How to learn a language without translating

One of the major mistakes you can do when starting to learn a foreign language is to translate everything back into your native language. This means there will always be a delay in your speech. It could also mean lots of errors are introduced due to different grammar, possession, word order etc.

If you learn pronunciation first before meaning then you will learn what you are reading in your target language rather than your native language. This will help enormously with your comprehension and communication.

However when learning a language like Greek, finding something with subtitles to go along with your audiobook is like finding a needle in a haystack. YouTube has plenty of music videos, audiobooks, news reports, chat shows etc but very rarely do they come with closed captioning. Overdrive is an app that you can use to get access to digital resources from your local library but they don’t tend to have foreign books. They have umpteen language courses but if you want something relaxing you are again stuck. Overdrive allows you to have multiple libraries stored in your app so you have access to a wide variety of resources and they have a new app called Libby too. This however does not fix your problem. So I suggest going onto EBay to buy a Greek version of Harry Potter to go along with the audio book that is on YouTube. Victoria Hislop is another idea along with Nikos Kazantzakis and The Little Prince.

Best wishes

Angela

Patrick Leigh Fermor British author 1915-2011

A British author who went to school at the Kings School Canterbury, was a scholar, polyglot and a soldier. He traveled extensively in Greece and Europe becoming friends with Lawrence Durrell. He is referenced by Lawrence in Bitter Lemons which is Lawrence’s book on Cyprus.

He also had quite an effect on Ian Fleming and is extensively quoted in his book Live and Let Die due to his experience of the Caribbean and the fact he liked to live in monasteries.

He has quite the back catalogue of books to get through as he had the crazy idea to walk all the way from England to Greece. It’s serialised in his books since there is such a lot of material. I have one Roumeli- Travels in Northern Greece. Roumeli is an old name for northern Greece that is seldom used these days. He is perhaps the only man that I know of that has referred to the area by such a term.

I’m currently reading the above book and it’s a good read. It has lots of snippets of the Greek language and it shows Greece just as it was being discovered by the rest of Western Europe in the 1960’s. It was a time of great change and modernisation. It was also a time of revolution. He mentions the customs and traditions that may not be still present. I find it very informative and it’s a historical document. He does however reference his previous book Mani a lot which I haven’t got yet and you can tell he was a journalist as it’s written as a travelogue with pieces of real life interaction along with book recommendations and information about the people or history of a place.

On his gravestone is a quote from C F Cavafy and it says “In addition, he was the best of all things, Hellenic.”

Patrick Leigh Fermor

Part of foreigners with an interest in Greece series.

Series links

Best wishes

Angela

Andreas Kalvos Greek poet 1792-1869

He was a major part of the Heptanese school of literature along with his fellow Zakynthoan Dionysios Solomos However the 2 never met and there is also no known picture of Andreas Kalvos.

He was a wayward soul hence he wasn’t recognised in his hometown and country until much later. He traveled widely through Greece and Europe having many affairs, marrying a couple of times and producing a couple although they often died shortly afterwards. Thus his life was full of sadness which powered his poetry.

He also taught Italian and Greek to help finance his restless nature. His become disgruntled with his family and his patron which led to his inability to settle anywhere for any length of time. He was constantly moving in search of something he couldn’t quite get.

Since he died in England it wasn’t until 1960 when George Seferis was the Greek ambassador that he arranged for the body of Andreas Kalvos to be returned to his native Zakynthos.

He is part of my series on Greek poets.

For a look at my other work see here Series links.

Best wishes

Angela

Dionysios Solomos Greek poet 1798-1857

Dionysios Solomos introducing a George Seferis chapter
Dionysios Solomos introducing a George Seferis chapter

He is considered the principal poet of the Heptanese school of poetry of which he was part of yet this set contained amongst others Aristotle Valaoritis, Ioannis Zampelios Spiridon Zampelios and Andreas Kalvos.

The reasoning for this is that Dionysios’s education on Zakynthos had been in Classical Greek and when he lived in Italy, Italian. When he tried to write in a more modern form (Dimotiki) it was extremely difficult for him as there were no poems to act as a reference since they were previously in Katharevousa. Therefore, he had to create a whole catalogue by himself.

