Free lessons have people queuing up to join courses

Veronique Philippot, 40, has been studying Greek for eight years at the Culture Ministry’s educational department in Paris. «I’ve learned many foreign languages in my life because I had to,» she told Kathimerini, «but I learned Greek for myself.» France, with its philhellenic culture, has the most Greek language centers. «We have 280 adults students aged 18 to 70,» explained teacher Theodora Emmanouilidou. «Since the lessons are free, we have a lot of people on the waiting list.» French students have many different motives for learning Greek. «Most are in love with Greece and the Greeks. Some are from families that came to Paris after the Asia Minor disaster [of 1922]. But we also have young students who want to learn a rare language,» said Emmanouilidou. Philippot made her decision after her first trip to Greece. «I stayed with people and I felt that I missed out on a lot not knowing the language. I couldn’t talk to elderly people; I didn’t understand a lot of the jokes,» she recalled. «However, I felt that I could easily get to know people in Greece, which I found very complicated in my country.» Now she reads Greek newspapers and literature. «In the early years, I used to dream of finding a job and moving to Greece. I realized that remains a dream still, but I do visit Greece three times a year.»