September 4, 1971: When Greek meets Greek

November 14, 2017

When Greek is “all Greek” to the Greeks it can require an expert to sort it out.

Whether Greek or Macedonian (according to political inclination) southern European migrants have intense pride in their heritage.

But how does a Greek parent who can neither read nor write teach Australian born children his mother tongue?

His reasons for wanting the child to master Greek have nothing to do with loyalty to Australia.

Usually it is a question of communication - of keeping alive family bonds and religious tradition.

Reading and writing skills - knowledge of the Greek alphabet - the 24 letter Alfaevitoerio - are the answer.

Which is why I talked last night with the Rev Emmanuel Zalkis, minister of the Greek Orthodox Church in Shepparton.

Rev Zaikis was taking a class of 26 children of Greek parentage at St. Georges Rd primary school.

The children meet for two hours between 6pm and 8pm Monday and Wednesday.

Their familiarity with the spoken word means that most will read and write Greek within 12 months.

Rev Zaikis says this bi-lingual ability will not only give his pupil access to a wealth of literature “in the original” but will be an added qualification when they seek employment.

Class ages range from 3 to 15.

All are English speaking Greek children, but anyone who wants a second language will be welcomed.

Rev Zaikis speaks English well enough – assisted occasionally by 11 year old Antonia Vardas, one of seven grade four pupils.

Although the classes started in 1967 only about seven have completed the course.

The language classes which bring children from Stanhope, Kyabram, Shepparton and Mooroopna help Rev Ziakis to implant some of the Greek ceremonial traditions.

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