It was himself that started the poetic revolution that questioned what version of the Greek language that people write in compared with how they talk. In typical Greek fashion this was only resolved in the 1970’s. So for approx 150 years they were unable to decide which should be the official versions.

Even Byron perhaps did not have that much effect on the Greek people although he did influence Dionysios. As usual this is not always corroborated by all the sites I have read but since people of similiar minds all tend to congregate in the same place he probably did have have an effect on him.

For perhaps a more authentic take and some clarity read this Dionysios Solomos.

He is part of my series on Greek poets.

Aristotle Valaoritis

Ioannis Zampelios

Spiridon Zampelios

Andreas Kalvos

For a look at my other work see here Series links.

Best wishes

Angela

Heptanese school of literature

Heptanese School of literature.

This was the school of literature that Aristotle Valaoritis belonged to as well as Ioannis Zampelios who are very famous Lefkádian poets. Andreas Kalvos and Dionysios Solomos are in there too. The articles written about this school will tend to focus on people known to that locality ie you come across ones written from the view of a person from Zakynthos as Dionysios Solomos was from there and this one is written from the perspective of a Lefkadian since that’s where I am. Hence I mentioned Valaoritis first where usually you would see a note about pre Solomos, Solomos, and post Solomos poets.

The Heptanese school is characterised by a love of nature, freedom and homeland with reference to the role that religion played in their lives. It was also folkloreish in content and often romantized life in a way only poetry can taking inspiration from Italy. They were written in Dimotiki or Demotic as apposed to Katharevousa which is to say its written in the common Greek that was spoken as opposed to the posher, purist form which was a simplication of Ancient Greek that was used for formal, business occasions.

As I have already written ample amounts about the Lefkadian poets and I have never been to Zakynthos I can’t tell you much more as that’s the real centre of this particular movement.

For information on the other schools of thought see here

  • Series links contains the rest of my work like all of the poets mentioned above and more.
  • Best wishes

    Angela

    Gerasimos Grigoris 1907-1985 Lefkádian author

    He famously had one of his works banned in Greece because he was a communist. This book was Focus of Resistance.

    He also won 2 literary awards in 1958 and 1963. I find this strange though because of the above information yet you find the same information repeated on many websites. If you also think of all the previous people (George Seferis, Odysseus Elytis ) etc who have gained awards for whatever reason, there compliant and help the country in some way. So as usual this makes no sense and no explanation can be found.

    There is also an example of his work on display in the Lefkás national gallery but unless your looking at the fact sheet you would never know.

    I don’t think the locals thought highly enough of him for there to be a statue, plaque or road named after him. His family can’t have been wealthy, influential or big enough to exert any power on his memory to make a memorial of some kind which is usual here. (See my post on Meganisi for evidence of this).

    He does however get mentioned on tourist websites and websites dedicated to famous Lefkádians so he can’t be thought of that badly. As you may be coming to realise, there is a lot of contradictory information out there and I’m unsure which is correct due to the fact I’m writing about dead people whose brief biographical information is online but not much else.

    There may be more information in the Nikos Svoronos Library or the Haramoglis Library but I can’t find it despite walking round in circles several times on a couple of occasions.

    Do you have any authors in your country that were banned for the political ideals?

    He is part of my novelist series :-

    Other series include Greek Poets, Painters, Art, Authors, Musicians, Museums, Specialist fields of interest, Conversation, Famous Greeks, Greek islands and Rural Villages in Lefkás. All the links can be found here Series links.

    Best wishes

    Angela

    Panos Rontogiannis Lefkás Library founder 1911-1996

    Was a local historian with Ioannis Stamatelos and Nikos Svoronos. Was involved in research to do with colonialism in the Ionian Islands. Very technical and high brow. The history of historiography and neo-Hellenic studies. So Greeks examining their own culture with a fine tooth comb as we say in the UK.

    He was also a philologist so a man who studies words so that makes he the perfect choice to found a library. Specially one that is linguistically diverse as the Lefkadian one.National Library

    He wrote a couple of books concerning education in Lefkas and seismology as well. For his troubles the street the Library is on is named after him so it’s easy to remember.

