Greek Lesson 1
Hi everybody! Here's your first Greek lesson. Here you'll see the Greek alphabet and how to pronounce it. After this lesson you will be able to read everything you see in Greek, as in Greek you read what you see, like in German and Italian, write your name in Greek and understand some basic words. So let's start! :D
The Greek alphabet
Letter Name of the letter How it is pronounced in a word
Α α alfa a as in apple
Ββ vita v
Γγ wama w as in window
Δδ thelta th as in that
Εε epsilon e as in elephant
Ζζ zita z
Ηη ita ea as in seat (it can be also pronounced as y after some consonants)
Θθ thita th as in think
Ιι yota ea as in seat, but when it is after some consonants, it becomes y
Κκ kapa k
Λλ lamtha l
Μμ mi m
Νν ni n
Ξξ xi x
Οο omikron o as in orange
Ππ pi p
Ρρ ro r
Σσς siwma s the letter siwma has two characters it is σ when in the beginning or in the middle of a word and ς when it is the last letter of a word
Ττ taf t
Υυ ipsilon ea as in seat (yes, in Greek there are three letters for this sound)
Φφ fi f
Χχ hi heavy h (but not as heavy as the German ch)
Ψψ psi ps
Ωω omewa o as in orange (yes, in Greek there are two letters for this sound)
Also, there are some letter combinations. These are:
μπ which is pronounced as the English b
τσ which is pronounced as ts
ευ which is pronounced as ef or ev
αυ which is pronounced as af or av
οι ea as in seat
γγ and γκ which are pronounced as g in gastronomy
τζ which is pronounced as j in the name Jerry
ει which is pronounced ea as in seat (five ways to pronounce a sound!!!) it can be also pronounced as y after a consonant
But be careful!!! The vowel combinations above isn't valid if there are "thialitika" on the second word. For example, εϊ is pronounced as e-i and not ea!!!!
As for the stress, it is quite easy to understnad where to put it on words when reading them, as there is a ΄ on the stressed vowel. For example, in the word καλημέρα (=good morning) you will put the stress on ε!!! Each word has one or two accents (very rare to see a word with two accents). Words with one vowel don't have stresses, as there is only one vowel and you stress it.
To practice, try to read out loud these words:
Καλημέρα! = Good morning!
Γεια! = Hi!
Ευχαριστώ! = Thank you!
More Greek lessons are on the way! :)
By the way, this is not really true: "as in Greek you read what you see"
When you see "την πόρτα", you read "την μπόρτα"
When you see "σπíτια", you read "σπίτχια" (hidden χ sound)
When you see "ταιριάζω", you read "ταιργιάζω" (hidden γ sound)
"ντ" can be pronounced either as "nd" or as "d", depending on the word
You don't pronounce the same "άδεια" when it means "license" than when it means "empty"
The consonants "π" and "κ" often have a weak "χ" sound after when they precede vowels with sounds "ε" and "ι".
So there is a huge amount of Greek words that you can't just know how to read by looking at the spelling, and you actually have to learn these pronunciation traits word by word, just like in English.
Also you forgot to mention consonant combinations such as "γγ", "γκ" or "τζ". And these are just a few very common ones, there are other more infrequent ones whose pronunciation can no be derived from its separate consonants, such as "γχ".
Another extremely important feature of Greek phonology is that the letters "χ" and "γ" have very different sounds when they precede vowels with sounds "ε" and "ι" than when preceding other vowel sounds. "γι" in pronounced nothing like "window", but rather like "yield".
This happens mainly in northern Greece, pronouncing "ti borta" etc. And as for the vowel ι, it is a strange vowel...It can be pronounced in many ways, but after some months of Greek lessons you get used to it and finally you know how to pronounce it even in a word that you don't know. Ντ is pronounced as d in the beginning of the word and nd when it is in the middle of the word. And yes, in Greek you read exactly what you see. You can't easily pronounce spitia without an "h" sound in i. :)
I'm afraid it's not that simple.
While it is true that "ντ" is always pronounced as "d" in the beginning of the word, it is not true that it is always pronounced "nd" in the middle. For example in many loanwords it's not.
