Saturday, 14 September 2013

Ikarian Centre …

It’s all Greek to me

by Nancy Snipper

Learning Greek can be daunting, even laborious if you don’t hear or speak it on a regular basis. When you study the language at the Ikarian Centre, it becomes the most prominent aspect of your daily life; and it is relished, for the program offers a brilliant blend of stimulation and fun.
They say accomplishment is three-quarters perspiration, and the rest inspiration. Here they both take the lion’s share.  There are no bleak classrooms or bells ringing to signal the start of a class; you’ll hear a cowbell instead. 
The Ikarian Centre is built on the premise of enrichment without hype, archaic formalities or repressive rules.  It’s unique and quite frankly, a wondrous way to enjoy the Greek language and the Ikarian way of life. 
The journey begins with spectacular scenery right outside your room.  A breathtaking panoramic mountain view is ever present at Ikarian Centre’s three homey learning rooms where cozy-size group classes are held; lots of elbow room here. One classroom comprises a canopied open air space, equipped with the necessary tools for teaching and learning.

Mihalis Kavouriaris (Center director) teaching a class


The indoor learning areas are large and appealing as students and teacher engage with one another in round table style. 
Classes are based on linguistic level proficiency.  Individualized learning can happen at any time of the day (more about that later). The pedagogical modus operandi is four hours of intense study led by the teacher.  Afternoon homework time is also part of the program, and everyone is happy to do it the on splendid outdoor terrace where you can banter in Greek or listen to others. Here is where I picked up a fair bit of the lingo; everyone is going Greek here, trying to communicate even improvising or searching for words – dictionary in hand.  As an adult learning centre, all ages are accepted, and all levels – from absolute beginners to advance speakers. 

(photos of Konstantinos Poulis and Tonia Patrikiadou teaching)

There’s no separation between teacher and learner here; rubbing shoulders happens all the time on the premises whether drinking your coffee on the expansive gardened terrace or making your breakfast inside the communal kitchen.
The Centre’s environment is totally conducive to language acquisition in a relaxed manner. Methods employ reading, writing and constant conversation.  It’s a combination of the casual imbedded in structured really small classes with four hours of intense study led by the teacher.  Homework takes place in the outdoor terrace where we all congregated to share and give one another a hearty “Yia sou, ti kanete?” greeting at all times of the day.
Brainchild of Mihalis Kavouriaris, the Ikarian Centre began in 1995. The program also runs in Thessaloniki and Norway. Mihalis gives on-line lessons throughout the year, as well.  He is adored by everyone. The Centre embodies the rugged and incredibly spirited generosity of his Ikarian roots; his father was Ikarian. 
“I’m impressed by what Mihalis is doing to help people learn Greek. He not only teaches but offers organized activities connected to Greek culture,” said Tonia Patrikiadou who teaches beginners level.  She exemplifies the high standard of qualified teachers here who are university certified Greek language teachers – many holding post- graduate degrees in various fields, but you’d be hard pressed to hear anyone bragging about their degrees. 
Mihalis doesn’t have a lazy bone in his body.  A hands-on multi-tasker, he plans and implements a rich variety of to-do things, starting with picking you up from the ferry or airport upon your island arrival, organizing outings including swimming at Ikarian beaches, hikes and restaurant outings in Evdilos port or in the village of Arethousa where the Centre is located. 

Theoktisti Monastery

 Greek films with English subtitles, a slide show on Ikaria, or even a mini-concert kept us all entertained. Athenian writer and actor, Konstantinos Poulis who teaches the advanced-level led us all into a Greek song lesson as he played the bouzouki.

The two-week program also featured a huge Greek cooking feast; we all pitched in with the preparation, but typically, Mihalis did most of the work.  We learned a few Greek dances that night too, and as the wine flowed, so did the laughter and my Greek. It was a night of ‘Keffi’ (party joy). I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend my final night with my European friends whom I would greatly miss along with our Mihalis; he did everything for us and with us. I would also miss Anna, his 85-year-old mother whose kindness matched her curiosity and conversation.    In this learning utopia I was free to partake or abstain – to do as I wished. Such a pleasant approach is quintessential Ikarian, for this is the island where stress is replaced by serenity, where rules or rushing are as rare as the sound of a car honking,  and where individual personalities and the freedom to be you is cherished. 


spetsofa (sausage), soufiko (vegetables), tzatziki, halvas

For complete information on the Ikarian Centre, visit this website: