Greeks have been offering afternoon Greek school alongside our Greek churches for decades. It is still in existence in current times but there is a decline in enrolled students.
Many reasons are given for this. Marriages from non-Greek backgrounds, busy schedules and the fact that the mother tongue of the next generation of Greek Australians is predominantly the English language. For them, it is easier to just communicate in English.
Heritage, however, still burns bright. Ioannis Tekirdaglis told Neos Kosmos that travelling to Greece with his sons Jason and Christopher has caused them to feel “a sense of Greek identity”. They say, “I am more Greek than before.” When asked these days about where they are from, their response now is, “I am Greek”.
Overall, there is still a keen interest in children attending Greek school, be it within the schools of the Greek Orthodox Archiocese of Australia or high schools.
Samantha Katsoulas, who came to Australia at the age of two, told Neos Kosmos that language was different for her when growing up to what it is with her daughters Penny and Nektaria.
“We only spoke in Greek,” Ms Katsoulas said. “My mum only spoke Greek because she stayed at hom,” she said, adding that her dad “didn’t allow us to speak in English, because he was adamant for us to learn the Greek language because that is where we were from.”
Her daughters, Penny and Nektaria, speak mostly in English at home.
“When we were young, we could actually speak Greek fluently, it wasn’t until we attended English school that we spoke English and we lost our Greek,” Penny told Neos Kosmos.
Mr Tekirdaglis is trying to encourage the children to speak Greek at home and says “he speaks more Greek with his mum” and “speaks seldomly” in Greek with the boys because “Greek is something of a learning nature”. His son, Jason, told Neos Kosmos “he understands Greek more than he can speak Greek” and added “he feels comfortable in speaking Greek with his grandmother”.
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Exposure to the Greek language seems to be the main theme to ensure that the Greek language is both heard and spoken. Each tries to speak the Greek language at every opportunity be it with their parent or grandparent. They respectively attend Holy Cross Wollongong parish to ensure they communicate in Greek as much as possible. Surrounded by the Greek community helps and is a large part in being proactive in maintaining their Greek heritage.