The problem of knowing a language at an intermediate level

Here in Lefkás I can read Greek at a suitable level to get by and this includes some social media posts too. This is a great achievement for me.

However, this does not extend to a cashier wildly gesticulating her arms about in the guise of some kind of transfer. She was pointing in the direction of the cabbages that I had bought but since I’d already paid and they were already in bags I had no clue what she wanted. I said to her that I didn’t understand but my fatal error was that I said this in English. This causes them to lose all interest in you and then the transaction is done after a cursory goodbye.

It’s so sad that this happens after I had been polite by greeting her and even giving her money after she told me the total in Greek. I didn’t know the word for cabbage since you so rarely get them here but those that are interested google says it’s λάχανο.

It’s disappointing that the only time that the young populace lose the power of speech, is when they are confronted by an English person. They (the English) have tried to learn your language (Greek) but you have used something unknown to them. Suddenly being more interested in your colleague doesn’t help the situation as you clearly wanted to communicate something but were too bloody stubborn to explain! It’s called customer service. Just because I’m English does not entitle you to pretend that you don’t understand me. I know you do so please help me out next time. I don’t need to learn your language but I have because I wanted to. Don’t make me regret my decision.

Best wishes


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Athena Minerva

A place for me to write about things that concern myself and the world around me. Please check out my page on Amazon after you have finished my blog or drop me a line at

37 thoughts on “The problem of knowing a language at an intermediate level”

  1. I am sorry that you`re frustrated. But you shouldn`t take this incident too personal. Probably, the Greek lady felt insecure, was surprised (she might have thought you`re Greek listening to you – which is a compliment!) and because the matter was not important enough, she quit explaining the cabbage issue to you because her English skills are too poor. She simply tried to escape from the situation. An encouraging smile and a request for explanation might have helped….and if not…who cares? No big deal. You are doing fine, anyway. Keep calm and continue… 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No she wasn’t surprised or insecure. She was just being obstinate. It’s not just limited to her. It’s happened before with other people. Usually women. Her English skills we’re not too poor as it’s necessary to get a job in the village. Plus they all get taught it at school. When you say “I’m sorry I dont understand” and the reply is to be completely blanked with her focus turned elsewhere; It’s not good.


      1. Okay, she was very impolite…and you didn`t provoke any rude reaction.
        But she is no part of your life. Thus, no need to waste energy and attention. Simply enjoy Greece!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. It would be good to study some on it when time permits. I’m always reluctant to attempt words and conversations in another language. I guess one should not be shy though. Thanks. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Reluctance is a big hurdle that I face too. I have documented quite well but struggle to learn the Greek language over the years. Most Greeks nowadays can speak English and will want to practice with you so you might get a slightly weird conversation where your speaking Greek and there replying in English. On Friday it was them speaking Greek and me replying in English even though they are completely capable of speaking English.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Mistakes are how we learn as emotionally strong events are coded in our brain as far stronger than more of the mill events. Novelty also is a factor here. So you have to work with your brain not against it.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this! You’re right, failure of communication is one of the core roots of some of the issues we as individuals, and societies as a whole is suffering. This is leading to fractures in the foundation of civilization that people aren’t noticing, but only stokes the flames of division, when it shouldn’t. Well said. Be well!!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, it always help to have discussions because many times, we as individuals seem to think we are alone in particular issues but we are not. But we would never know unless people speak up, whether we know others or not. Does that make sense?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes it does. Problems generally do not occur in insolation but we think we are the only ones to have experienced that particular problem set. Sharing is caring as people like to say these days and a problem shared is a problem halved which is the other saying that is often quoted here.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I learned ancient greek during university years. It was hard. I forgot most of it but i cant still read greek and understand few words. It makes ma happy because i do love Athens and i travel there whenever i can !
    Don’t be frustrated, it happens all the time like u said when u speak the language at only a communication level!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When people talk about Greek being difficult, I think they are referring to Ancient Greek as that is confusing with all the different breathing marks that are present. No wonder they had to simplify the language!
      It was her attitude and the change in her behaviour that pissed me off mostly. Also since there is practically no staff turnover and they don’t generally get days off or close; I know everytime I go into that shop I will see her. It puts you off going to a place for that reason.


  4. It is true that people can be impatient especially when they can’t seem to understand you. Some are too tired and some just don’t care. It’s especially frustrating when you went out of your way to try to make things easier and simpler for them. But then again, people have different perceptions of things and thresholds. Guess, those who know better just needs to be better, hopefully everybody catches on. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do get the impression that supermarket work is beneath them and they would prefer an office job. Some of them really can’t be bothered and don’t seem to care that they are there to work. They think they are being to socialise.


      1. Yeah, I do agree. Actually, when in a service oriented work, there are a number of people who are a lot like this. Hence, i truly appreciate those who take their job seriously. I mean, it shouldn’t matter what you do so long as you do it well and with joy. Otherwise, you need to strive to improve yourself so you get to do the things you want to do. But yeah, just like how we notice those who don’t do their job well, we should notice more those who do.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I understand your frustration! I hate the disrespect and the lack of communication issues and when people want you to learn their language but don’t give a shit about yours! Moreover they disrespect you…So true and so real
    Thank you for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

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