Do They Speak English in Greece?
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If you are wondering whether People Speak English in Greece, you have landed in the right place.
Greek may be Greece’s official language, but you will be pleased to know that English is widely spoken, especially in the country’s touristy areas.
In fact, compared to other popular tourist destinations in Southern Europe, such as Italy and Spain, English is spoken more commonly in Greece.
So, if you plan to visit Greece and speak only English, you will surely have little to no problems communicating with the locals and finding your way around Greece’s many beautiful cities, islands, and picturesque rural towns.
But even though English is a common language in touristy areas, it is not spoken by everyone and everywhere in Greece.
So, for your convenience, we’ve gathered all the information to know before visiting regarding the Greek language and the local’s ability to communicate in English.
How widely spoken is English in Greece?
Around 10.8 million people are living in Greece. And over 5.5 million Greeks, which is 51% of the population, are English speakers.
Generally speaking, in southern Europe, only a small portion of the population speaks English. However, you still get English speakers who typically have higher levels of education, reside in cities, and are wealthier.
That’s why in Greece, most English speakers reside in major cities like Athens and Thessaloniki, as well as famous islands like Santorini, Mykonos, and Rhodes.
Also, the majority of Greek English speakers are young adults since, generally speaking, the older generation is less proficient in foreign languages.
Where do they speak English in Greece?
As mentioned earlier, 51% of the population speaks English, but the division between English speakers across the country is uneven. So let’s see the major cities that speak English.
Athens is Greece’s capital and most populous city. Furthermore, it is an international, cosmopolitan hub and a huge tourist spot.
Therefore, English is widely spoken, and metro signs are also in English, making it easy for travelers to go around the city and communicate their needs to the locals.
In fact, many foreigners reside in Athens, and many of them find it easy to experience the city to the fullest without the knowledge of Greek.
Piraeus is a port city within the Athens urban area. So, it has many English-speaking tourists since it’s popular with cruise ships.
Also, Piraeus is home to many foreign workers working in shipping and other marine companies and has excellent English skills. So you can get by with only English.
Thessaloniki is the second biggest city in Greece and a port city on the Aegean Sea. So, similarly to Athens, it gets many foreigners, either for business or tourism.
Additionally, Thessaloniki has a large student population, meaning most young people speak English fluently.
Patra is the third largest city in Greece, and much like Thessaloniki, it is a famous university city hosting thousands of young people from different parts of the world.
Therefore, most people in Patra speak English fluently. Furthermore, Patra has plenty of touristy areas like the waterfront and downtown, so generally, there are many English-language amenities.
Santorini is probably Greece’s most well-known island destination, especially among honeymooners. But with popularity comes responsibility! So, Santorini locals eagerly gained good English skills to communicate easily with tourists.
Specifically, English is widely spoken in the famous areas of Fira and Oia. Also, all restaurant, shop, and bar staff speak English and provide English-language menus, and taxi drivers can speak and understand English.
Mykonos is another extremely popular tourist island, especially among young travelers. Therefore, English is also commonly spoken on Mykonos island.
All hotels, shops, restaurants, and tour operators use English as one of their primary languages, so you should have no concerns about any language barriers.
Rhodes is one of Greece’s most beautiful and bigger islands, meaning it is also another popular tourist spot. Also, Rhodes has always been popular among British travelers, so many locals around the island and older citizens can communicate in English. So, Rhodes will be an easy tip for all travelers.
Heraklion is Crete’s capital and Greece’s fifth-largest city. It’s a famous city for being the home to one of the most ancient civilizations in the world, so it is a city visited by millions of tourists yearly.
Generally, Crete’s biggest asset is tourism therefore English is an important tool. But Heraklion also is home to many foreign workers so English speakers are not a rare phenomenon.
Is English taught in Greek schools?
English, in general, is nowadays an essential school course across the world. In Greece, since the 20th century, English has become a primary course at all levels of education.
Furthermore, the English language is an essential tool to promote growth and development, especially since Greece is such a popular tourist destination.
Therefore, the Greek environment is constantly creating programs to promote English-language education.
In fact, nowadays, English is a mandatory course from the early years of education.
To be more precise, Greeks study English from grades 1 to 12 with the opportunity to take the IELTS test and gain a diploma and showcase their skills.
Later, in universities, students have the opportunity to improve their skills within Greece or abroad through various European and other exchange programs.
Also, apart from public education, many private language institutions offer English language classes for all levels across Greece.
Do they speak English in the workplace in Greece?
If you are wondering if you could find a job in Greece without even speaking the country’s official language, know that it is possible.
Although the importance of knowing other languages depends on the job’s character, generally speaking, English in the workplace is usually essential. For instance, if you would like to work in the hospitality and tourism industry, undoubtedly English is a must skill.
But generally, Greece’s economy depends greatly on foreign investors, and many Greek companies have international business clients, meaning English is important on many levels in a company.
Of course, Greek is the predominant language and still used widely in all industries, so it might be better to know at least some phrases and words to communicate with clients and coworkers.
Do I need to learn Greek if I visit Greece?
