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Your Ultimate Greek Pronunciation Guide

So, you’ve set out to learn Greek pronunciation. Greek language pronunciation can be tough to learn at first, but the hard work is definitely worth mastering this unique language.

Pronunciation is the key to oral communication in Greek, as it promotes a person’s understanding of the language and helps them speak Greek correctly. The Greek language uses the Greek alphabet, which consists of twenty-four letters, which come in two forms: Uppercase letters and lowercase letters. Most of the letters have similar forms, while some are completely different. Knowing this will help you as we go over some Greek alphabet pronunciation in this article.

In addition, Greek is a syllabic language. This means that every word can be broken down into smaller parts, which can is often helpful when it comes to pronunciation practice.

In order to learn Greek pronunciation, we usually use a transliteration system. This system utilizes the Latin alphabet to describe the various sounds in the Greek language. Within this context, GreekPod101.com uses a simplified romanization system, which also includes signs of correct accentuation.

That said, let’s go ahead and learn Greek pronunciation with our pronunciation guide in the Greek language, starting with Greek vowels.

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1. Greek Vowel Sounds

When it comes to the Greek pronunciation alphabet, it’s important to fully understand Greek vowel pronunciation.

The one-letter vowels are α, ε, η, ι, ο, ω, υ.

All of these vowels are familiar sounds to a native English speaker:

  • α sounds like a, as in the word “apple.”
  • ε sounds like e, as in the word “egg.”
  • η, ι, υ (all of them) sound like ee, as in the word “teeth.”
  • ο and ω sound like ο, as in the word “box.”

There are also double-vowel combinations in Greek: αι, ει, οι, υι, ου.

They’re pronοunced:

  • αι sounds exactly like ε, as in the word “egg.”
  • ει, οι, and υι sound exactly like η, ι, υ, as in the word “teeth.”
  • ου sounds like οο, as in the word “school.”

The last and most tricky double-vowel combinations are αυ, ευ, and ηυ.

  • αυ is pronοunced either as “af” or as “av.”
  • ευ is pronοunced either as “ef” or as “ev.”
  • ηυ is pronounced as “if” or as “iv.”

These double-vowel combinations are pronounced differently depending on a few things:

  • Their accentuation.
  • The letter that follows.
  • Their position within a word.

2. Greek Consonant Sounds

Most of the Greek consonants are pronounced just like they are in any other Romance language. To some extent, it may help to look at these Greek letters’ pronunciation in English, as we’ll do below.

Greek consonants are categorized as voiced consonants and unvoiced consonants, depending on their sonority (whether we need to use our vocal cords or not to pronounce them).

  • Voiced: β, γ, δ, ζ, λ, μ, ν, ρ, as well as the double consonant combinations μπ, ντ, γγ, γκ, and τζ.

  • Unvoiced: θ, κ, π, σ, τ, φ, χ, as well as the double consonant combination τσ.

The letters ξ and ψ are called “double consonants” in Greek because they represent two consonant sounds each (ξ = κς and ψ = πς). Based on their sonority, however, we could say that they’re both unvoiced since they don’t make our vocal cords vibrate when we pronounce them.

Another way to divide* the Greek consonants is by taking into consideration the part of the mouth that we use to produce them. In this case, we have the following groups: 

  • Labial (χειλικά; hiliká) π, β, φ, as well as the double consonant combination μπ.
  • Palatal (ουρανικά; uraniká) κ, γ, χ, as well as γγ and γκ.
  • Dental (οδοντικά; odondiká) τ, δ, θ, as well as ντ, τζ, and τσ.
  • Nasal (ρινικά; riniká) μ and ν.
  • Liquid (υγρά; igrá) λ and ρ.
  • Sibilant (συριστικά; siristiká) σ and ζ

* There are a few more different and more precise ways to divide the Greek consonants (such as “bilabial” if both lips are used), but the way we’ve presented here is more generic and is enough to give you a good idea of Greek consonants.

Greek consonants show a similar pronunciation to their corresponding English consonants. There are also the double consonant combinations γκ (g), γγ (g), μπ (b), ντ (d), τσ (ts), and τζ (j) which, as you can see, are familiar sounds to English speakers.

3. Greek Accentuation System

Correct Pronunciation

Greek alphabet pronunciation is about more than understanding vowels and consonants. Ancient Greek used a pitch accent system. However, today, Modern Greek uses only a single stress notation. The symbol used to indicate the accent is a small vertical line above the letter, inclining slightly to the right. This accent mark is called “acute,” or οξεία (oxía) in Greek. The acute accent is placed upon vowels exclusively, in order to indicate the emphasis of the accent on a specific syllable.