    He is part of Famous Greeks series :

  • If you would like to see the rest of my work visit here Series links.
  • Best wishes

    Angela

    George Theotokas Greek novelist, playwright, critic, essayist, editor, 1906-1966

    George Seferis poem to George Theotokas
    George Seferis poem to George Theotokas

    George Theotokas was born in Constantinople, moved to Athens in 1922 because of the population exchange, then studied law in Paris, Athens and London so was part of the same crowd as everyone else who was well heeled at that time.

    His work is mainly autobiographical in nature with a healthy dose of folklore included for good measure. It inspired some of the work by Nikos Kazantzakis.

    He (Theotokas), became involved in the national Greek theatre becoming the director twice. He was also great friends with George Seferis and Odysseus Elytis the 2 Nobel prize winning poets of Greece.

    As usual this is a Greek whose Wikipedia article in Greek https://el.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Γιώργος_Θεοτοκάς tells you far more information than the English version George Theotokas . He is also a guy that requires you to have the prerequisite books available to research about him. It’s been acknowledged in the research that I have found that is unlikely he will ever find success outside of Greece but he was neither a leftist or involved with the right. He had a centrist view on things which is how he was able to be so successful in his own country.

    He is the fourth part of my Greek author series:-

    Other series include Greek Poets, Painters, Art, Authors, Musicians, Specialist fields of Interest, Conversation, Famous Greeks, Greek islands and Rural Villages in Lefkás. All the links can be found here Series links.

    Best wishes

    Angela

    Stratis Myrivilis pen name of Efstratios Stamatopoulos Greek novelist 1890-1969

    He was nominated for the Nobel prize in Literature 3 times in 1960, 1962 and 1963. He was also born in Lesbos and died in Athens. Additionally he followed the route that everyone seemed to follow in those days and that is leaving your initial job to go to Athens and study Law. Then you leave your degree to go fight somewhere since it was an era full of conflict in many places.

    It’s astonishing that the background they all have is so mundane but they manage to make some of the greatest poetry of modern times. They lived through tumultuous times in there own country though with the Balkan war of 1912, First World War of 1914-1918, Second World War 1939-1945, military junta 1967-1974. So this shaped the 1930’s generation into what they became.

    He was a newspaper columnist and general programme director for the Greek National broadcasting institute in 1936 until 1951 where he inspired the Greek population to resist the occupation of the country by Italians and Germans.

    In a brief intermission to his previous job he founded the national society of Greek writers in 1946 and became its first president.

    After 6 attempts he was finally allowed to join the Academy in Athens in 1958.

    Here are the details of his personal life from Wikipedia Stratis Myrivilis. What will probably be more fulfilling though is the link in the follow up article.

    He is part of my Greek authors series

    Other series include Greek Poets, Painters, Art, Musicians, Museums, Specialist fields of Interest, Famous Greeks, Greek islands, Rural villages in Lefkás and Foreigners who have become interested and or benefited Greece in some ways.Series links

    Best wishes

    Angela

    National Library and Post Byzantine Art museum Lefkás Town

    This listed (I wasn’t previously aware they was any here) 19th century building was first used as a neo-classical mansion for the Zoulinos family from 1888-1906. It then was used to house the Lefkás branch of the National Bank of Greece before it finally became the National Library. It was founded by Panos Rontogiannis. This library is unusual as not only does it have Greek books but it also has English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Danish and Swedish books. This is indicated on the spine for easy reference and there are labels on the shelves to show what section you are in. There is also a map to assist you..

    On the initial staircase there are pictures of what I would call the most famous Lefkadians according to how much you can find out about them, the relative ease and there presence. These are Angelos Sikelianos, Lefkáda Hearn, Aristotle Valaoritis and Ioannis Zampelios. I have written posts about all 4 of them. Series links.

    On the staircase between the floors are pictures of 12 apparently Famous Lefkadians but when I tried to ask the lady twice about them but I couldn’t get through to her. Famous Lefkadians

    Famous Lefkadians

    Due to the location of the pictures it’s very difficult to capture them as the walkway was blocked off when I visited. Probably to avoid damage to the pictures as some of them are likely quite old. I’m also going to do a separate post about famous Lefkadians as there are many statues and memorials in which I can only find basic data on but still they deserve to be talked about. They were important enough to have some kind of memorial so I’m going to write about them if only briefly.

