Ever since starting Greek language lessons as a prep student, Alannah Halabi has never had a second thought about whether she made the right choice.
The soon to be 13-year-old, who is enrolled at Alphington Grammar, was initially encouraged to take up Greek by her parents.
And although there are other non-Greek students in her class, she is the only one who has dedicated so many years of her schooling to learning the language, and from the look of things, she’s not planning to stop anytime soon.
Despite not having blood ties with Greece − her dad was born in Lebanon and her mum in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia − the passion for the language seems to run in the family, as all three older siblings of Allanah also attended Greek courses until they finished school. “My parents work near Alphington Grammar and so after talking with some teachers from the school they sent my brother and sisters there and then me.
“They thought it was good to learn another language, but then we liked it as well and stayed,” she tells Neos Kosmos.
Alannah’s siblings might not have continued Greek courses at a university level, but they have kept in touch with the language through friends they have made over the years.
Hanging out with Greek classmates has also been one of the primary motives for Alannah to keep studying the language.
“I just feel better every year and I guess it’s because I made more friends. All my friends are Greek, I go to their houses and enjoy listening to their parents talk in Greek.
“Every now and then my friends say something in Greek and I will understand, even though I’ll respond in English,” she says.
Benefits she lists from her experience range from getting help for the course assignments and homework to acquiring a first-hand knowledge of the culture and of course, having the opportunity to taste some of the delicacies of Mediterranean cuisine.
The little Philhellene has had exposure to the latest Greek sounds thanks to attending friends’ birthday parties, while traditional music and folk dancing has also been a part of her daily life at school.
As a matter of fact, she knows how to sing the national anthem and has participated numerous times in singing and dancing performances at school events.
What truly won her heart though, and has kept her dedicated to the subject, is her passion for Greek history.
“My favourite topic is history, every time I go to class I ask my teacher if we can learn more about history. I really enjoy it,” she says.
Up until last year she had already been taught extensively about mythology and some ancient Greek figures and events, and says she is now eager to learn more on modern history.
While she recognises spelling and reading as her strengths, Alannah admits she still struggles with some parts of the language, especially when it comes to writing fully-structured paragraphs.
As she explains, however, she receives great support from her teachers who help her constantly improve.
When asked about whether there is something she does not enjoy about the subject, she gives a cheeky answer: “There is nothing I don’t want to learn or that I don’t like other than maybe … doing tests!”
Alannah is now also entering her second year in Chinese, but she has already made her decision for when the time comes to choose between the two languages.
“It is still early to talk about VCE, but in Year 9 I get to pick between Chinese and Greek and I know that I’ll choose Greek. I prefer it − it’s easier, but mainly more interesting.”
As for her future plans, she enjoys sports and has developed a strong interest in humanities subjects, but is still unsure of which studies she would like to pursue later on.
What remains clear to Alannah, however, is that even if she does not keep studying Greek at uni, she will still maintain a connection with the language and culture through her friends.
We, for our part, wish her every success in her future endeavours on whatever path she decides to take.