Free Greek Lessons

Hellenic American Union offers free podcastsin conversational Greek. You can subscribe online at its web site and also download printed material to augment each audio lesson. This is not for beginners but for those who already have at least a rudimentary understanding of the language. It’s perfect for someone like myself who learned the language at home as a child and wishes to raise his/her speaking level. Or for anyone who’s already completed a year of study and wants to brush up on they’re Greek.

I found the podcasts a few years ago on iTunes, subscribed to all 80 short lessons I later burned onto a DVD I was able to play on my laptop or a music system that plays mp3s. I learned how to say the more polite I would like rather than the cruder I want. Also how to make an appointment as well as how to make a reservation. The former useful when calling a doctor’s office. The latter handy for booking a restaurant table or making travel arrangements.


I learned the word for moving from one residence to another. It isn’t something that comes up in conversation every day but people do change apartments or houses. I was glad to know what they’re talking about.

For those who prefer a more traditional classroom situation the Hellenic American Union conducts both intermediate and advanced classes in Athens, Greece for anyone over 16 years of age, along with cultural excursions to various museums in the city for its students.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Greek Dilemma

Violent street demonstrations and debt talks dominate the news from Greece, but few Americans understand daily life there. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal exposed the desperate situations of individuals who borrowed money they weren’t able to repay.

Athens food vendor 2010

Suicides have doubled. Young people graduating from university are unable to find work. Businesses are closing. Austerity measures are only making things worse for the average Greek.

The inauguration of the Euro a decade ago was accompanied by jubilation on the continent. And the 2004 Olympics brought sudden glory and pride to the nation. However, it was the flow of easy money, initially taken as a sign of success, that derailed the small nation.

Continental Breakup, a sixty-minute, radio documentary produced by the Planet Money team for This American Life, brings new clarity to the contemporary Greek dilemma. The program is presented in five acts after a brief introduction by guest producer Alex Blumberg.

The century-and-a-half dream of a single European currency seemed unattainable until Germany and France were able to overcome their differences. Stalled talks finally moved forward after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Most of the other EU countries were eager to become a part of the newly created economic zone.

In order to qualify for the Euro, the Greek establishment falsified its financial status but the leaders of other nations considered it rude to scrutinize the figures provided.

Greek banks, for the first time, offered low-interest loans to consumers that previously only bought goods with cash. German products were in high demand. Germany grew even richer selling to other EU countries. Luxury items such as Mercedes-Benz automobiles, boats, homes, and expensive vacations became new status symbols before the Greek economy came tumbling down.

What Planet Money reporters discovered was that the Greeks are not much different from Americans who overreached financially because they believed the economic system was headed toward stratospheric heights. Suddenly faced with reality when the fantasy collapsed.

This show is well-worth listening to in order to gain a better understanding of not only the Greek crises but also conditions in the US and why what’s happening abroad is relevant to us.

image & text copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved


For many people the Mediterranean lies at the center of imagination. In previous centuries it was a port of embarkation for adventurers seeking treasure abroad. My own ancestors were among those who abandoned poverty and turmoil in their homeland hoping to make a better life for themselves and their children in a foreign land.

Today it offers bright, warm days for the travelers of Northern Europe. And economic opportunity for refugees from Africa, the Balkans or the Middle East. It remains a vibrant crossroad for numerous cultures and peoples. Constantly transformed.

Mediterranean Focus will primarily cover art, books, cinema, food, and music not only within or from the region but will also trace the area’s influence in other parts of the world.

I am most familiar with Greece, Italy, France and Turkey but will make a conscious effort to broaden the scope of reporting. Also I welcome comments, suggestions and other input from readers.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved