It’s all Greek to me

The English language has an expression, which perfectly summarizes just how difficult a language Greek is: it’s all Greek to me, meaning that something is not understandable. Greek is considered a “small” language, owing to the fact that only a few millions of people use it all around the world. However, despite that, it’s only one of a handful of languages that has been spoken for thousands of years consecutively, while retaining most of its original structure and vocabulary.

Lately, though, we are experiencing a tremendous shift. Due to the increasing usage of modern technology new terms have found their way into the language, thereby shaping it into something different. Not only the use of English words in everyday speech is extremely common but a new way of writing has appeared as well, the infamous Greekglish, which basically is the Greek language written with the Latin alphabet, wildly popular in the social media among the younger generations mostly.

Not everybody accepted this change. The purists argue that the new overly simplified Greek is an insult to an ancient civilization. Thousands of years of history, endless conquerors and invasions and yet the language remains more or less unchanged. That is, until the moment a teenager says “LOL” to their friends. Not only an English word, but an abbreviation no less, to add insult to injury.

The modernists, on the other hand firmly support that a language is a tool for everyday communication. The Greek language did not survive because it was the most widespread or the easiest to learn, but because it was able to adapt and absorb foreign influences, instead of refusing to accept change.

In the grand scheme of things all languages were forced to evolve. The dawn of the 21st century saw a dramatic shift of scenery, as, suddenly, my aunt in Australia was not unreachable anymore, due to the massive technological revolution. I could talk to her in real time as if she was standing next to me. Her broken Greek and my broken English came together and created something new. The next year the entire Greek community of Melbourne was using this particular amalgam of Greek-Australian English and the distance between the two ends of the world became insignificant.

The same occurrence happened to Greek communities all over the world. The Greek diaspora is a strong and flourishing one, and retains its strong ties to Greece. How can we ignore the subtle changes to our language, when it is used all over the world by people who add their own worldview to a beautiful language they respect so much, and desperately try to keep alive? It would be disrespectful to analyze this purely linguistic phenomenon by removing it from its social framework and overlook the millions of Greeks, who live abroad and choose to bring with them an ancient civilization.

Whether I write “kalimera” to my Greek-Aussie aunt using the Greek alphabet or the Latin one makes no difference. After all, it’s all Greek to me.

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