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It's All Greek to Me!

"This could be Los Angeles!" Monica said, as our friend Marios drove us through the busy streets of downtown Athens, Greece. The big buildings, the wide streets, the traffic all seemed just like back home.

"Only one thing makes it clear that we are NOT in California," I said . "All the signs are in GREEK!"

I always thought of Greek as an old, language spoken by old men wearing sheets. But Marios, with his ponytail and blue jeans, looks just like us and he can read everything.

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Jasmine and Kavitha with our Greek friend, Marios
"It all seems so confusing," said Abeja.

"No, it's not confusing! It's my language," said Marios.

Some Greek books were written thousands of years ago. "Can you read them?" I asked.

He admitted that he couldn't, even though he had to study "Ancient Greek" in high school. Greek is the oldest European language. People who study the history of languages think it was first spoken 4000 years ago! Since that time is has changed a lot.

Then Monica did something amazing. "Does that sign say 'noskomeio'?" she asked.

Marios looked up and said "Yeah, that means 'hospital'."

She read a street sign in Greek! I couldn't believe it. "How did you do that!?" I asked her.

"It's easy. All you do is sound out the letters. It's just nu-oh-sigma-oh-kappa-oh-mu-epsilon-I-oh. Nuskomeio!"

Aa - Alpha
Bb - Beta
Gg - Gamma
Dd - Delta
Ee - Epsilon
Zz - Zeta
Hh - Eta
Qq - Theta
Ii - Iota
Kk - Kappa
Ll - Lambda
Mm - Mu
Nn - Nu
Xx - Xi
Oo - Omikron
Pp - Pi
Rr - Rho
Ss - Sigma
Tt - Tau
Uu - Upsilon
Ff - Phi
Cc - Chi
Yy - Psi
Ww - Omega
Check out this web site. It has all the Greek letters, names and pronunciation.
Marios laughed at how she pronounced the Greek letters, but she was on the right track. From then on, it was like a game. I felt like we had a secret code. Sometimes we would figure out a word, and it would just sound like gibberish. But often, it would make perfect sense! There are a lot of words in English that come from Greek.

Using the Greek alphabet above, see if you can write your name. Then try writing secret messages to your friends.


p.s. - Please e-mail me at

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