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English speaking in Greece?

Do most Greeks speak English as well? Could we get by if we didn't have a translator?


Posted by
2210 posts

We did fine. It helps to learn a few basic phrases (please, thank you, where is the bathroom?)but we never had any trouble. The hospitality industry frequently speaks many languages Even if you run into someone who doesn't speak it well, you can usually manage to get what you want. We also ran into a number of Greeks who had lived in Australia and they were quite ready to help.

Wonderful country

Posted by
2712 posts

Much more English spoken in Greece than Spain. Very common conversation in Greece: Ah, you’re an American! I have a cousin in Chicago. His name is Dimitri. You know him?

Posted by
5 posts

When I was there 3 years ago, I got the impression that almost everyone under 40 years old spoke some English because it is taught in school. I had no difficulty not understanding Greek.

Posted by
32241 posts

As with many countries in Europe, I've found that not everyone is able to speak English. However, anyone dealing with tourists can generally function to some extent in English. As someone else mentioned, it's always a good idea to learn the usual "pleasantries" in the local language.

If you haven't been to Greece before, be sure to do some research on the "toilet etiquette".

Posted by
15640 posts

I took the RS tour last year and I was very surprised at how many people in small towns spoke fluent English. On the other hand, it's a very good idea to learn the Greek alphabet and pronunciation to be able to read signs that aren't always in both languages.

Posted by
546 posts

One thing to remember about English Speaking in resort areas of Europe is this: Vast numbers of Germans, Finns, Swedes, Danes, French and yes the English all descend on Greece at certain times of year. Do the Greeks speak all of those of course not and in fact when the Finnish guy talks to the German or the Italian they too are generally using English as the common lingua Franca. Sort of like Greek was in the Ancient world to travelers.

Almost any where you go in the world those in the hospitality industry (and in fact many others since English is the key in many countries for a good job) people will speak some English.

But I strongly recommend for politeness sake to learn to say Please, Thank You, Hello Goodbye, Do you speak English? and of course where is the Bathroom (WC)

Posted by
3236 posts

I found people in the hospitality industry spoke English very well, young people and men. I did find older women who did not speak English...well, I guess no longer older than me ;) , but compared to the general population. In one variety type store, where the woman spoke no English at all, after several minutes a youngster ran in to help the woman. In the other shop, there were two older women, and we did not speak the same language at all, but we had a great time, and laughed, and laughed, extended my time with them having fun, and got the job done...I was purchasing an emergency pair of slacks that I will pack from now on, and I will always remember this fun experience.

It is best to know the polite and obvious phrases even if you can't recognize the words coming back at you. And when it seems everyone seems to speak English, still be prepared with your Greek language chit sheet, because when you most need it you do need to be prepared as you suddenly might be faced with the only person who doesn't speak English (My experience in Sweden so I think it could happen anywhere.) In other words, don't get over confident.

So, no you don't need a translator, just a few words for back up, and knowledge of the Greek alphabet.

Posted by
31 posts

Most of the Greek people we met spoke English very well. We were on RS tour so our guide did speak Greek. For fun he was teaching us Greek on the bus. When we got to Delphi a bunch of us bought t-shirts that had the most common phrases printed on them. We have been in several countries and we think the Greeks speak pretty good English. Unlike what we found in Italy. Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
1982 posts

Had friends who came back raving about Greece and are monolithic Anglophones so if you stick to the tourists routes you should be fine. I've always found that even the Europeans who say their English is bad, speak well enough to be understood.

Posted by
106 posts

Wow.. It felt really awkward reading such a question. No, you are not going to need a translator. There will always be someone speaking English... In touristy places they talk to you in English even if you are a Greek to be more friendly lol. By the way, children in Greece have English as their second language starting from the first years of elementary school. Also, most Greeks do lessons in English outside school and give exams to get the FC and the Proficiency. Most Greeks under 40 will know English, don't worry. You will also find out that many Greeks have good command of other languages as well like French, German, Italian and Spanish.

Posted by
3961 posts

Great feedback on this thread. Yes, English is the so-called 1st foreign language taught in schools. The students start learning English in 3rd grade.
That said, it has been our experience in our travels that knowing the basics is respected and appreciated. Nothing better than embracing the culture where you travel. I have found that just having a base has encouraged some great conversations that benefited both of us. I don't anticipate you will have any issues. Enjoy!

Posted by
3333 posts

A final bit of advice -- it's so nice to be able to say the courteous words of Greeting ... when you pass by a local on an island pathway or small lane, they very often will say "Kalimera" (good morning), "Kalispera" (good evening) ... if it's not either time of day, I like the all-purpose response "Herete" (Hair-it-ay) = "be joyful." Of course know also: yes/no thank you, pardon me etc. You can easily get these, and how to pronounce, on this easy website -- gives 10 super-quickie "situations" and the words to use for them.

In addition, I always feel that phrase-lists omit a key element -- PRAISE. Make up a short list of PRAISE words ... I like "delicious" (NOS-timo) -- to tell the waiter; "wonderful," to praise scenery (MAH -jik- ee), "so kind" (Toe-so Kah-LOW). For bonus points,
" beautiful child" (OH-morfo Peh-DEE). Learn these 4 for any country you visit, and you'll get along swell.