Here’s a little legend to some basic Greek that comes in handy on the island:
Kalimera/kalispera – Good morning, good evening
To be polite to anyone older than you or whom you don’t know very well, say “Kalimera sas” or “yia sas”. Little old ladies love this.
Singnomi – Sorry/excuse me. This is important to know. As a dumb foreigner, I tend to use this often and lavishly to excuse every movement I make that just may not be correct. However, I apologize a lot in English too.
Ti kanis/kanate? – How are you? (informal/formal-plural) Proper response is “Kala, eseis?” Good, you?
Parakalo – please/you’re welcome
Epharisto/epharistoume – thank you/we thank you. I use the second one when I’m ordering a lot of food for a group of people who don’t speak Greek. That’s when it comes in most handy anyway.
Food words (this is most important after greetings and apologizing. Food is a universal language)
Revithia – chickpeas
Krasi – wine. Krasi kokkino is red wine, or krasi mavro – dark wine, also means red wine.
Psomi – bread
Nero – water
Elies – olives
Tiri – cheese. To get specific, kephalotiri is a good dry sheep’s cheese, feta is feta, and graviera is another good dry cheese.
Chtapothi – octopus. We thought it was “oktapothi” for a long time – “eight foot” but were recently corrected.
Psari – fish.
These are all the important words. This will sustain you, foodwise. A little pitcher of wine is sometimes called “krasaki” – little wine. The diminutive “-aki” or “-itsa” is frequently added to things. When Yeorgia is talking about me in Greek, I am “kopelitsa” – the little miss. I’ve noticed the Greeks use the diminutive to measure items – instead of always saying “ligo tiri” for “a little cheese”, they might just say “tiraki”. I find this interesting, and terribly charming.
Lastly, and equally important, “tragouthi” – song. Music is very important in Greece. This word will come in handy.
If you can master these phrases, and count to ten, you are golden.