For children of the diaspora, learning a second language can promote a firm connection with and appreciation of their Greek heritage.
Giving your children the gift of speaking and understanding Greek is an important decision that you need to commit to as parents and as a family. Even if your kids initially display reluctance at learning Greek (when all their peers at school speak English), it is so worthwhile, and when they are older, they will be grateful they had the opportunity.
There are many different ways of introducing your children to the Greek language, so you are bound to find something that will interest your children and suit any budgetary or time restraints you may have. Also, remember that you can never start too early. Babies recognise speech patterns from the moment they are born (possibly even in the womb), so the more you expose your baby and toddler to spoken Greek, the easier it will be for your child to pick up its unique sounds.
You may be surprised to discover that babies and toddlers still learning to speak can actually learn two distinct languages at once. There is no need to wait for them to learn English before introducing Greek. Parents everywhere love pointing out objects and saying the word to their toddler; you simply teach them both words for the object – the English word and the Greek word. Take every opportunity to expose your child to the Greek language.
If you are not confident with your own Greek, this doesn’t mean your child has to miss out. There are so many opportunities for your child to hear Greek spoken, including on TV, Greek videos online, other members of the local Greek community, etc.
In addition, many city locations around the world offer Greek schools for children of the diaspora. Take part in Greek community events, and encourage your child to make friends with other Greek kids.
Of course, the ultimate ‘teacher’ is a Greek holiday, so your child can experience the language in its natural context. Older children will benefit from educational books and activity books, like Trip to Greece, a captivating activity book with narrative in both languages and plenty of opportunities suited to all ability levels to speak, write and read Greek.
The most effective language learning resources contain colourful illustrations, an interesting narrative, and Greek keywords to practise and learn.
Why not embrace technology – there are free games and apps that can entertain children such as Digital Dialects (www.digitaldialects.com/Greek.htm − learn colours, fruits and vegetables and animals) and Dino Lingo offer Greek quizzes and memory games where kids can hear the Greek pronunciation (www.dinolingo.com/learn/greek-for-kids/greek-games)
Why not create your own activities (books, stories, riddles, games) to make the process of learning Greek a fun way to spend quality time together as a family? You may have a special reason to formalise the learning process, and if so, ask around your local Greek community for a Greek private tutor.
Whichever method you decide to use to share the Greek language with your kids, the most important element is that it’s a fun, enjoyable exercise to experience together as a family. As soon as it feels like a chore, the joy has left the process. Don’t be afraid to reward your kids for their efforts to keep it interesting for them. For example, if they can speak only Greek at the dinner table one night, you will take them to the movies.
Have fun on this incredible journey of connecting your kids with their culture. There are no words to describe the pride you will feel when you hear them express themselves in Greek.
Special 2017 Offer for Readers
Sharing stories from one generation to the next is how we treasure the legacy of our past, and connect with our unique identity.
Recently, my treasured yiayia passed away at the commendable age of 101. More than 300 people attended her funeral, and were able to read her incredible eulogy which described the magical moments of her life in Greece and then in Australia.
This got me thinking about how sad it would be if her special stories and memories of our own family legacy were lost too, on the day she passed. These extraordinary memories will be treasured forever for our family’s future generations.
Now, imagine the possibility of learning Greek together as a family, reading a bilingual children’s picture book about your very own family’s history? That’s right – instead of the book being about a fictional family, it could be about their very own yiayia, and her unique experiences.
Surely, this would be a unique and memorable gift for a christening or grandparent’s birthday – one that the whole family could pitch in for.
Right now, I am excited to announce that I have two openings for personalised children’s book commissions – a thoughtful gift that will mean your own family’s memories will be treasured and enjoyed forever.
Contact me today on www.catchthatcat.com/contact-us to learn more about commissioning your own family’s picture book.