Our good friend Amber from Get Lost In Wanderlust recently traveled to Greece and came back with some interesting insights into the language. We started with “Do they speak English in Greece?!” and soon were impressed with her introductory Greek phrases. Here’s what she has to say!
When you are visiting a new country, it may feel intimidating at first if you do not speak the language. However, knowing how many people speak English as well as some basic key Greek words can definitely help you feel prepared to travel to Greece!
Do They Speak English In Greece?
Yes, they absolutely speak English in Greece! Greece is actually one of the easier countries to travel to if you only speak English. In fact, English is spoken more commonly in Greece than compared to other European countries such as Spain or Italy.
There are over 10 million people in Greece, and over 5 million people speak English. This may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind in larger cities and tourist areas you will find that there is a higher concentration of English speakers.
So, will you need to speak Greek when visiting Greece? No, you will not need to speak Greek because English is quite common. However, it is always a great idea to learn some basic Greek words and phrases to use on your trip.
How many languages are spoken in Greece?
Modern-day Greek is the official language of Greece, and around 99% of the population speaks Greek. English is the next most popular language, with around 51% of the population that speaks English, either as a first or second language.
There are also several countries near Greece and because of this, you can also find several other languages spoken besides Greek and English. Some of the other languages spoken in Greece include Russian, German, Albanian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, and Turkish.
The Greek language also contains several different dialects that have developed in specific areas of Greece. Most of these dialects are derived from the modern-day Greek language.
However there is one dialect, called the Tsakonian language, that is almost unrecognizable from the modern-day Greek language. This is because Tsakonian derives from the ancient Doric Greek dialect.
Today, Tsakonian is only spoken in mountainous villages in the Peloponnese peninsula, where the powerful city-state of Sparta once existed. Currently, Tsakonian is considered an endangered language as there are only around 1,200 people left that can speak it fluently and most of them are elderly.
Where Do They Speak English In Greece?
English is a very common language in Greece, with over 51% of the population speaking English. This percentage is even higher for people under the age of 45, as the younger generations have focused even more than previous generations on learning English.
Is English spoken In Athens?
Athens is the capital of Greece and is a large metropolitan area. As Athens is an international city, English is very commonly spoken in Athens. Especially at museums, archaeological sites, hotels, shops, and restaurants, you will have no problems communicating in English.
Additionally, you will find that many restaurants in Athens will have English menus or English subtitles on the menus under the Greek words. This is because English is very commonly spoken amongst travelers to Athens.
Do they speak English in Santorini?
Santorini is a small island, but also one of Europe’s top tourist destinations. People travel to Santorini from all over the world and because of this, English is widely spoken on the island as the main language for tourism and business.
English is commonly spoken in Santorini, but it is especially common in the towns that tourists frequent, such as Oia, Fira, and Imerovigli.
English is also spoken in the villages of Perissa and Kamari. You may find older people in these villages that do not speak as much English. However, most people under the age of 45 and those that work at hotels and restaurants will likely speak English.
Do they speak English on Mykonos Island?
English is also commonly spoken on Mykonos island. This is because Mykonos Island has a large focus on tourism and the hospitality industry, and so English is commonly used throughout the island.
Especially at hotels, shops, and restaurants, you will likely find English being used and should have no concerns about any language barriers on Mykonos!
Do I Need To Speak Greek If I Visit Greece?
Due to the high number of English speakers in Greece, it’s unlikely that you will need to speak any Greek when visiting. This is especially true for commonly visited tourist areas like Athens or popular historical sites such as Delphi or Meteora.
If you travel more off the beaten path and plan to visit smaller villages, you may come across people that do not speak English. Knowing a few key words or phrases can be very helpful in this instance.
If you plan to travel off the beaten path, you can download the Google translate app right on your phone. This app will allow you to use your camera to translate written Greek (such as a food menu) or you can use it to translate when speaking with someone.
Although you may not need to know Greek to visit, when traveling to a new country it is always great to learn some of the native languages. This is a great way to show that you are interested in and respect the place you are visiting!
Easy Greek Words To Use During Your Trip
While English is spoken extensively in Greece, it is always helpful (and fun!) to learn a few important words of the native language when you are traveling. It is also considered polite to try to use some Greek words while spending time there.
The Greek language may seem intimidating because it uses a totally different alphabet! However, many of these words also have an unofficial English alphabet spelling which helps English speakers recognize how to pronounce the word.
Although the Greek language looks very complicated, it is actually quite easy to pronounce and use some very basic Greek words.
Listed below are some common Greek words that may be helpful for your journey through Greece:
1. Hello / Good Morning – Kαλημέρα
Καλημέρα (Spelled Kalimera using the English Alphabet) is one of the words you will likely hear the most when visiting Greece. It is used to say “Good Morning” or “Hello” until early afternoon.
To say “good morning” or “Καλημέρα” in Greek, you’ll say KA – LEE – MER – A. Make sure to accent the “mer” part of this word.
2. Hello / Good Evening – Kαλησπέρα
Kαλησπέρα (Kalispera) is very similar to Kalimera, except you’ll use Kalispera in the evening time. It means “Hello” or “Good Evening” and is a very commonly used phrase in Greece.
To say “good evening” or “Kαλησπέρα” in Greek, you’ll pronounce it as KA-LEE-SPER-A. You’ll want to put emphasis on the “SPER” portion of this word.
3. Yes – Ναί
Ναί (Ne) is an important word to know, because it can cause confusion for English speakers. The Greek word “Ναί” sounds very similar to “No” or “Nah” in English, but it actually means “Yes” in Greek!
To say yes in Greek, you’ll pronounce it as N-AE, placing an emphasis on the A for this word.
4. Thank you – Ευχαριστώ
Ευχαριστώ (Efcharistó) seems like a tough word to pronounce, doesn’t it? But, saying “thank you” around the world shows that you are making an attempt and people genuinely appreciate it.
To say “thank you” or “eυχαριστώ” in Greek, simply say: EFF – HARI – STOW. The “r” in the middle part of the word should be rolled if possible.
5. Do you speak English? – Μιλάτε αγγλικά
Μιλάτε αγγλικά (Miláte agliká?) – Knowing the phrase “Do you speak English?” can always be helpful when traveling to a different country!
To ask someone “Do you speak English?” you will say ME-LA-TEE AN-GLEE-KA?
6. Cheers! – Στην υγειά σας
Στην υγειά σας (Stin ygeiá sas) actually translates as “To our health!” but is the common way of doing a toast or as we would say in English “Cheers!” It is also very common to shorten this phrase further to simply say “health!”
To say the equivalent of “Cheers!” In Greek, you can say STEEN-EE-YA-SAS, or you can use the more common shortened version which is pronounced YA-MAS!
The Wrap-Up: Do They Speak English In Greece?
So, do they speak English in Greece? Yes, they do! English is commonly used and so if you only speak English you should have no worries about any language barriers on your trip to Greece.
Will you need to speak Greek in Greece? No, you will not need to speak Greek in Greece. In most areas, you will find English speakers, and you can always utilize translation apps such as Google Translate.
However, It is always a great idea to learn a few words in Greek when traveling to Greece! The Greek people are known for being friendly and helpful, but speaking a few words of Greek shows that you are interested in and respect their culture and language.