Culture, Inspiration

I Challenged My Language Skills by Writing my Grocery List in Greek

Learning Greek by writing your shopping list in Greek

I’m a grocery store fanatic. It sounds weird, but I love a good grocery store trip. When my boyfriend starts putting on his jacket and pulling out the reusable bags from the closet, I suddenly turn into an overly excited golden retriever who sees that it’s about to go on a walk. Maybe it’s because I’m a big foodie, but there’s also something exciting about picking out some colorful fresh veggies, a warm baguette, and some good ol’ Ben and Jerry’s at the store. 

This grocery store obsession follows me everywhere. In fact, one of the least touristy things I do when I visit another country is go to the grocery store. I know usually when you’re on vacation you eat out for every meal, and, thus, don’t really feel the need to go to the grocery store, but it’s a travel game-changer. Not only do you suddenly feel like you’re one of the locals, but you get to view the country’s culture through a different lens because you get to see all of the products this foreign grocery store has that your local grocery store doesn’t. Some of my best purchases at international grocery stores include: Spanish-style hot chocolate mix that I got in Barcelona after becoming obsessed with dipping churros in Spain’s rich and thick hot chocolate, seaweed-wrapped rice balls (onigiri) in Tokyo, and tartare in France, which is a type of whipped cheese with herbs and garlic that is amazing. 

So, when I was trying to think of some more at-home language challenges for you guys to try out as a part of the Cabin Fever Reliever Challenge, my mind went quickly to something that revolved around the grocery store. Since all of the schools are closed in France and I can’t teach, the only time I leave the house, besides my (almost) daily walk, is to go to the grocery store once a week. So, the grocery store has become even more special, though a little more nerve-racking, for me. 

When I make this weekly grocery trip, I need to have a list written down. I am notoriously forgetful, so if I don’t write things down I’ll go to the store with a plan to make creamy mashed potatoes and come home with all of the ingredients except for the potatoes. But this time, in order to give myself a little language challenge, I wrote my grocery list down in Greek.

I knew some of the translations already, but I definitely didn’t know all of them. I struggled with words like “veggie burgers,” and I forgot how to make certain nouns plural. I used an English-Greek dictionary to translate any of the words I didn’t know to the best of my ability. It’s okay if you make mistakes while making yours. When I first translated “veggie burger” I just wrote “hamburger vegetarian” which wasn’t exactly right, but it was in the right direction. Plus, you usually learn from your mistakes. 

This week I had planned to live off Mediterranean Greek salad and homemade falafels, veggie burgers with lemon broccoli, taco salad, and breakfast smoothies. So without further ado, here’s what I needed: 

  1. Φέτα (feta cheese)
  2. Αγγούρι (cucumber)
  3. Ντομάτες (tomatoes) 
  4. Ρεβίθια (chickpeas)
  5. βατόμουρα (lemons)
  6. Σοκολάτα (chocolate) 
  7. Ψωμί (bread)
  8. Κρεμμύδι (onion)
  9. Μπέργκερ χορτοφάγων (veggie burger) 
  10. Παγωτό (ice cream)
  11. Μαρούλι (lettuce)
  12. Αβοκάντο (avocado) 
  13. Πατατάκια (chips)
  14. Μούρα (berries)
  15. Γάλα αμυγδάλου (almond milk)
  16. Μπανάνες (bananas)
  17. Μπρόκολο (broccoli) 

The good thing about this grocery trip/vocabulary quiz is that you have a mental word box with all of the responses as long as you can vaguely remember what you need. For example, I could not for the life of me remember what ρεβίθια meant, but after a little elimination I was able to remember that I needed chickpeas for my falafels and that “chickpeas” was one of the words I had written higher up on my list, which helped me figure it out. 

Unfortunately, this trick didn’t work for everything, and I was left at the end of my grocery trip not knowing what the hell μούρα and μαρούλι were, so I did have to pull up my English-Greek dictionary one time before I left the store. But, just to brag a little, when I looked back at my list to write this piece I could remember what μούρα was! So even though μαρούλι still continues to leave me confused, I’m hoping that having to look it up for the *third* time will help me remember how to say “lettuce” in Greek. 

The good thing about this grocery trip/vocabulary quiz is that you have a mental word box with all of the responses as long as you can vaguely remember what you need.

Overall, I had a lot of fun doing this challenge, it was a memory challenge + puzzle + vocabulary quiz + grocery trip all in one, and I’m going to try to keep it up. I hope that eventually I’ll only need to look up one or two words each time I go to the store, and that eventually I’ll be writing my grocery list like a pro in Greek every time. I love seeing our community participate in these challenges so feel free to tag us @rosettastone with pictures of your grocery list or grocery haul. Happy shopping!

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