. People who spoke in languages that the ancient Greeks could not understand, were considered babbelers. Thus, if you visit Greece and don’t speak a few words you are a barbarian according to ancient Greek standards! So, in order to make sure you can practise a bit before you come to Greece, and to ensure you avoid the babbler status, take a look at some of the most useful Greek words and phrases that will no doubt help you get by during your stay.
Translation: Good morning/Good evening/Goodnight
Break Down: Kalo/i = good, mera=day, nihta=night
Although these may seem like formal ways to greet someone, these are possibly some of the most commonly used words in modern-day Greece. Greeks are a feisty lot but are also very polite, and are always quick to wish everyone and anyone well. You will hear this over and over again in many different forms (if you hear Kalo/i before a word you can be sure it is something positive!).
Photo Credits: https://goo.gl/bt7uWM
Translation: Please/ Thank you/ you’re welcome
The word parakalo is used in many ways in Greek - it is even used to answer a phone call or a knock at the door. Perhaps the most common way you can use it is by saying please and you’re welcome. If you are buying a coffee or cheese pie, add parakalo at the end of your request to be polite in Greek. When you get your coffee or cheese pie, say efharisto (one of the hardest words to get your tongue round) for thank you to see an extra smile from your server! We love it when travelers make an effort to speak our language! You can also say parakalo as you’re welcome. So, if you hear someone say efharisto - you reply - parkalo! Easy right?
Photo Credits: https://goo.gl/4C4qhC
Translation: Where is….
Where is the Acropolis? Where is the nearest souvlaki shop? Perhaps you won’t have excelled enough in the Greek language to ask those crucial question in full, but how about just the first (and most important) part of the sentence. If you have a map or a picture of a souvlaki in your pocket and are looking for your way - grab the nearest bystander, point at where you want to go and say the magic words Pou Einai!
Tha ithela ena freddo espresso/cappuccino parakalo!
Translation: I would like a cold espresso/cappuccino please!
Is it close to 40 degrees celsius in the middle of Greek summer and you are looking for something cold to drink to start your day? It’s a good thing you’re in Greece because this is perhaps the best place to get ice coffee. Coffee is a very special and necessary part of the average Greek’s consumer habits, so you probably won’t go a block without finding a place that sells delicious ice coffee. You can have iced espresso or iced cappuccino (with a bit of cinnamon on top) like you have never had it before, so you must try one! To ask for your coffee just say: Tha ithela ena freddo espresso/cappuccino parakalo (don’t forget the parakalo!).
Your server’s next question to you will be: Zahari? Which means sugar. So, if you really want to up your game, see below how to order your coffee just how you like it.
Black (no sugar): Sketo
Sweet (1 sugar): Glyko
Very Sweet (2+sugars): Poly Glyko
If you want your coffee black you say: Tha ithela ena freddo espresso/cappuccino Sketo parakalo. The Greeks will never call you a barbarian if you get that one down!
Nai, Thelo/ Oxi, Den Thelo
Translation: Yes, I want / No, I don’t want
Yes, I want a piece of baklava, will definitely be something you will want to say at some point during your trip to Greece. Nai may sound more like no to English speakers, so get your ear used to that sound meaning yes! And If someone tries to push that baklava on you it is probably because your said no instead of the Greek word oxi - another difficult word to pronounce.
If you want something, you have to ask for it - don’t be afraid to say Thelo Souvlaki or Den Thelo na figo! (Translation: I don’t want to leave!). The chances are everyone will understand and empathise with you!