Special to Hellenic News of America
When you learn a language, you learn about the people who speak it. Language is a tool to connect with others, says Valentinos Filippou, founder of the association Online Greek tutor.
For those with Greek heritage, language is a connection to the homeland.
“I’m not one to say it’s very important (the Greek language) because it comes from ancient Greece and it’s the mother of Western civilization.”
“Our mission is to connect as many people as possible with their loved ones, friends, and Greek culture and history through the Greek language.”
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That’s why his online Greek course focuses first on speaking and listening, while teaching grammar, reading, writing and much more.
“Our students do not live in a country where Greek is spoken. Some of them hear Greek once or twice a week, so we have to speak and practice listening as much as possible.
And as strange as it may seem, accuracy isn’t as important as mastery, at least at first.
“We encourage our students to speak up. It does not matter. Make as many mistakes as you want. No problem. If you don’t make mistakes, you’ll never learn,” he says.
Her tutoring class teaches Greek through role-play, games, discussions, music and drama.
Who are the students?
Filippou students come from all over the world. The largest group is people of Greek origin: Greek Americans, Greek Britons, Greek Australians. These are generally second or third generation immigrants to the country.
There are also the children of recent immigrants.
“For example, after the crisis in Greece, many went to work abroad. Their children are between 5 and 10 years old and so they want their children to study Greek. »
Another group of students are tourists coming to Greece for vacation and people who buy a house in Greece to learn the language.
Then there are those who admire the history and language of ancient Greece and want to connect to that era.
Students range in age from 5 to 85, although most are older, in their 50s and older.
“When you’re around 50, you’re better off financially. You feel this connection with your parents. You want to communicate in Greek and make them happy.
Connection to Greece
The connection to the homeland is somewhat unique to Greeks, this desire to identify with Greece no matter where in the world they settle.
This may mean that a Greek person living in America for 50 years considers themselves Greek, whereas a person living in Greece for 50 years but originally from Albania would not be considered Greek. The roots are very important.
So, for those who live far from Greece, there is a longing to return home. Learning the language helps fill this void.
Filippou, who grew up in Cyprus and now lives there after several years in England, says there is a level of comfort.
“You feel like people understand you better. Life is more personal here and you are closer to each other.
Filippou was born and raised in Cyprus. He grew up in a small mountain village called Odou, 800 meters above the sea.
“The entire village had 150 people. We are all parents,” he jokes.
His father was a farmer and beekeeper. Filippou decided he wanted a different life and so went to study in Athens.
“I have always been interested in languages and history,” he says.
From Athens he moved to England, where he earned a master’s degree in ancient history and taught Greek at a Greek school in Liverpool. He discovered that he really enjoyed teaching languages to foreign students.
Return to Cyprus
In 2014 Filippou missed Cyprus, especially his family, the Mediterranean climate and the beaches. He persuaded his wife to return to Cyprus, but there was a problem. He now taught privately. Walking away would mean losing all of his students.
That’s when the Online Greek Tutor was born, an internet-generated classroom without geographic boundaries.
When he moved to Cyprus in the summer of 2014, he had 10 students online. Today he has more than 200.
He admits that online tutoring has several advantages. There are many easy-to-access tools, such as videos. Materials are easier to deliver and receive from students and you can communicate more quickly.
There is also flexibility. Students do not need to travel.
“So maybe while you’re walking to and from class, you’ve done your homework.”
Online classes are flexible, so if students need to miss a class, it’s easy to reschedule. If there is a group session, students and staff can discuss when to meet and choose another day if it is not convenient for them.
“We have students who are taking private lessons, they can do it from their car, from their job, from the airport.”
From the point of view of Filippou and the teachers, it is an opportunity to travel around the world in one day and meet people from different cultures.
On a typical day, Filippou met someone from Australia in the morning, then an Irish woman living in Crete, then in Russia. In the afternoon, he met someone in Britain, then in California.
“Your mind grows. You become very open-minded.
About online courses
Students receive one, two or three goal-oriented lessons per week, tailored to their individual needs and circumstances.
Assignments are emailed with feedback after each lesson. The courses also offer other resources that students can access.
All teachers are native Greek speakers and come from Greece or Cyprus. They also speak English, some knowing French, German or Russian.
Commit to learning
Filippou warns that learning a language will take time.
“It’s not something you can learn in two or three months. You have to work hard and you will have ups and downs,” he says.
The study of languages is divided into sections. To learn up to basic level A1, that’s 120 hours; A2 represents another 100 hours; B1 lasts almost 200 hours.
“Up to B1, you can communicate competently. »
But beyond that, there is B2, C1 and C2. “It’s for serious language students,” he says.
Most people want to reach level B1.
Today, Filippou is very happy to live in Cyprus and develop his online school. This 34-year-old man can work anywhere: at home, in the village, by the sea, in the mountains, in a café.
“I’m a digital nomad,” he says.
He would like to continue to develop the school, creating his own materials and lesson plans, and obtaining accreditation from different organizations in Europe.
“After that, our goal is to reach 1,000 students.”
E-mail: (email protected)
Such. 00357 99323091 (Valentinos Filippou)