By Annette Chrysostomou
It’s been one year since the opening of the Greek language institute and cultural centre ‘Simio afetirias’ (Starting point) in Nicosia’s old town, just 100 metres away from Famagusta Gate. Now, it offers a plethora of lessons and activities to those who are interested in learning about Greek language and Greek Cypriot culture.
The private institute was founded and is run by two language teachers, Kyriaki Sophocleous and Kyriaki Christodoulou. They met 12 years ago when both of them were studying Byzantine and Modern Greek at the University of Cyprus and have been friends ever since. Both of them completed their studies abroad and have spent years working as teachers of Greek as a foreign or second language in Cyprus.
They had the idea to open some sort of language institute for some time but the project began to take shape when they decided to apply for EU funding for young entrepreneurs last year.
However, as the EU asked them to put up all the money up front they decided to do it on their own – step-by-step.
They started by renting a renovated 19th century building and furnishing it in an airy and comfortable style. The house has two classrooms, though one should perhaps call them multi-purpose rooms as this week for example, one of them has been turned into a gallery. A spacious courtyard and a living room filled with books and equipped with a projector are also used for carrying out various activities.
The target audience of the language programmes are foreigners living in Cyprus and those for whom Greek is a second language.
Students are mainly adults from embassies and companies. There are also some children who need to improve their Greek as their parents are foreigners.
Different packages are available, with intense and more relaxed courses and group and private lessons. “We ask people what they want”, Sophocleous explained, “before we start classes we have meetings and discuss what each one needs.”
A special package is on offer for companies with the cost shared by employers and employees.
The establishment has attracted students from all over Europe and many other countries and specifically-designed courses target employees of companies and embassies. The former High Commissioner of Australia has just passed his exams.
There are two kinds of certificates that students can take exams for. One is accredited by the Cyprus government. The other one, the only international certificate, is awarded by the Greek language centre of Thessaloniki. Christodoulou and Sophocleous would like to offer the international exams themselves in the future when they become fully licensed.
Also for a monthly fee, students can use the facilities whenever they need a quiet space. Or, if you want to learn Greek but cannot make it to the premises, the teachers will come to you. Courses are available at the students’ homes or workplaces and via Skype.
The two instructors don’t use any particular language to teach. “We use whatever we have,” Christodoulou said, “Apart from English and French we use other ways like images and body language.”
The aim of the private institute is to combine learning Greek with learning about Greek Cypriot culture and tradition.
The old renovated house by itself attracts people who are interested in culture and a conversation courses include role playing and cooking workshops.
This year, students have baked Easter cookies and bread with ‘grandma Kyriakou’ and this week the second art exhibition took place, with paintings by Sofia Panayiotidou. The first art exhibition, in May, displayed the work of more than 20 photographers.
The teachers told the Sunday Mail that they also take students out to tour parts of Nicosia whereby they can learn more about the cultural character of Cyprus.
At the moment, the two are planning dance and cookery lessons and are looking for suitable teachers.
A web site will be up and running from next month. For now, the institute is on Facebook: www.facebook.com/simio.afetirias Tel: 70009048