    The Post Byzantine Art museum upstairs has a room for the Virgin Mary, a room for Christ and a room for the Apostles. It has books in each of these as well as many pictures. There is description about the role this figures have played in island life and how they have been depicted. There are also a bishops costume from Russia along with pictures in a very similar style from there.

    For other museums in Lefkás see here:

    For my other posts see here: Series links.

    Best wishes

    Angela

    Oh Brother Where art thou?

    These are lines from one of George Seferis poems about the Odyssey.

    O Brother Where Art Thou is a Coen brothers movie that has taken Homer’s Odyssey and translated it into 1930’s America. Initially the idea that George Clooney escapes from a prison chain gang doesn’t sound too interesting but it’s much better than that. It’s an exploration of what life was like in those times.

    Best wishes

    Angela

    TS (Thomas Stearns) Eliot English/American poet and author 1888-1965

    I find it strange that while most people think of him as English, as that is what he became in addition to the fact that he died in England; he was in fact a born and bred American.

    He was an author, essayist, critic, playwright and publisher. So he was well versed in the literary arts and as a result of this, influenced the notable Greek poets of the 1920’s. Most notably George Seferis, but as far as I’m aware, he himself (TS Eliot) never went to Greece or met any of the 1930’s generation as they called.

    As he was so well connected and liked by the literary establishment, he was awarded the Nobel prize for Literature in 1948.

    Here are the details of his personal life TS Eliot

    He is part of the foreigners series who are interested in Greece:

    1. Lawrence Durrell
    1. Virginia Woolf
    1. Henry Miller
    1. Lord Byron
    1. Gerald Durrell

    Other series include Greek Poets, Painters, Authors, Musicians, Famous Greeks and Rural Villages in Lefkás. All the links can be found here Series links.

    Best wishes

    Angela

    Kostis Palamas Greek poet 1859-1943

    He was born in Patras but received most of his education in Mesolonghi which is where the infamous British poet Lord Byron ended up.

    He went to university in Athens to study law, economics and political science but left shortly afterwards to become a journalist.

    He is a well known poet Kostis Palamas as he has had his work translated into English by Theodore Stephanides which helped to increase his fame abroad. He is extremely popular because whenever the generation of the 1930’s is mentioned “Angelos Sikelianos, Odysseus Elytis C G Karyotakis,George Seferis, Nikos Kazantzakis , “etc his name turns up. Here is the view of a Greek so you know why this happens Kostis Palamas.

    He is another one of those well connected people who has university buildings named after himself in Athens.

    He wrote the Olympic hymn which was used in 1896 and every year since 1960.

    At his funeral Angelos Sikelianos led a riot of 100,000 against the establishment to try to overturn the government.

    This is the tenth post in the series of Greek but mainly Lefkádian writers and poets which includes a bonus post from Sententiae Antiquae on Sappho.

    Aristotle Valaoritis

    C F Cavafy

    Angelos Sikelianos

    Lefkadia Hearn

    George Seferis

    C G Karyotakis

    Ioannis Valaoritis

    Odysseus Elytis

    Andreas Emberikos

    Other series include Greek Authors, Painters, Musicians, Famous Greeks, Foreigners who have an interest in Greece and Rural Villages in Lefkás. All the links can be found here Series links.

    Best wishes

    Angela

    St Nicholas and the lighthouse

    St Nicholas is the patron saint of fishermen and he has a chapel dedicated to him near Sappho’s Leap at the southern end of Lefkás. Saints associated with Lefkás, their churches and shrines.

    There has been a temple to a deity of some kind for a long time. In the days of Sappho, it was Aphrodite trying to escape the rapturous attention of a mortal with the assistance of Apollo but the temple has long gone to be replaced by the chapel that is now there. If you wish to find out about that time visit Archeological museum In Lefkás Town.

    This area was later favoured by Angelos Sikelianos, his wife Eva Palmer-Sikelianos and there friend Nikos Kazantzakis. I have told you all plenty already about those 3 characters and if I ever visit there I will be able to tell you more.

