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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: How We Can Help Young Children to Love the Greek Language

January 30, 2021

Many times, talking to Greek parents raising their children abroad, we come to the common conclusion that our children do not share our own anxiety for the preservation of the Greek language. They go to Greek School with tears and shouting, they refuse to answer us in Greek when we speak to them and use the language of the host country, even when they socialize with their peers who share their Greek roots.

So what can we do to help our children love Greek before they go to school?

The first and most important thing is to help them from a young age to love Greece and its culture, ancient and modern. If they feel proud of their origin, if they know the mythology of Greece, when they are young and later, when they grow up, its history and its contributions to world culture, they will want to learn and speak the Greek language. The reverse has dubious results.

It is equally important that the children in the house are surrounded by Greek sounds. If one parent is of Greek origin, it is good to speak to the child from the moment they are born only in Greek. Even if the child seems to be slow to respond, this is a very safe way to learn the language and with the right pronunciation. It goes without saying that if both parents have Greek as their mother tongue or if they know it well, they should use it for their communication at home. But if the child refuses to speak Greek even though he understands it, he may need to be given some motivation. For example, parents can set an hour for the day when everyone will speak only Greek and if this is observed throughout the week there may be some form of reward for the child. There can also be a process or daily routine that we do only in Greek, for example, preparing breakfast, bathing in the evening, getting dressed, etc.

Greek music is one of the Greek sounds that children should always hear at home. If children love Greek music they will want to learn Greek more easily. They will begin to repeat verses, they will wonder about the words and their meaning, they will gain the sense of language more easily.

Even when the child wants to watch children's movies we can help him learn Greek. He can watch the same movie in the host language and in Greek alternately so that he begins to identify words and short phrases.

Equally important is their participation from an early age in activities with a group of peers who will learn traditional dances, theater, or anything else that will help children get in touch with the Greek language. This group of peers can later continue together in Greek School and be a link with Greek culture for the child as they grow up.

Finally, there are online platforms for learning Greek that can help even very young children to love the Greek language through play. The award-winning https://www.ellinopoula.com/ and https://www.staellinika.com/home are just two of the online options available.

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Dear Stavroula, I have three sons, the eldest got married three years ago and has an 11 month old son.

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