The Greek language, an indispensable part of Hellenic heritage and culture, often proves difficult to learn for the hundreds of thousands of second and third generation Greeks spread throughout the world.
Online teaching of the language has been spreading in recent years and is becoming increasingly popular not only among youngsters but also professionals, academics, travelers or simply the curious.
One such school is “Greek Lessons OnLine” or Greek LOL. Founded in 2014 by Stella Bompotsiari and Pavlos Ksinas, it offers Greek language training to more than 800 students worldwide.
Bompotsiari explains that their students are based in 50 different countries, although the majority are in the U.S. Almost 80 percent of the students are children.
“It all started as an interesting and creative project for the Greek language, but we now have created a worldwide online Greek community with young Greeks from around the globe. These children are the best ambassadors of Hellenism,” Bompotsiari says.
Easy and fun way to learn
She and her team of Greek teachers promote the Greek language, culture and lifestyle to people from all over the world in an easy and fun way.
All the students need is a computer, internet connection, microphone, webcam and their books. Instead of having somebody to drive them to their Greek school, they just enter their Greek class from their computer.
“We enrich our lessons with quizzes, flashcards, videos, and songs because we want our students to interact effectively and also to have fun! We are committed to making Greek language learning easy and enjoyable for all our students,” Bompotsiari explains.
During lessons LOL wants students to be as active as possible, interacting with the materials and not just passively watching their teacher. There is an interactive whiteboard embedded in all the virtual classrooms, so that each student has an interactive whiteboard on his or her computer screen.
Technology used in a meaningful way
“It was probably one of the best decisions we have made for our family!” says Cassandra Floor from Massachusetts, whose children, who are second generation Greeks, have attended the Greek LOL online school for the last three years.
She notes that things changed for daughter Sophia, now 11, and son Luke, now 8, beginning with their first year of Greek LOL.
“We knew we were taking the family to Greece in the summer and although my kids could somewhat understand me when I spoke to them in Greek, they refused to speak themselves, Floor says.
“That all changed after only 20 weeks with their amazing instructor. They were gaining confidence in their language, learning about our rich culture and history, and were even reading and writing it! That summer, they met relatives in the village and could communicate with them. Even my son was ordering his own food at restaurants,” Floor adds proudly.
“As a teacher myself, I’m grateful to see technology used in such a meaningful and engaging way. Greek Lessons Online is a very effective method of instruction that offers a convenient approach to developing the high level skill of learning a new language. My children are proud to be learning not only a second language but the language of their grandparents,” says Floor.
Celebrating Greek heritage
On Greek national days, LOL organizes online events to commemorate Greek ancestors, bring the online Greek community together and give young students the chance to feel closer to their cultural heritage.
On these truly moving celebration days, students from every corner of the world recite poems, learn about the struggles of the new Greek nation and celebrate their roots.
For Mandy Djurovic in Melbourne, Australia, Greek LOL provided an excellent alternative to taking her daughter, 13-year-old Raphaela, to Greek schools.
“Living in Melbourne, there is a big Greek community with numerous Greek schools that run for four hours, one night per week. I found it difficult fitting such a long session into our lives,” Djurovic explains.
She says that Raphaela, since joining Greek LOL six years ago, is thoroughly enjoying her weekly lessons and she feels that a great deal of material is covered within the hour.
“The lessons are well-structured and although she’s had numerous teachers over the years, there’s never been a time where she’s fallen behind or not understood. The lessons are run at her pace and the teacher makes it easy and fun, with repetition being the key element in learning the language,” she notes.
Djurovic says that she has seen Raphaela steadily progress in her Greek over the years. “She can successfully communicate with her grandparents and myself without much difficulty and hesitation… Although Raphaela is not fluent, she keeps practicing and trying her best.
“Her giagia (grandmother) loves conversing with her and corrects her when needed. She’s planning to continue with Greek LOL until she feels comfortable and is able to speak, read and write with confidence,” Djurovic adds.
Every Summer, Greek LOL welcomes kids from 8 to 15 years of age, from all over the world, to Sofiko, Greece, near Korinthos. The language camp there, one of the best camps in Europe, combines modern facilities with surroundings of amazing natural beauty in the Peloponnese, just one hour away from Athens.
The Greek LOL Summer Camp is a great way for children to learn Greek and have fun while doing it. The program aims to develop the childrens’ speaking skills and boost their confidence when speaking Greek with other children from Greece or with kids of a similar background.
“The 2019 Summer Camp was amazing,” says founder Bompotsiari. “We had twenty kids from a variety of faraway places, including Νew Υork, Tennessee, London and Singapore.”