    The thing about Lefkás is you can’t learn a lot online, books are better but to get an actual feel for these things, you have to see them for yourself. It’s a very Lefkádian thing as they don’t really do social media even for business purposes so if you want to communicate anything you have to see them. There old fashioned and traditional which is unusual in this modern world but also kind of nice.

    From the lighthouse on the promontory called Cape Dukatos or Lefkás depending on the era in question, you can see a fabulous sunset, take beautiful pictures and enjoy the view of neighbouring Ithaka and Cephalonia.

    Is there any groups of famous people in your country?

    Best wishes

    Angela

    Nikos Svoronos French/Lefkadian historian 1911-1989

    Nikos Svoronou Lefkádian Historian
    Nikos Svoronou Lefkádian Historian
    Nikos Svoronou Lefkádian Historian
    Nikos Svoronou Lefkádian Historian

    You know your famous when not only do you have a statue of yourself but there is a street carrying your name as there is both of these requirements in Lefkás town dedicated to the above gentleman. He also has an entire library named after him but I’m yet to find as signage is very poor here.

    However due to the fact that he followed Marxist ideology it is quite difficult to find out anything about him. Once again censorship is taking place but in a rather subtle way so its only later on in history after they have died that you realise this. The fact the information about him is on the side of this rather odd statue and it’s facing away from the direction of footfall is quite telling.

    He was a byzantinologist or in other words a man who studied the Byzantine era. He is an internationally respected historian of our modern era. Once again he is a guy you would never come across unless you were interested in his specific topic. He liked the economic and social history of Greece and wrote in a way that was quite different from his contemporaries which is why he stood out. If you want to know about the impact that Ottoman Turkish rule had on Greece, he is the man you need.

    His family donated his work after he died and it is housed in the Nikos Svoronos library. However due to him being French, some of his work still resides in France and will remain there forever as its too delicate to transport now.

    Have you any celebrated historians in your country?

    Best wishes

    Angela

    Theodore Stephanides Greek doctor 1896-1983

    I was inspired to write this post because one of my comments previously mentioned about the connections between India and Greece which I was unaware of and the Wikipedia article he suggested was very lacking in information. I would like to thank my readers for giving this feedback and ideas to write posts that your actually interested in, rather than just stuff I’m personally interested in. Also for the fact that comments are sometimes worth exploring in greater detail later on when I have the time.

    Theodore Stephanides was part of the ancient raj that was the ruling British culture of India until independence in 1947. His parents were Greek but his mother was born in Russia to a wealthy family from Chios (Greek island). He grew up in Bombay (now Chennai) and moved to Greek at 11 where he learnt his Greek.

    He was a poet translating Kostis Palamas from Greek to English after World War One when he was a gunner. He later studied medicine and started the first Xray machine in Corfu as shown on the Durells.

    He was lifelong friends with both Gerald Durrell and Lawrence Durrell assisting with the completion of their novels, My family and other animals as well the Greek Islands.

    He also wrote his own books on radiology, Corfu and botany.

    He is the second part of my Famous Greeks series.

    Pavlos Santorinis

    Other series include Greek poets, Painters, Authors, Musicians, Rural villages in Lefkás and Foreigners who have become interested and or benefited Greece in some ways. All the links can be found here Series links.

    Best wishes

    Angela

    Andreas Emberikos Greek poet 1901-1975

    Now he is an interesting fellow for not only was he a Greek surrealist and this is not something you would usually associate with Greece; he was also the first Greek psychoanalyst. This is in addition to his more well known poetic side or his linguistic side which we will find out more about later on. The reason for him being slightly different to the average Greek was that he was born in Romania but soon moved back to Greece. He would travel far and wide throughout his life resulting in him documenting his life in exhaustive photographic detail as will also discover later on.

    In order to became the first and most prominent psychoanalyst, he first starts studying philosophy in Athens in the 1920’s as a gentleman of his pedigree would do having failed to go into the family shipping business. I think the world is a much better place for him not becoming Onassis. Before he finishes his degree he moves to Paris and becomes interested in psychoanalysis. Through this he is introduced to Andre Breton the leading figure in that circle. This allows him to learn French in addition to his Swiss French gained from time spent in Lausanne after his parents divorced in and visits to Geneva. He wrote his books on psychoanalysis in French as a result of this. He continues to participate in this area throughout his life but stops actively practising in 1950. He also didn’t talk about this area of his life to others.

