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Greece and English

Do I, as an English speaker, need to worry that I don't know Greek when I am in Athens?

Posted by
101 posts

Absolutely not - I spent 2 weeks there, talking with many people from young to bordering on elderly and while I sometimes came across someone whose English was hesitant and/or had a thick accent, I was never unable to make myself understood or to understand. Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
15053 posts

It can be helpful to learn the Greek alphabet to "decode" some signs and it's kinda fun too. It surprised me that even in villages there always seem to be any number of fluent English speakers, even old folks - they lived for years abroad and then returned to Greece.

Posted by
5715 posts

You don’t need any Greek, but efcharisto (thanks), kalimera (good day) and kalispera (good evening) are useful.

Posted by
1117 posts

Agree... it's very rare to meet someone who doesn't speak or understand at least a bit of English.

Having said that, I totally agree with Jennifer. Learning a few basic words, thus showing an effort and respect for their country and their language, will open up people's hearts.

Posted by
975 posts

Many people speak English in Athens, especially in businesses and in the tourist zone.

Learning a few words and phrases in Greek shows your respect for your hosts.

Posted by
2898 posts

I've given people a couple of VERY simple phrase lists to print and keep in your pocket ... I like this one because, veryimportantly, it shows WHAT SYLLABLE to stress in a word (The "stress" is shown by making the vowel a CAP) ;

Another favorite of mine, from Matt Barrett's Greecetravel website, is "How to Say it" - an aid to ordering in restaurants. At lmost every place where you're likely to eat, the waiters will be fluent in English -- but it's a kick if instead of "red wine" you can say "Kra-SEE KOH-kee-no" ... He'll probably smile & say "Bravo!" ... and maybe fill your glass extra-full (works for me!) Here-s the link... ... its super-useful it ALSO gives cooking style or ingredients of most dishes on a typical menu. In this list, the syllable to stress is in Italics. U can put the link on your phone or, as I did, just copy a few key words, WITH the stress underlined.

As for speaking a 2nd language, the Greeks put us to shame. Almost every greek under 40 can speak English to some extent, because English instruction begins in KINDERGARTEN. I had a great time once, on a hotel terrace in Samos, helping the landlord's 5-year-old girl learn to say "ball" and "dog" from her workbook. Another time, in a village in the Peloponnese, I couldn't find the bus stop. I met a granny & a boy of about 8.. she just shrugged but he said "Hello!" and when I remembered (miraculously) the greek word for bus, he took me by the hand & led me there, all the way trying out his English. Such fun.

Posted by
2053 posts

No but it’s polite and useful to know a few friendly words of greeting, like those noted by above posters. I am so envious, I love Greece! Enjoy your journey!

Posted by
7998 posts

Learn Greek alphabet , especially if driving as some road signage is in Greek only.

Posted by
2930 posts

The tourist spots will definitely have English speakers, but I had two experiences with non-English speakers. It will be fine. In Athens, the day my RS tour was to begin, I had a wardrobe failure. I ruined one of just two pairs of slacks. I went into a small shop selling women’s clothing. The two women, who I would call older…but that is only because I haven’t accepted my age…did not speak English. I pantomimed and they enjoyed the sale. We laughed throughout and had a lovely time.

The second was in a tiny store selling groceries. I did attempt a question, but she just made a call to her granddaughter to make the sale. It will all work out.

However, do learn the alphabet, as it is handy, and I found it fun to be able to read signs, etc., but you don’t need to do so.

Posted by
787 posts


All you other responders are right, but in a bad way.

You don't want Greeks to think you and/or Americans tourists in general are naive, thinking everybody in the world should speak English, thinking English is superior and other languages should go extinct, or worse.

Learn some Greek phrases. Look up Greek phonology. Figure out how to pronounce sounds that are not in English. Keep quiet for the vast majority of the time. Avoid speaking English unless somebody insists on it. You don't have to talk when you buy something. Or say something short in Greek if you feel you have to talk.

The same sort of rule should be followed in any non-English-speaking region, except of course you will encounter whatever the local language is.

Posted by
77 posts

In Europe, so many people speak English, but I still really appreciate having the google translate app! It’s great for helping to understand menus and signs. Also if I need to buy something specific at a store, I look up the word on google translate and/or find a picture online and show it to the clerk. I never want to assume that people will speak English!

Posted by
3258 posts

I think we should never expect people in other countries to speak English and we should learn greetings in their language, but when many people speak English, as is the case in Greece, it makes Europe much more accessible to independent travelers. I do think that many of us should be ashamed that we don't speak another language-I guess it's one more thing we can blame on American schools-and in my case, a mother who minored in Spanish in college but didn't advise me to take it when my Latin III class was cancelled.

Posted by
37 posts

Not at all, the majority of Greeks (especially the younger ones) have a very good level of english language even in the non touristic areas. As already being said, we truly appreciate when someone tries to speak greek.

Posted by
1117 posts

The only ones who, in my experience, usually don't speak a word of English are the Papas (the Greek Orthodox priests). :-)