Generally, as a tourist, you won’t encounter any issues if you speak only English. For instance, as already indicated, all the hotels have English-speaking staff, and most eateries and bars have English menus.
Furthermore, Greeks are known for their excellent hospitality, friendliness, and eagerness to help. So, even if you encounter locals with minimal English skills, they will still do everything they can to provide whatever you need.
Still, it is undoubtedly better to know some basic Greek phrases and words to get by in Greece.
Especially because even though English is widely spoken, English is often not offered in certain circumstances.
For example, the majority of ATMs offer instructions only in the Greek language. Also, almost all the governmental forms are only in Greek, while official websites have limited English pages.
Is Greek hard for English speakers?
Learning a language, though, is easier said than done. Still, learning another language depends on one’s native tongue.
If you are a native English speaker, Greek is considered a rather difficult language to learn. Specifically, Greek differs greatly from English in many aspects, so English speakers need to put more effort into understanding the language.
First of all, Greek has an entirely different alphabet which contains many strange pronunciations for someone with an English background. Furthermore, Greek grammar is very complicated compared to English.
So, generally, learning Greek can be a challenge for a native English speaker compared to other languages.
However, Greek is still not the hardest language to master. Commonly, English speakers find Asian languages, such as Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Arabic to be the most challenging to learn since they are from completely different linguistic backgrounds.
Nevertheless, every language has difficulties, and similarly, every language can be mastered, especially if you are eager and motivated to study and learn. So, don’t let others deter your motivation.
Are there road signs in Greece with English on them?
Road signs in Greece are both in English and Greek for everyone’s convenience. Sometimes, some cultural and tourist signs are written only in English, while the more you go off the beaten path, you might notice signs only in Greek. Still, there are always locals around to help if you lose your way.
Is there English on Greek television and movie screens?
Generally, television shows in Greece are in the Greek language, but certain programs, such as the news, are also shown in the English language.
Furthermore, they often air English programs, series, and movies with Greek subtitles, but kids’ programs are usually dubbed in Greek.
Similarly, most movie theaters aired the movies in their original language except for kids’ movies.
How well will foreigners be treated if they speak English in Greek?
Generally, locals are always welcoming and friendly towards foreigners and don’t mind accommodating English speakers. In fact, Greeks are known for being open and chatty, so they love conversing with anyone in English.
But be aware, if you are planning to move to Greece, even if English is spoken by more than half of the population, in their daily life, they speak only Greek.
So, even if most Greeks will happily talk with others and make an effort to speak English to help, at some point, they would prefer for expats to attempt speaking Greek out of respect for Greece’s cultural heritage.
Basic Greek Phrases For Travelers and Tourists
Whether you are planning to stay for a long term in Greece or a few days, learning some basic Greek phrases will come in handy, as well as help you come closer to the locals.
Also, learning even a little bit of a destination’s native tongue helps integrate into the culture and understand a little bit more of the local’s social manners.
Although Greek is one of the most complex languages to learn for native English speakers, it is one of the easier languages to know when it comes to the spoken form.
So, let’s see some of the more common phrases you can use during your visit to Greece.
Hello – Yeia sou! /Yah-soo/
The simplest word you can learn that you can use any time of the day is Γεια σου (Yeia sou), pronounced like Yah-soo.
It means “hello” but in the singular form. In the plural, it is Γεια σας (Yeia sas) and is pronounced Yah-sas.
Good Morning – Kalimera /Kah-lee-meh-rah/
One of the words you will probably hear the most is Καλημέρα (Kalimera) which means “good morning/day” and “hello.”
But it is used only until early afternoon. The words’ pronunciation is Kah-lee-me-rah with an accent to the “me” part of the word.
Good Evening – Kalispera /Kah-lee-speh-rah/
Καλησπέρα or Kalispera with Latin characters is very similar to Kalimera, but instead of in the morning, it is used in the evening time.
It means “hello” and “good evening,” and it is commonly used as a greeting in restaurants and shops.
To say Kalispera, you’ll pronounce it as Kah-lee-speh-rah and emphasize the “speh” portion of this word.
Good Night – Kalinikta /Kah-lee-nee-khtah/
Καληνύχτα, or Kalinikta with Latin characters, means “good night,” and unlike Kalispera, it is used as a goodbye or wishing a good night after parting with others. To say Kalinixta, you’ll pronounce it as Kah-lee-nee-khtah with an emphasis to the “nee” part of the word.
Goodbye – Andio /Ahn-dee-oh/
Αντίο, or Andio with Latin characters, means goodbye. To say Andio, you’ll pronounce it as Ahn-dee-oh with an emphasis on the “dee” part of the word.
Thank you – Efharisto /Ehf-khah-ree-stoh/
One of the most important words to learn in any language is “thank you.” Unfortunately, in Greek, this word is a bit difficult to pronounce, but even attempting it will be genuinely appreciated by the locals.
Ευχαριστώ (Efcharistó) is pronounced Ehf-khah-ree-stoh with an accent to “stoh,” and if possible, the “r” in the middle should be rolled.