I don't know why you say vowel ι can be pronounced in many ways. I think there is one single way to pronounce it, as seen in the Wikipedia vowel chart.
What do you mean when you can you can't easily pronounce σπίτια without χ? You mean it's hard to pronounce? Because it's not at all for me.
No, in Greek you don't exactly read what you see. It is indeed a language where spelling mostly dictates pronunciation, but not 100%. There are still many words which you need to know one by one. You didn't comment on the hidden γ sound, which I am sure it appears in some words and not in others, and I know there is no rule for it. Nor did you comment on the pronunciation of "άδεια", or the pronunciation of "π" and "κ".
And I forgot to comment on the different pronunciations of γγ:
"Άγγελος pronounced hard g or ng on occasion
Συγγνώμη pronounced γ
Εγγενής pronounced kind of like νγ"
(The previous is literally copy-pasted from some examples a Greek native speaker wrote to me)
From my experience, most Greeks don't realize these things of their own language. This makes sense, I don't realize many characteristics of my own language either because I have internalized them. But if you are a learner and you intend not not sound like a foreigner, you have to learn all this.
By the way, also in German you don't read what you see. A clear example is the pronunciation of "v", which can be like English "v" or "f" depending on the word. Another example are many loanwords like "Friseur" of "Saison".
I lived in norther Greece for many years and never heard "ti borta". And as an old EFL teacher (in number of years teaching and age :-)) I strongly recommend that to help newcomers you avoid too many details about pronunciation, in the absence of audio. What you are presenting is excellent.
Can you give an example for Ηη where you say that it can be also pronounced as y after a consonant?
For the letters pi, xi, etc., it is worth noting that they are read like 'ea' as in sea and not like 'i' as in pie. People are shocked when I tell them that π is not for eating!
Some digraphs are missing from your list. Have a look at: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digraph_(orthography)#Greek
One last remark about the sound of the letter Γγ. It is difficult to explain it in terms of the English language, since I dont't think there is a corresponding sound. I understand why you used 'window' as an example, 'cause that's how Greek pupils are taught to read words starting with w. However, this is not how native English speakers think about the weird 'w' sound when asked.
The best way I can think of to describe Γγ is that it is a voiced Χχ. Χχ can be found in the scottish word loch [λοχ]. Starting from there and by engaging the vocal cords when letting the air out, the χα sound becomes γα, sort of. It all changes of course when Γγ is followed by any kind of ea (think of γη=earth). But now things become easier, because γη is read like 'ye' as found in the word ye-ar and για=for is read like 'ya' as in yarn.
I am a native Greek speaker and I thought the Greek language is pretty straightforward... till I had to explain how the English pronunciation that students use for the Greek symbols in math is different from what is actually spoken in Greece.
As a student of Greek, I think using the word "ill" as an example is quite inaccurate. Use the word "seat" instead! It is way closer to the Greek sound. Overall, phonetics are better learned with audio. There are several Youtube videos which teach Modern Greek alphabet and sounds.
I think a non-technical explanation would be that the "i" in "ill" sounds somewhere between the Greek "ε" and "ι", while the sound in "seat" is much closer to "ι".
The technical explanation I can not give it myself (cause I have no clue about phonetic terminology), but we can verify it by searching the words "ill" and "seat" in Wiktionary and looking at their IPA pronunciation. So, according to this IPA system, "seat" has the sound "iː" and "ill" has the sound "ɪ"
Then you can search those IPA symbols in Wikipedia, which even includes audio to listen to the difference:
Now look at the vowel chart in this article and you will see how the Greek sound is closer to the sound of "seat", or even exactly the same but shorter in length (hence the ː symbol): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_Greek_phonology
This is great Panagioti. When I teach people how to pronounce "ts", I usually give two examples: Cats and Tsunami. Native English speakers often struggle with making that sound upon first glance but when you point out that it's a sound already in their repertoire, it becomes much easier. Coincidentally, "It's" is another example. :-)
I agree with you and if you check out the Links we have for the alphabet you will see that there is no mention of W. The comments on this page were made before the Greek course was created. There other items on this page that I do not agree with.