Sometimes it doesn't seem worth it. Greek, I mean--messing with a language that's not only different, but uses a different alphabet.

The alphabet is not the simple all-capitals affair on the signs on Fraternity Row. No, it has an italic-looking style to its lower case letters, and letters are not always pronounced the same as in frat names. It' not Fai, Kai, and Tsai, it's Fee, Kee, and Tsee. (Sorry, our site doesn't reproduce Greek letters or accents.) English has many words borrowed from Greek, especially in the scientific area. And the words for lemonade, salad, and beer are almost identical to English. But it's a lot tougher than the related Romance or Germanic languages.

However, we are not talking about learning to read Homer in the original. This is for a planned spring trip to the cradle of Western Civilization and figuring out how to order from the menu and pay the bill.

Learning a language, just as learning to deal with computers, perhaps learning almost anything new, represents a problem for a lot of people. They are concerned with saying the right thing. They are afraid of looking stupid, or being laughed at.

Last fall, while watching my daughter's soccer game, I turned to our Hispanic neighbors to comment on the team's apparently waning endurance. I wanted to say, "They are tired" -- "Estan cansadas." Instead, I said -- "Estan casadas" -- "They are married." Actually, the free on-line translator says I should have used the present tense of the other form, and said instead, "Son casadas." Either they humored me by not laughing, or it flew by so quickly that they hear the added "n," or it really didn¡¯t matter because my point got across regardless of my verb forms.

The last is the important message. The real goal in learning a language is not to be perfect or right. It is to communicate. So what if you ask someone to cut your horse (caballo) instead of your hair (cabello)? If you are in a barbership, the point will probably be understood if you say caballo. The best way to learn to speak is to begin speaking and make the mistakes and take the laughter in good humor. The effort to communicate is almost always appreciated.

The goal in learning to use a program is to begin learning as much of it quickly as you can. So what if you can't master all of it in a day? If you can do part of your work, you are on your way.

By the way, I also have a book on Turkish. Can anybody out there help me master vowel harmony and six cases?

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