4. Examples of Hard-to-Pronounce Greek Words

Improve Pronunciation

Feeling challenged? So do we! 

Let’s have a look at some hard-to-pronounce Greek words, including Greek pronunciation to English: 

  • άγχος (ánhos) “stress”

In this example, the letter “γ” isn’t pronounced like it normally is, but rather more like an “N” sound. This is because it’s followed by the letter “χ.” This is a case of assimilation, and this assimilation happens so that the word can be more easily articulated. This word is stressed on the first syllable, and more specifically on the letter “α,” as indicated by the accent mark. 

  • εγχείρηση (enhírisi) “medical operation”

Again, in this example, “γ” sounds more like an “N.” However, another difficulty lies with the double vowel combination “ει,” which is pronounced as “ι.” The word is also stressed on the double vowel, so this is definitely a difficult word to pronounce.

  • ωτορινολαρυγγολόγος (otorinolaringológos) “otorhinolaryngologist”

We have to be fair on this one. This is a nightmare, even in English! The pronunciation is similar, though. Just try to break it down syllable-by-syllable and we’re sure you’re going to make it! 

Still struggling? Have a look at our word list, where you can listen to its exact pronunciation, as well. 

  • συνειδητοποίηση (siniditopíisi) “realization”

This might be the perfect example to help you realize that different Greek vowels might sound exactly the same. So, if you paid attention when we talked about Greek vowels, pronouncing this word will be a piece of cake. 

  • ευγνώμων (evgnómon) “grateful”

In this case, the double vowel “ευ” is pronounced as “ev,” because the next letter is “γ.”

  • λόξιγκας (lóxingas) “hiccups”

This is another tricky word. However, if you remember that the double consonant “γκ” is pronounced like the “g” in the word “gray,” you won’t face any problem.

  • παστίτσιο (pastítsio) “traditional Greek meal”

Παστίτσιο, along with μουσακάς (musakás), is one of the most iconic Greek dishes. It consists of pasta, minced meat in a tomato sauce, and bechamel sauce. It’s really a traditional delicacy. However, in order to taste it, you should learn how to pronounce and order it. The difficulty here is located in the double vowel “τσ,” which sounds like the “ts” in the word “tsunami.” 

  • υπερηφάνεια (iperifánia) “pride”

Having pride is a common characteristic of Greek people. So, this word is something really important in the Greek language. As you can see, it combines many different vowels, as well as the double vowel “ει,” which sounds like “ee.” So, this word can be confusing to some Greek language learners.

5. Secrets to Learning the Correct Greek Pronunciation

Improve your pronunciation!

1) Use voice recording tools to perfect your pronunciation

GreekPod101 has plenty of resources to help you with your Greek pronunciation, so be sure to make thorough use of our recordings with native Greek speakers. These are available not only to demonstrate to you how you should pronounce Greek vocabulary, but also sentences and dialogues. Watch and listen to these over and over again to train your ear, and watch the teacher’s mouth as she speaks in the video lessons. Then, copy the speech as best you can. Later, you can record yourself to hear if you sound like a native speaker and compare yourself with native speakers. Great for self-motivation.

2) Practice in front of the mirror.

And see that you’re copying the correct lip and mouth movements.

3) Use our GreekPod101 dictionary!

Use the Greek dictionary provided by GreekPod101 to look up words and listen to the audio pronunciation. This will go a long way towards giving you an idea of how to pronounce a word or letter correctly.

4) Train your ear to the language!

Make an effort to listen often to Greek music and recorded books, and watch plenty of Greek movies and/or TV shows in Greek. This will train your ear to the language, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you pick up the accent. Remember, this is the way we learned to speak when we were young - mostly by listening to the adults talking, and repeating what they say!

5) Practice, practice, practice… 

Repetition of the same thing may be boring, but in learning a new language, you’re creating new pathways in your brain. For these to remain and become habitual, you will need to repeat the correct pronunciation often.

6) Make friends with a native Greek speaker.

Don’t be shy to address them in Greek! Ask them to correct you when you make a pronunciation mistake - this is a wonderful way to practice and learn the language first-hand, and also to make new friends.

7) Practice your pronunciation with your Greek teacher!

If you’re a serious student and don’t know where to meet native Greek speakers, consider investing in GreekPod101’s Premium PLUS plan. This means you will have your own native Greek teacher available to practice your pronunciation with, and much more! Send recordings of yourself speaking Greek and get feedback from your Greek teacher.

