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Greek language, Greek letters, Greek names etc..

For those, who visit Greece and, thus, the Crete Island, too, it can be sometimes difficult to be on Greek words and especially names which are important for basic orientation (roads, maps, signposts). Fundamental problems, especially for people from English spoken countries, can bring about the way in which Greek letters and whole words are transcribed in "international" English.
There are two ways how to do it, and how used to be done. The first one is to rewrite all the letters of Greek words using Latin alphabet in the way common for dictionaries but it can bring serious problems because English people some letters don’t know and therefore this way can also bring some misunderstanding. For example, the Greek diphthong “ch” (which Greeks roughly pronoun as “kh” in English) could be read by an English spoken person in the same way like e.g. in the word “chance”. For instance, if one asks a question at a bus station when a bus to “Chania” leaves, the woman behind the cash counter needn’t understand if the “Ch” is pronounced like in the word “chance”. So, it is wrong. The second way in which the names can be transcribed is if the words are rewritten in the shape as soon as close to the English pronunciation, thus – in the case of “Chania” above mentioned – like “Hania”. Nevertheless, that way could cause many troubles, too.
I think the best it would be if everybody who is going to set off in Greece (Crete) has a short look at the Greek alphabet and – mainly – at the pronunciation.
Here are brief details (for English) how to read a text if words or names are rewritten using the Latin alphabet. Note – suggested pronunciation needn’t be absolutely precise as English is not my native language.
“a” – like first “a” in the word “Arabic”
“ai” – like first “e” in the word “letter” but a little bit longer
“af” – like first two letters in “after”
“av” – in English (probably) no similar pronunciation exists, it is necessary to pronoun clearly “v” after the first letter
“b” – this transcription use to be the most problematic because the Greek “b” (called also “beta” in many languages) should be correctly (in English pronunciation) called “veeta”, and its pronunciation is “v” like “v” in the word “view”; the letter “b” (like “b” in the word “best”) Greeks write like diphthong “mp”, but only at the beginning of a word. If “mp” is somewhere inside the word there is necessary to read it as “mb”
“g” – it is also very problematic letter. There are just two basic ways how to pronoun it. Either with “hard” pronunciation, thus, as “g” in the word “game”, or with softer pronunciation close to “y” in the word “you”. The best would be something between these two possibilities. Which one to choose - it depends on following letters round again.
“th” – almost the same like “th” both in English “the” or in "think"
“e” – like first “e” in the word “letter”
“ei” – like “i” in the word “in”
“ef”, “ev” – similar like in the case “af” and “av”, thus “ef” like the same letters in “left” but for “ev” – probably no similar pronunciation exists in English, it is necessary to pronoun clearly “v” (like in "view") after the first letter
“z” – the same like in English
“i” – the same like “i” in the word “in”
“k” – also two ways of pronunciation like in “g”: hard is “k” but for softer one, there is no equivalent in English
“l” – the same like in English
 “m” – the same like in English
“mp” – see above in the item “b”
“v” – the same like in English
“x” – like “ex” without “e”
“o” – the same like in English
“oi” – like “i” in the letter “in”
“ou” or “u” – almost like “u” in the word “rural”
“p” – like in English
“s” – like “s” in “same” or like “z” (“zero”), according to the letters which follow
“t” – the same like in English
“dz” or “tz” – probably no equivalent in English, but “tzatziki” is well known Greek food
“ts” or “c” – also problematic pronunciation because in English there is probably no equivalent (in English, the letter “c” is pronounced either like “k” in the word “kite” or like “s” in the word “Sunday”)
“ch” – to pronoun as “kh” or softer, according to the letters which follow
“ps” – like “ps” in the word “maps”
“o” – the same like in the word “more”
But I think, that absolutely the best it would be if a visitor of Greece packs into luggage a thin book of basic travel conversation for his/her mother language and Greek, particularly for a case when there is no transcription in Latin and one has to try to read Greek letters (for example in mountains or at some remote areas). Namely, one should also keep in one’s mind (probably for still larger confusion :-)) ) that Greek has also for certain letters (“s”, “o”, “i”) more ways how to write them!! Of course, with the same pronunciation….and next and next troubles can appear later.



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