    In the 1930’s he is one of the poets that radically changes the way Greek poetry is conceptualised along with the powerhouse that is George Seferis.

    Being a literary critic as well a poet and author can mean that society views you as a troublemaker and if they can’t silence you then they will make sure that your work is jolly hard to to get hold of and you really have to search to find it in your language. He was a rather subversive member of society which the majority of people didn’t agree with. Along with studying psychoanalytics, Russian and French, he wrote rather saucy poetry and novels. This has meant his work has been subject to the usual censorship of non promotion as he doesn’t fit in with the ideals of society. This is a review of his poetry and life from a fellow blogger that I found explaining that yet again he is another poet whose work doesn’t exist much outside of Greece or in English. Andreas Emberikos.

    He develops a friendship with Odysseus Elytis and they are invited by the Greco-Soviet society to travel to USSR as it is then known along with Yorgos Theotokas. The reasoning for this was that Andreas’s mother was half Russian and he himself fell in love with Tolstoy in his youth. He also spoke Russian and was widely read in the language. He visited Russia as a child every summer until 1914 when war broke out.

    He was a prolific photographer as well with an archive of over 30,000 negatives being made by himself during his lifetime. These were however mostly for his personal use as he only exhibited them once in 1955 in the Ilissos Gallery in Athens. A retrospective exhibition happened in 2001 to commemorate his lives work at the Technopolis Art Centre in Athens. There was also another more recent photographic exhibition held in Athens to mark Greek Independance day in 2018.

    Here are the personal details of his life Andreas Embirikos.

    This is the ninth post in the series of Greek but mainly Lefkádian writers and poets which includes a bonus post from Sententiae Antiquae on Sappho.

    Aristotle Valaoritis

    C F Cavafy

    Angelos Sikelianos

    Lefkadia Hearn

    George Seferis

    C G Karyotakis

    Ioannis Valaoritis

    Odysseus Elytis

    Other series include Greek Authors, Musicians, Famous Greeks, Foreigners who have an interest in Greece and Rural Villages in Lefkás. All the links can be found here Series links.

    Best wishes

    Angela

    Ioannis (Nanos) Valaoritis Greek poet 1921-

    He is a poet who has lived in various places in his life like Greece, the UK, France and the United States. This has given him the ability to absorb the qualities of that country’s poetry and to popularise them in all of the other countries he has lived in. He currently lives in Athens. It’s unusual for me to be writing about a poet that is still alive but as you can tell he is quite elderly.

    He is said to be one of the best poets of the Hellenic diaspora (community of Greeks outside of Greece) since Constantine Cavafy. He is also linked to George Seferis because of the well known book of their correspondence. Not only that, he assisted with translating the poem King Asini which I mention in my earlier post into English for publication abroad.

    Additionally, he met with Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell. He is certainly one of the most well connected poets of that era.

    Once again we come across a Valaoritis and he was the great grandson of Aristotle Valaoritis who I have written about in great detail. This Valaoritis was a poet and once again we come across a man who studied law but this time in Athens. This is a common theme for men of this era to study law but they don’t always complete their degrees like this one did.

    Just like Angelos Sikelianos he met his American wife in Paris in the 1920’s. That really must have been quite a heady place at that time with the surrealists, Andre Breton and Pablo Picasso also being present at the same time.

    He also met TS (Thomas Stearns) Eliot along with George Seferis. It really was quite an involved connected group of poets and artists at this time.

    He was also awarded by the Greek government the state poetry prize in 1983 and the Academy of Athens poetry prize in 2004. Plus having a street named after him in Lefkás town.

    His personal life is here Ioannis Valaoritis

    This is the seventh post in the series of Greek but mainly Lefkádian writers and poets which includes a bonus post from Sententiae Antiquae on Sappho.

    Aristotle Valaoritis

    C F Cavafy

    Angelos Sikelianos

    Lefkadia Hearn

    George Seferis

    C G Karyotakis

    Best wishes

    Angela