6. Why is Correct Pronunciation in Greek Important?

Correct Pronunciation

Proper pronunciation is important, very important. Some say it’s even more important than getting the grammar perfectly correct! Why would this be?

1) Good Understanding 

If communicating with native speakers matters to you when learning Greek, you need to be understood when you talk, and you need to be able to understand the native speakers. After all, without understanding, the purpose of language is null and void! In order to be understood, you need to be able to speak the language in a way that is familiar to native speakers, or at least recognizable by them. 

When learning to speak a new language, you will learn that the more you progress the more intricate it becomes! For instance, almost every language has vocabulary that may look the same in writing, but because the words are pronounced differently, they have very different meanings. This means that you may say a word in Greek, and because of a slight change in pronunciation, the meaning of the word changes completely. Understandably, this can make for pretty embarrassing situations! At worst, your mispronounced Greek will sound garbled to a native speaker. 

Knowing the nuances of how a word or letter is pronounced will also help you to understand spoken Greek better.

No worries if this feels hard; you’re learning, and with our help at GreekPod101, you will not have a problem with mispronunciation if you follow our advice and examples carefully.

2) Good Communication 

Not pronouncing Greek or any other language correctly can lead to a lot of frustration because you’re unable to express what you mean, and you will not be understood correctly. Even if you have total knowledge of Greek grammar, and can write it like a native, not knowing how to speak it properly will only make for very frustrating communication all around.

3) A Good Impression 

Even if you’re only a beginner, it is possible to speak any language correctly. This way, you are bound to make a good impression on native speakers, and when you’re more fluent, you will be likely to garner a lot more respect than a fumbling newbie speaker who doesn’t care much for correct pronunciation. 

People often have a lot of patience for someone who learns to speak a new language, but native speakers are more likely to address you and engage with you in conversation if you work hard on your accent. This is simply because you’ll be able to understand one another! So, proficiency in pronunciation can mean the difference between having none or plenty of Greek speaking friends. It will also serve you well in the workplace, and make you popular with your Greek speaking managers and employers or employees.

Learning to speak Greek properly is also a sign of respect for not only the language, but also the native speakers and their customs. 

7. Conclusion

Secrets to Learning

This pronunciation guide in Greek vocabulary showed you a little bit about English to Greek pronunciation (and Greek to English pronunciation), in hopes to give you better footing on this learning journey.

Bottom line: One could say that Greek pronunciation isn’t that hard to master, as it’s very similar to romance languages. Most of the sounds aren’t new to an English speaker (with only a few exceptions, which can be learned easily). 

We hope our Greek lesson about pronunciation proved helpful to you, and that you’ll keep referring to it as you study and practice.

Excellent Greek pronunciation isn’t always about studying hard. At GreekPod101.com, we know the perfect method for Greek learning. We offer you high-quality, practical knowledge about the Greek language.

On GreekPod101.com, we aim to provide you with everything you need to know about the Greek language in a fun and interesting way. Articles like this one, word lists, grammar tips, and even YouTube videos are waiting for you to discover them!

8. How to Download Your Free Guide to Beginner Greek

Download Your FREE Guide to Beginner Greek!

If you want to master the Greek language and become fluent, you must learn the Greek alphabet letters first. And you need physical worksheets to practice on.

This eBook is a MUST-HAVE for all Greek learning beginners!

FREE Greek eBook

Download your FREE Greek practice sheets PDF today and learn the Greek language in no time!
This is a must-have guide for absolute beginners

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Studying video or audio lessons online is a great way to learn a language because students can play and rewind sections as many times as needed until the lesson is mastered. But when you review the same Greek lessons again in PDF format, an incredible thing happens: your retention dramatically improves! Thanks to Time Spaced Repetition, seeing the information again in written format helps reinforce the information in your mind and improves both retention and recall. The benefits of learning Greek using PDF lessons quickly add up to significant time savings for you, your data plan, and your dream of learning a new language!

Why are we giving it away?

Learning to read and write is a must for all beginners. Although you get video lessons on how to write in Greek at GreekPod101, you’ll still need physical worksheets to practice on. That’s why you’re getting this printable tutorial PDFs as a gift.

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Has anyone thanked you today? We will. Thank you for reading this article and learning with us! In fact, today, you’ll learn the many different ways to say “Thank You” in Greek. It’s one of the most important Greek phrases. Check it out and watch the video too to practice your pronunciation.

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