The place of the Modern Greek language and culture in Australia and the world
Modern Greek is the official language of Greece and Cyprus. It is spoken throughout the world – wherever there are Greek-speaking communities. One of the major characteristics of the extensive Greek Diaspora is the maintenance of the Greek language and culture, especially in Australia, the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, countries of Latin America and Africa, and areas around the Black Sea, the Balkans, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Modern Greek is also one of the official languages of the European Union.
The Hellenic civilisation and language have significantly shaped Western civilisation, particularly in the areas of science, the arts, architecture, medicine, mathematics, literature, politics and philosophy. Modern literature and thought in particular have been influenced by the works of Homer and the ancient Greek playwrights, philosophers and historians. The Greek language gives expression to a rich and varied culture and tradition and is still used widely in many fields to coin new terms. The study of the etymology of English words with Greek origins helps in not only the understanding of English and other languages, but also a broad range of other areas of study.
The first Greek people who came to Australia arrived in the 1820s and since then there have been waves of Greek migration to Australia, in particular throughout the early 1900s and prior to World War II. The largest periods of mass migration occurred between the 1950s and 1970s. The migrants’ need to maintain Greek identity through language, culture and religion contributed towards the Greek language flourishing in the home and in the delivery of Greek in after-hours school settings.
Historically, Greeks have made and continue to make a significant contribution to the development and enrichment of Australian society, not only in the areas of commerce, agriculture, industry, trade, education, the arts, medicine, law, politics, government and scientific research, but also in cultural and lifestyle influences.
The place of the Modern Greek language in Australian education
After the early settlement of Greeks in Australia, after-hours community schools were set up to teach the language, predominantly to children of Greek immigrants. From the 1970s, due to government policies supporting multiculturalism, Modern Greek programs were introduced at all levels in the Australian education system, including tertiary level, offering all students regardless of their background the opportunity to study Modern Greek.
Modern Greek is currently taught across all school sectors and contexts.
The nature of Modern Greek language learning
The modern standard version of Modern Greek (Neoelliniki: Νεοελληνική) is the demotic form of the written and spoken language and is the official language taught worldwide. It is an alphabetic (non-Roman) language, with 24 letters, and has remained relatively unchanged since ancient times. Modern Greek is a phonetic language, with a simple form of accentuation and highly structured grammar and syntax. Although many English words are derived from Greek, the language structure is very different. There are, for example, marked differences in the use of articles, gender agreement for adjectives and nouns, verb conjugations, declensions of nouns and variations in word order. These distinctive features influence how Modern Greek is taught in the classroom. They will be seen through the key text types and processes chosen as a vehicle to develop learners’ understanding of them and in the context for interactions through which learners will develop the skills for their sustained use.
The diversity of learners of Modern Greek
Due to the passage of time, shifting trends in migration and the changed nature of the learner, Modern Greek is no longer the exclusive domain of students of Greek background. Learners of Modern Greek in Australian schools come from a diversity of backgrounds, including learners for whom this represents a first experience of learning Modern Greek. Learners of Modern Greek may also be background speakers or second-, third- or fourth-generation Australians who may have connections to the customs and traditions of their heritage but whose linguistic knowledge may be limited or non-existent.
The Australian Curriculum: Languages for Modern Greek is pitched to second language learners, the dominant cohort of learners in the Australian context. There are two learning pathways for students: the Foundation to Year 10 Sequence and the Years 7–10 (Year 7 Entry) Sequence. Teachers will use the curriculum to cater for learners of different backgrounds by making appropriate adjustments to personalise learning experiences.
For students learning Modern Greek for the first time in a school language program, a key dimension of the curriculum involves understanding the cultural dimension that shapes and is shaped by the language. The curriculum is designed with an intercultural language learning orientation to enable students to participate meaningfully in language and cultural experiences, to develop new ways of seeing and being in the world, and to understand more about themselves in the process.