Yes – Nai /Neh/
Ναι, spelled as Ne in English, is an important word to know because it can confuse English speakers. That is because it sounds very similar to “No” or “Nah” in English, but in Greek, it actually means “Yes.” Ne is pronounced as Neh.
No – Oxi /Oh-khee/
Όχι, spelled as Oxi in English, means “No,” and is undoubtedly an essential word to use, especially if you plan to visit the market or want to avoid street sellers. It is pronounced as Oh-khee.
Please and You’re Welcome – Parakalo /Pah-rah-kah-loh/
Παρακαλώ (Parakalo) means both “you’re welcome” and “please.” Also, it is the word used when answering the phone. So, it is undoubtedly a useful word to remember. Parakalo’s pronunciation is Pah-rah-kah-loh.
Excuse me and/or Sorry – Signomi /See-gnoh-mee/
Συγγνώμη (Signomi) means both “sorry” and “excuse me.” So, it is another useful word to remember. Its pronunciation is See-gnoh-mee with an accent on the “gnoh” part of the word.
What other languages are commonly used in Greece?
Greece is not a multilingual country meaning the only official language is Greek. In fact, 99% of the Greek population uses the official Modern Greek language in their personal, social, and professional life.
Still, many other languages are used by Greeks or migrants, with English being the second most common language. So, let’s see all the commonly spoken languages and the reasons they are used by Greeks.
As indicated above, the Greek language is the only official language in Greece. But several non-official dialects and other distinct languages are also spoken.
Nevertheless, all derive from a common language that dates to antiquity. Just be aware that even if you are familiar with Greek, some dialects may sound different from Standard Greek.
About 35% of English words have roots in the Greek language, so, to some extent, English speakers may find it easy to learn Greek and Greeks easy to learn English.
So, as already seen, about half of the Greek population speaks English, one of the highest percentages in Europe, meaning it is relatively easy for tourists to communicate with locals without knowing any Greek.
Russian is another language widely spoken in Greece. Specifically, many wealthy Russians settled in Greece, as well as other Russian-speaking migrants who arrived in the 1990s after the collapse of the USSR.
Similarly, after the Greek Civil War in the mid-20th century, many Greeks settled in other Eastern bloc states, whose descendants returned to Greece and brought with them the Russian language.
Also, in the last two decades, there was an influx of Russian tourists, so, wishing to accommodate them, Greeks made an effort to learn their language.
Surprisingly, the Greeks and the Greeks had trade relations since antiquity, and ancient Greeks established colonies in France before the Roman empire.
Later, the French Crusade founded several states within Greece, marking their presence in the country and the Greek language until today.
Turkish is one of the most commonly spoken minority languages in Greece. Since Greece was part of the Ottoman empire for almost 400 years, many Turkish speakers resided in the country.
Today, Greece’s Turkish-speaking population is primarily in the area of eastern Macedonia and Thrace.
Do They Speak English in Greece?: Frequently Asked Questions
Why do so many Greeks speak English?
Greece relies heavily on tourism, and English is an essential tool for the locals to welcome, accommodate, and guide tourists. Therefore, it is imperative to learn at least some basic English.
Furthermore, recently youth are striving to learn English to further their careers, study abroad, or even work abroad and gain more experiences socially and professionally.
How fluently do Greeks speak English?
More than half of the population in Greece can speak English, with younger generations being the majority of the percentage.
However, according to Eurostat, only about 37% of English speakers can speak English fluently, while 23% can speak moderately well.
On the other hand, about 14%of the population can’t speak another language apart from Greek.
Why do Greeks speak good English?
Greek schools’ curriculum includes English since the 1960s when the country experienced industrial development and gained momentum.
So, even though most people believe Greece’s high level of English is due to tourism, it is only partially true.
Greeks have among the highest levels of English in Europe simply because of their desire to expand their careers, travel abroad, and gain new knowledge.
Also, unlike other languages, Greek has no other closely related languages that can easily be understood. Thus they resort to learning English which is the international language.
Do they speak English in Greece?: Final Thoughts
So to wrap up, Greeks generally do speak English. If you are planning to visit a major city or a popular tourist destination, you will surely have no issues communicating with the locals.
After all, the majority of the locals can speak fluent English since most are involved in hospitality and tourism industry jobs.
Of course, in most rural areas, locals speak little to no English, so you might have some difficulties understanding each other, but because of the local’s warm, welcoming, and friendly culture and hospitality, you will still have no issues going around.
Still, if you can’t understand any Greek and want to be more assured that there will be no communication issues, you can download an offline translation app like Google Translate so that you can at least communicate basic needs like directions or ordering food.
About the Author: Lydia Michael
Lydia Michael is a freelance travel writer from Cyprus whose love for traveling started from an early age. At the age of 18, she moved to England, and since then, she has lived in the UK, Czechia, Spain, Portugal, and Greece among others. But her greatest love has been Asia. So, she is awaiting her big trip to Southeast Asia this summer. Apart from traveling, she loves reading books, especially fantasy books, and she adores cats.