ATHENS – This year, we celebrated International Greek Language Day, February 9, with people from around the world who are learning Greek as 536 students explain why they are learning Greek in a video created with the collaboration of schools and institutions from 54 countries under the coordination of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Diaspora Greeks Konstantinos Vlasis.
The Deputy Minister’s remarks in honor of International Greek Language Day follow:
“International Greek Language Day is not just a reminder of our language’s uninterrupted continuity through time, but also a recognition of its timeless global contribution. It is precisely this recognition that is the essence of the annual celebration of our language.
“The Greek Language is over 5,000 years old, with its proto-Greek form dating to from about 3,000 BC to the current day. In spite of the changes it has undergone over the millennia, it is the thread linking defining moments over the course of thousands of years into a single historical timeline. Its history travels so far back in time that it is universally recognized as the language that first codified higher lexical references not only to abstract and but also to technical concepts, that established universal values and laid the foundations for and shaped the key notions of western civilization. “According to the French academic Jacqueline de Rimilly, ‘if Greece asked for Greek loanwords to be removed from our language, western civilization would collapse.’ This legacy is unquestionably a multiplier of our country’s soft and structural power.
“The Greek Language is an emotion. Intrinsically linked to the Greek national identity, the hearts and minds of Greeks, who discovered the magic of expression and the wealth of their spiritual world in its words. In its words, they found a way to establish themselves through time and to create. The Greek Language is a poetic language. Greece is rightly proud of its two Nobel Laureates, George Seferis and Odysseas Elytis, who sculpted in the Greek language in a unique way. It is the language of Dionysios Solomos, who gave us the Hymn to Liberty, our national anthem. Honoring our national poet every year on 9 February, we remember his words: ‘Does anything else occupy my mind but liberty and language?’ His excellent knowledge of Italian and his long residence in Italy were no obstacle to his narrating his aesthetic, linguistic and life’s progress in Greek. A narration that is etched into the birth of modern Greece. The millions of Greeks and many philhellenes in every corner of the world today are living examples of its unparalleled charm.
“But what makes our Language unique is that it is in essence an attitude to life. In their effort to interpret the world, the Greeks created words that give meaning to existence, guide us to what is actual, what exists, and what is transcendent. Words that precisely signify singular notions, ideas and values. Democracy, Philosophy, Dialogue. This has been characteristic of the Greek Language throughout its history.
“Through the Greek Language, the language of the Gospels and the Church Fathers, the universal human message of Truth, Faith, Charity and Peace was spread and is still being spread today.
“‘Since Homer’s time, we have spoken, sighed and sung the same language,’ George Seferis writes, capturing the timelessness, the emotional riches and the attitude to life and essence as they are reflected in the Greek Language. We all have a duty to teach it in order to preserve and pass on the Greek Culture.”