Greek in Three Months

An experiment to see how much Greek one reasonably motivated person can learn in three months.
How much Greek can I learn in three months?

A diary of sorts ...

Resources and materials

I am using the hugo 'Greek in three months' course, a Collins pocket Greek dictionary, the Greek phrases on this site and the FSI-Greek course as my initial learning materials.

The FSI course is freely available online but I bought it from Multilingual books and tapes in the hope that the quality of the manual included would be better. It isn't and has been badly scanned from the original. On the positive side, the recordings are, at first blush, of a higher quality.

The FSI Greek course is dated, contains irrelevant vocabulary and was written before Demotik became the officially recognized language. However, the FSI style of learning of 'guided imitation' is I think unsurpassed and I will use this as my initial basis of learning the language.

There are three parts to the Greek course and when taught by the FSI would take 44 weeks. I'm only going to look at the first part and see how far I can get in three months.

Day 1. The Greek alphabet

The general consensus is that you learn the Greek alphabet from the start and rely on transliterations for a short a time as possible. This enables you to read Greek (as well as speak it) and improve your pronunciation by not relying on matching roman characters or combinations thereof with the Greek script.

I have done this and can roughly, slowly and painfully sound out some words.

Some Greek letters have a different sound when used in combination with other letters. So, μ and π combined as μπ make a 'b' sound. On their own μ is pronounced as 'm' in man and π as 'p' in pit. ç

Learning these combinations is for Day 2.

Day 2. More on the alphabet

And here they are with the corresponding english equivalents.

αι ee
ει ee
οι ee

λλ ng
ει ee
οι ee

There are more. These are the combinations I have been able to learn so far. I used the BBC 'Get by in Greek' course to help with this.

I've completed Unit 2 of the FSI Greek course. I don't know it fully but will start on Unit 3 tomorrow and return to Unit 2 in a day or two. (I skipped Unit 1).

It has also become clear at this very early stage that it is easier to try and sound out the Greek words slowly and haltingly rather than use transcriptions even at this very early stage of learning.

The FSI courses were originally written for diplomats, and FSI Greek is no exception. This shines through from the initial lessons with the Greek words for Embassy 'πρεσβεία' and Consulate being frequently used.

So the examples used are phrases like 'where is the Embassy' instead of 'where is the Musuem'. 'Πού είναι τό μονσείο'.

Day 3. Unit 3

Unit three of the FSI introduces the Greek numbers and also builds on some of the direction realated words and phrases introduced previously.

I'm hoping to gain an understanding of Greek grammar using the FSI course and increase my vocabulary fast using the phrases on Surfacelanguages.

Constant reinforcement is very helpful and the FSI course includes this effectively. E.g. Unit 3 'τό λεωφορείο είναι δεξιά' 'the bus is on the right' builds on the use of 'δεξιά' 'right' which is used in Unit 2.

I'm additionally reinforcing my learning by using relevant phrases from the surface languages Greek section. E.g. 'Υπάρχει λεωφορείο' 'Is there (a) bus' which reinforces both 'bus' and the use of 'is there' which are both used in this Unit.

This is particularly helpful in pronouncing the individual words as the audio in FSI Greek is spoken quickly. As opposed to the Greek on SurfaceLanguages which is spoken slowly with each word indiviudally pronounced.

One word which gave me particular difficulty was (and is) the word for 'hotel' 'ξενοδοχείο'.

Day 4. Grammar in brief

The grammatical explanations in the FSI series leave something to be desired. Before starting the grammatical exercises, I skimmed through 'Greek in three months' (Hugo) to gain an outline of the grammar used so far.


Nouns decline and are either masculine, feminine or neuter. The gender of many Greek nouns can be predicted (but not guaranteed) from their ending. Most nouns ending in either oς or ας (in the nominative) are masculine. Many feminine nouns end in α.

The gender of a noun can be ascertained from its definite article.

Masculine Feminine Neuter
ο η το

The definite and indefinite articles

Definite and indefinite articles decline through four cases: nominative, vocative, accusative and genitive. The indefinite article only occurs in the nominative.

The indefinite article in the nominative:

Masculine Feminine Neuter
ενας μια ένα

The definite article (singular) in the nominative:

Masculine Feminine Neuter
ο η το

The definite article (plural) in the nominative:

Masculine Feminine Neuter
οι οι τα


Adjectives decline and agree with nouns. There are different classes of adjectives, grouped according to their endings.

Masculine Feminine Neuter
μεγαλος μεγαλή μεγαλο

Masculine Feminine Neuter
ωραίος ωραία ωραίο

Basic Greek grammar contains the grammar taught in FSI-Greek.

Day 5. Struggling with vocabulary

After struggling to remember the Greek words in the FSI course, I've started to create a list of Greek words derived from English which occur within it.

One of the strengths and simultaneously weaknesses of the FSI-Greek course is the speed of the audio. Although good for comprehension, it is difficult to remember and learn vocabulary spoken quickly. The Greek words and phrases from SurfaceLanguages are very, very useful in doing this.

Day 8. Struggling with speed of Audio

Units one to four of FSI-Greek have two speakers - a man and a woman. They both speak quickly but the man speaks ridiculously fast for anyone starting out with the language. The audio is the original audio recorded by the Foreign Service Institute, and has not been recrecorded or remastered.

I am a fan of the FSI courses and will persevere with this one as I have bought it, but my recommendation (after day 8 and limited progress) is to avoid this particular version.

Day 9. A change of heart

I have reached the grammatical drills in Unit 4. These drills are one of the areas where (most) of the publically available FSI courses shine and these drills are no exception. The speed of the audio is still a problem but there are sentences conjugating the verbs to be, to leave, to drink and to have. You don't find this level of detail in most (any?) modern language courses and it is incredibly useful.

I also the question words from the Greek phrases on this SurfaceLanguages. 'Τι' (What) and 'Πώς' (How) among others are used frequently in this unit.

'σκέτος' means plain, simple or without sugar when referring to tea and coffee as it does a lot in Unit 4. 'σκέτος' is missing from the Greek recordings on this site and will be added in the future.

Day 10

Greek Word List

Sometime later

I lasted ten days, and then my interest faded. I had no particular reason to learn Greek, nor holiday or visit planned, and lacked the motivation to continue.

There is probably some sort of moral or learning experience there. Next time, book a holiday.