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Don’t learn Greek in English: learn to read Greek

March 27, 2013 3:13 pm

When people go on holiday to Greece or Cyprus, they often learn a few phrases for themselves before they go. They learn the words for please, thank you, hello and goodbye, and how to order a beer. But instead of learning them in Greek letters, they sometimes learn what I call “Greek in English”: in other words, they commit to memory English spellings such as parakalo, efharisto, yassou, mia beera, and so on.

Personally I think that’s a mistake, which is why I set out to write The Greek Alphabet: 24 Letters in 24 Hours – a quick guide to the Greek alphabet in ebook form.

The problem is that the Greek alphabet and the English alphabet don’t map precisely to one another; so if you learn Greek in English letters, you are only ever approximating the sounds. Worst of all, as I recently wrote in a guest article for, there is more than one way to spell any given Greek word in English – and you will often find even place names spelled in many different ways.

In that article I outline some of the fun and games you can have with Greek-to-English transliteration. Basically there are three main schemes of writing Greek in English, with variations on each. Read the article if you want to know more – but the upshot is that you can book a holiday in a place called “Hania” and when you get there, find the word “Chania” written on all the signs; or start calling a man “Georgios” when “Yoryos” is how it’s pronounced.

English spellings even go in and out of fashion. In the Cypriot example below, the current official English transliteration for the name of the village is “Agios Thomas”, but this older sign says “Ay. Thomas”, which is an abbreviation of “Ayios Thomas” (a closer pronunciation match) – which may or may not be written on your map. Nothing in the English spelling, though, will prepare you for the fact that the “th” should be pronounced like the “th” in “thesis” – unless of course you have learned your Greek letters.

Greek road sign in Cyprus

Personally I think the sounds of Greek are all-important, which is why, when writing this book, I’ve tried to make pronunciation my guide as far as I can.

In the book, I’ve devoted a new page to each letter – so I can explain how each letter of the alphabet is pronounced, with reference to English – and if any letter is particularly tricky (I’m thinking of you, gamma) I can explain it in full, warning against any common mistakes.

Best of all, the really easy thing with Greek is that if you know how a letter is pronounced, you really know it: there are no English nasties like “enough”, “cough”, “though”, “thought” and “bough”.

The end result, I hope, will be a book that gives you confidence pronouncing the Greek alphabet and reading Greek letters; so that when you’re driving down the motorway in Greece or Cyprus, you won’t be confused by the many possible English spellings – because you’re the one reading the Greek.

Expat guide reviewed … and recommended

March 26, 2013 3:37 pm

Expat website has published a glowing review of Islebright’s 2013 expat guide, 101 Reasons to Live Abroad … & 100 Reasons Not To.

Interestingly, reviewer Catherine concludes that the guide is not just for Brits:

Although very much focused toward the British expat, with many examples throughout comparing overseas life with living in the UK, the audience should not be limited by this and 101 Reasons to Live Abroad and 100 Reasons Not To is a highly recommended resource for anyone, regardless of their nationality, contemplating expat life abroad.

It’s true: although the book is primarily aimed at British expats, many lessons from expat life are universal. Some Brits abroad may miss bangers and mash, but the lure of home comforts is something we can all relate to. Many Brits may be desperate to leave behind the grey wintry weather, but if you live in a hot country, you are just as likely to get sick of sweltering summers and the hum of the air conditioning unit in the corner.

Cover of expat guide, 101 Reasons to Live Abroad & 100 Reasons Not To

Life has its upsides and downsides everywhere – and if we can ask ourselves why we’re living where we are or why we dream of moving abroad, we’re more likely to find the right place to live.

Reasons to move abroad – and reasons not to

February 2, 2013 5:59 pm

Each year, tens of thousands of Brits move abroad, in search of better prospects or a new perspective on life – but expat living is not for everyone.

My new book, 101 Reasons to Live Abroad … & 100 Reasons Not To, is a guide to the ups and downs of living overseas – so you can work out if the big move abroad is for you.

Cover of 101 Reasons to Live Abroad & 100 Reasons Not To

The book is based on the lessons I learned while living as a British expat in Cyprus for three years – but the universal lessons, from coping without old friends to craving a decent jalfrezi to keeping an eye on international money, can be applied to practically anybody in any country in the world.

Find out more here.

Greek alphabet book goes live

February 2, 2013 5:34 pm

Is the Greek alphabet all Greek to you? It needn’t be, thanks to the new Kindle ebook from Islebright Books & eBooks.

The Greek Alphabet: 24 Letters in 24 Hours is a quick, accessible guide to the modern Greek alphabet, to take with you on your travels – so you can start reading signs, menus, wine bottles and more in the original Greek.

The book opens with a handy overview to all the Greek letters – before moving on to a page-by-page guide to the pronunciation of each letter in turn.

Armed with this book, you’ll have the power to read out loud a great deal of written Greek, including place names, restaurant names, and more – which is far better than relying on misleading and notoriously variable English transliterations.

The Greek Alphabet: 24 Letters in 24 Hours - book cover

And it needn’t take long – so why not try learning the Greek alphabet today?

Cyprus travel guide – out now in paperback

September 25, 2012 5:43 pm

Good news: the insider Cyprus travel guide, 250 Things to do in Cyprus on a Sunny Day*, is out now in paperback.

Just like the Kindle edition, which launched in summer, it’s available from both and – and just like the Kindle edition, it’s still full of honest recommendations of things to do in Cyprus, on and off the tourist trail.

So buy the paperback edition of 250 Things to Do in Cyprus on a Sunny Day* – and discover more about sunny Cyprus, today.

250 Things to Do in Cyprus on a Sunny Day* - cover

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