It is a common thing that learners of Greek and other languages have some difficulty in understanding the speech of native speakers while it is much easier to read a text.
What is the explanation? How can we improve the listening comprehension?
1. Greek has sounds which are not typical of Russian, i.e. they do NOT exist in Russian. When we study on our won we tend to ignore phonetics, which results in the substitution of ‘specific’ Greek sounds for ‘similar’ Russian ones. Unfortunately, this is a common mistake that leads to unclear speech.
Suggestion: to practise phonetics and determine the difference between similar sounds (e.g. δ-β-ντ, τ-θ-φ, γ-γκ).
2. Voicing. According to the rules of Greek pronunciation, final consonants are voiced (a voiceless consonant becomes voiced if it follows a voiced sound). If pronounced fast, a group of consonants follow this rule too, which often confuses beginners. For example, τον ξέρω [ton gzEro], στον πίνακα [ston bInaka]. То есть Вы можете знать слово «ksEro», но не догадываться, что оно же иногда звучит как «gzEro».
Suggestion: just get used to it.
3. The stress. The stressed are very important and carry meaning. The stress helps to distinguish nouns from verbs (το τηλέφωνο or τηλεφωνώ), to indicate the infinitive and so on.
Suggestion: remember about the stress and make it the music of Greek.
4. “I understand simple texts, but more complex ones (films, songs, audio books) are hard. The gist is ‘hidden’ in verbs.
Suggestion: In order to get the gist of a sentence, you need to understand the meaning of the verb (its ending and tense). In other words, it is necessary to have some knowledge of grammar (the conjugations of the verb, the tense and the mood) and to expand vocabulary.
Do not worry! It is not a big problem. Take more tracks with recording scripts, and your level of Greek will be improving. The approach could be as follows:
1. Listen to a text without the recording script to get the gist.
2. Listen again with the recording script for detailed understanding. If there are a lot of unfamiliar words and phrases which are important for understanding the text, look them up in a dictionary.
3. The last stage is reading out loud. You could break down the text into pieces and repeat them after the speaker, trying to imitate the native speaker’s intonation and increasing the tempo of your speech. But make sure that the tempo should have a negative impact on your accuracy in pronunciation.
I often ask my students if they listen to Greek songs. But it is not enough just to listen to songs. You need to sing, sing quite loudly and enjoy it. Passive background listening helps “to get used” to the sound of speech, but it does not result in understanding. That is why you can work with songs in the same way as with audio books (see point 4).
In order to learn more about using songs at lessons, you can read the article about learning Italian through songs.
I hope these tips will motivate you and help you to learn Greek!