ATHENS – Specializing in spreading the Greek language to students from all over the world through online lessons, Greek Lessons OnLine is an innovative Greek language school which also organizes summer camps and immersion courses for kids and adults in Greece. Lessons on Greek Lessons OnLine are conducted in a specially designed, easy to use virtual classroom - not via Skype, with students living in the USA, Australia, the Cayman Islands, and even Papua New Guinea, among many other countries across the globe. The passion for keeping the Greek language and culture alive and creating a strong online Greek community of first, second, third, and even fourth generation Greeks living just about everywhere is clear in the program and courses available. Stella Bompotsiari, Founder & CEO of Greek Lessons OnLine, spoke with The National Herald about the online school and about the future of Greek education.
TNH: How long did it take to put together Greek Lessons OnLine from concept to realization?
Stella Bompotsiari: About five years. The whole idea started during my MA at University College London (UCL) where I studied e-learning back in 2006. After my MA graduation, from 2007 to 2011 (when e-leaning was not as popular and in a very premature stage) my business partner Pavlos Ksinas and I started designing an online school trying to find platforms, educational tools and applications to make an online lesson not only possible but also safe, interesting, and fun.
TNH: What has been the most challenging aspect of teaching Greek online?
SB: At the beginning, we offered only adults lessons. But then, our existing adult students wanted us to start teaching their kids as well. For me, teaching Greek to kids online was the greatest challenge considering the fact that the number of kids attending Greek schools is decreasing dramatically. We had to design a lesson and follow a method that would make the kids love to learn Greek. And I think we made it. At the moment, we have more than 700 students and 80% of our students are kids! And the number is growing!
TNH: What is the most rewarding aspect?
SB: When our students get passionate about Greek and try to get phrases and words right! "Kyria, how do I say this, how do I say that,” and they repeat again and again until they get it right. I love it! And also when they want to get the right pronunciation as well and sound like proper Greeks!
TNH: Where do you see the future of Greek education?
SB: Greeks love their language, history, culture, and country. I want to be optimistic and believe that we will take Greek language education more seriously. Greek language has to be taught by professional and specialized teachers, if not we will see the number of Greek students decreasing even more. And don’t get me wrong, volunteers have done a great job supporting the Greek schools and communities but if we have the option to be taught by professional teachers then we should definitely do it!
We also work with teachers from Greece, mainly to support Greek educators, give them job opportunities especially considering the high unemployment rates in Greece. Also, as mentioned before, it is essential to learn a language from professional teachers who have specialized in teaching Greek. Our teachers are the best ambassadors of Hellenism and connecting our students with teachers from Greece brings our students closer to Greece, the Greek reality, and lifestyle!
TNH: Tell us about the summer camp. How did it come about?
SB: I would often hear Greek parents saying “My kids find no reason to learn Greek anymore, everybody speaks English, so why bother?” So we had to come up with an idea that would give kids the incentive to learn Greek. Making Greek Summer friends is a very important reason! In the camp, kids interact and play sports with kids from Greece so they do find a reason to speak Greek now!
More information about Greek Lessons OnLine is available at: greek-lol.com.