Learning Greek in Australia

Greek, a language of great cultural, scientific and historical importance in the world, is spoken by a few million people

13 Feb 2014

Kostas Karamarkos


It is estimated that the more than 7 billion people residing on planet Earth speak over 6,900 distinct languages. Just under 900 of those languages are spoken in the country of Papua New Guinea.

Around a quarter of the world’s languages have fewer than a thousand remaining speakers and linguists up to a large extent agree in estimating that extinction of at least 3,000 of the 6,900 remaining spoken languages within the next century cannot really be avoided.

As we are all aware, the major languages of commerce and politics are English, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and a few more with less influence at the moment, such as Hindi, Russian, French and German.

Greek, a language of great cultural, scientific and historical importance in the world, is spoken by a few million people. It is spoken almost exclusively by Greeks, people of Greek decent and some Philhellenes, or the remnants of the classically educated ruling elites of the western world.

According to the 2011 census, Greek in Australia is spoken by approximately 250,000 people and in the same census, approximately 378,000 people identified themselves as being of Greek origin. The language is spoken almost exclusively by the Greek Australian community and luckily enough, Greek is one of the languages offered as part of the Australian Curriculum throughout the state school system.

The economic, educational and scientific advantage in learning at least a second language have been proven time and time again the world over. This is why a multicultural nation such as Australia, rich in language resources, yet almost up until now, monolingual at government and community level, is endeavouring to catch up with the rest of the world by creating bilingual citizens within the next few years through its education system.
There are almost 240 languages spoken in Australia and over 15 per cent of its population speak a language other than English at home. The above equation does not include people who speak English at home but revert to their parents’ original language when required. Australia needs to cultivate and exploit this competitive advantage, this linguistic and cultural wealth on a global scale, and has attempted to do so lately.

Learning Greek in Australia, and viewing the knowledge of the language from this point of view, can be of great advantage to students, parents, the Greek Australian community and the wider community.

As a Greek Australian, learning Greek, acquiring intercultural understanding and expertise through the knowledge of the hereditary language, as well being able to speak one of the official languages of the European Union is a great advantage. It enhances self-awareness, cultural understanding and provides employment opportunities. Learning Greek in Australia offers another perspective and understanding of everyday life of both cultures. Learning a second language assists in becoming a more tolerant citizen and in accord with the latest scientific findings, learning a language even helps you fight dementia!
All that you have read above, along with the sensitivity and the pride of the Greek immigrant, or of the Greek Australian parent, means that when it comes to learning the Greek language and heritage, it is perfectly natural for so many Australians of Greek descent to continue the tradition of their parents and encourage their children to attend Greek school.