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  Nr. 30 - September 2000
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Forget the English Dammit !

by Karen Barratt, September 2000

To improve my knowledge of the Greek language, from 4th-21st July I attended the DI.K.E.ME.S Summer School held at the Free Sun Hotel, Logaras. It was described as an intensive course, so I was sure that progress was guaranteed.

Supplied on the course are the books from the excellent “Greek Now” teaching series of books and tapes. They contain a logical programme which guides you through all the intricacies of Greek language grammar including dialogues, texts, exercises, useful verb tables and vocabulary lists.

The books were written by a very formidable team - Dimitra (Mimika) Dimitra and Marinetta Paphimona - who both bring their considerable knowledge and experience to the course as teachers.

I, for one, consider myself very lucky to have been in Mimika’s class. She is an extremely gifted teacher who effortlessly passes on her enthusiasm, not only for her language, but also for Greek art and culture too. For example, as part of the course, we visited the Ekatontapiliani Church and, even though I have been there many times, her vivid lecture (which also included a history of Paros) before we left and the guided tour when we got there were fascinating. I found that knowing what you are looking at and the reasons for things being as they are made it so much more interesting.

Even after scheduled classes, Mimika offered her time freely to answer questions about the subtleties of Greek traditions and culture or explain works from one of the great Greek poets such as Seferis. After listening to her wonderful poetry readings I am converted! On the last day, she sang in harmony with her daughter Marina (another excellent teacher on the course) “T’Asteri Ton Voria” by Nikos Gatsos and Manos Hadjidakis which will remain for me a lasting impression of those memorable three weeks.

The course itself was very correctly termed as “intensive”. A placement test was given beforehand to find your level - beginners, intermediate or advanced. The students came from American universities, as well as mature students from Canada, Scotland, Ireland, Germany and England. Quite a few students had Greek ancestry and wanted to renew their acquaintance with their culture. Three of us were either residents or part-time residents of Paros - one to be found sporting a t-shirt with a quotation from Socrates, which loosely translated read “The more I know, the more I realise I know nothing”.

This seemed apt, as every weekday from 9.00am until 12.00 we would try to absorb more information, homework was set for the afternoon session from 5.45 until 7.00pm, and then more homework would be set for the following day - 60 hours plus homework in all. This course certainly demands total commitment and proved quite a challenge for those who had a “life” to lead concurrently! However, I am sure that living and breathing the course for three weeks with no outside distraction could not have been easy either - although there were many evening activities, such as: a walk to Marpissa, a visit to Kolymbithres, Greek dancing tuition, the Ekatontapiliani lecture, a visit to the Scorpios folklore museum and a dinner at the director’s house.

Then, during the last week, we visited Lefkes and walked the Byzantine Road, but by this time most of us were chiefly concerned with the looming exams. They took the form of an oral where we spoke for three minutes on any subject we chose, and then on the Friday morning we sat a written exam which, for me at least, not having sat an examination in over thirty years, was totally “mind-blowing” !

Our last evening was spent having the official photograph taken (by our very own “Photo Frank” from Marpissa) and enjoying a farewell dinner at the Golden Sun Restaurant on Golden Beach. After the certificates of attendance had been presented, the music began. The standard of Greek dancing was really good - for these young people from the “diaspora”, their heritage seems to have been very successfully kept alive.

In conclusion, I would say that even though the course left me quite exhausted, I know that it has supplied some extremely important building blocks for my future here on Paros.

You may wonder about the title of the piece - “Forget the English dammit!” This refers to Mimika getting really fed up every time she asked a question in Greek and the student insisted on translating it out loud in English before answering. She made her point !

The International Center for Hellenic and Mediterranean Studies (DI.K.E.ME.S.) is an Athens-based non-profit educational institution that promotes the study of the culture of Greece, both ancient and modern, and the Mediterranean world, addressing university students from North America and Europe, foreign visitors, and the English-speaking community of Greece. As well as the summer school, DI.K.E.ME.S. offers full year and semester programs in Athens. For further info contact DI.K.E.ME.S., The International Center for Hellenic & Mediterranean Studies, 2 Vassileos Constantinou Avenue, Athens 116 35, tel: 01-756-0749, fax: 01-756-1497, email dikemes@yahoo.com.
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