Campaign to boost language with Speak Greek in March

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With a large population of Greek migrants in Australia, the community is coming together to make sure the culture and language isn't forgotten, encouraging everyone to Speak Greek in March.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Greek is about the fourth most spoken language other than English, here in Australia.

It’s dropped to that position in recent years, through the influx of migrants speaking Chinese and Arabic.

So, to ensure their language and heritage is maintained in the ex-pat community, Greek migrants are starting from the young and working their way up, by teaching Greek to children only just learning to speak.

It’s part of the Speak Greek in March initiative, started last year by Melbourne’s large Greek population.

Throughout the month, the language is getting greater exposure, especially as many English words are derived from the ancient tongue.

“Every day a new theme is released and a lot of the words that are used for the themes are derived from the Greek language, so for example astrology, theology, a lot of the science-based words,” said Speak Greek in March committee member, Victoria Tsiolis.

Year 11 student Mikaela Patros is completing Modern and Ancient Greek as part of her VCE studies and said learning the language allows her to maintain her culture and heritage.

She said it’s also an opportunity for the non-Greek speaking population to gain another skill.

“You don't have to be Greek to speak Greek, it is a difficult language, but it is easy to pick up,” she told SBS.

As part of the program, Year 9 students at Melbourne’s Alphington Grammar School are practicing their language skills with their counterparts in Greece.

It works both ways – while they respond to questions asked in Greek, they in turn pose a question in English, and the Greek students test their knowledge by responding in English.

They spend several hours at school fine-tuning their language skills, and practice at home with their parents and grandparents.

For student Evangelia Arnokouros, spending several hours at school fine-tuning her Greek skills means she’s able to better converse with her grandparents and other family members in Greece.

“It's very important for me, because that's where I come from, Greece, obviously, and I absolutely love learning the language,” she said.

Alphington Grammar’s Greek Co-ordinator, Toula Terezakis, said the initiative is also a way to build bridges across continents.

“It's the only way that we can continue the language abroad, and it's working.”

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