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Legal Framework 

Greek is the national and official language of Greece. The institutionalisation of the ‘demotic’ variety of Greek as the official language of the Greek State in 1976 ended a long-lasting period of diglossia: the 'high' variety or katharevousa was used in all areas of public life (politics, law and justice, administration, religion and teaching in secondary and higher education), while the 'low' variety or Demotic was the language of everyday communication, literature and primary education. The only domain where demotic Greek is not used today is in liturgical texts of the Orthodox Church, which are written in Hellenistic Koine.

In its written form, Modern Greek makes use of the Ancient Greek alphabet (an adaptation of the Phoenician script), following the historical orthography, i.e. a spelling which reflects word pronunciation during the Classical period (namely the Attic dialect of the fifth-fourth centuries BC), and using a polytonic system with three accent signs to represent word prosody. This system was replaced in 1981 when the monotonic system was established, which makes use of a single accent to indicate word stress.

In education, with the exception of ERASMUS programmes, foreign nationals are only accepted into the 1st year of University if they can provide a certificate proving their competence in the Greek language. The ‘International Hellenic University’, recently created at Thessaloniki, offers teaching exclusively in English. At the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, a bilateral Franco-Greek programme has led to the creation of seven common Master’s programmes where parts of the syllabus are taught in French. In both the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, all courses are taught in the respective language of the departments of foreign language and literature; i.e. departments of English, French, German, Italian, Spanish.

For people who are not Greek citizens, and are applying for a job, especially in the public domain, a certificate of Greek language proficiency on the six-level scale of the Council of Europe is required so as to prove that they have a certain degree of proficiency in the Greek language. For some jobs B-level proficiency is required whereas for others C-level proficiency is a must. 

As far as consumer rights are concerned, European provisions on consumer information are applied. Most labelling on products is multilingual. In public places, signs are usually also transcribed into the Latin alphabet.


Institutional bodies with responsibility for developing, implementing and controlling linguistic legislation 

The language policy of Greece is designed by the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (through its General Secretariat for Intercultural Education and Greek Studies Abroad) and the Ministry of Culture and is implemented by the Centre for the Greek Language (CLG) and the Institute of Educational Policy. On the implementation level, several programmes concerning majority, intercultural and minority language education are conducted by these two institutions and various university departments.


Legal provisions concerning the linguistic integration of migrants and public linguistic training facilities available to them 

The relevant policies are determined by the following principles: equality of opportunities for children from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, the elimination of discrimination, and the integration of repatriated, foreign national and immigrant pupils.


The education of repatriated, foreign national and immigrant pupils

In order to fulfil the educational needs of a heterogeneous immigrant population, the Greek state has legislated reception classes for early primary education offering language courses and support to other educational subjects taught in school; intensive language courses for those who have difficulties being integrated in the class – both of these function in the frame of general education schools, and primary and secondary intercultural schools and teacher-training programmes for the needs of intercultural education.

For all the above actions the teaching materials, methods and teacher training have been designed on the basis of relevant scientific research conducted by the universities of Athens and Thessaloniki.


Educational programmes concerning the Muslim minority and the Roma

Two large-scale, long-term projects (1997-2017) were initiated by the Greek Ministry of Education, funded by the European Social Fund. In the case of the Roma, the aims were to improve school achievement and to fight absenteeism. In the case of the Muslim children, the main aim was to improve drop-out rates from compulsory education. From both groups the aim was to promote social inclusion.

The two programmes allowed an array of interventions to take place inside and outside of the classroom, such as the development of intercultural educational materials and appropriate materials for targeted learning of the Greek language, planning and implementing a programme of compensatory classes, carrying out in-service teacher training, classes for parents and work with the community. The project regarding the Muslim minority, in addition, created a number of multivalent Community Centres and mobile units for the education of young people in remote areas.


Principal legal provisions in force concerning the use of regional or minority languages 

The only minority language which is officially recognised and protected by the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) is Turkish, spoken by the Muslim minority in Western Thrace. Its recognition has been established by religious – and not national or linguistic – criteria. Apart from Turkish, a number of other languages are spoken by indigenous populations: Arvanitika, Pomak, Aromanian, Roma, Armenian, Ladino and Slavomacedonian. Due to the immigration flow, in recent years especially there are also numerous immigrant languages spoken in Greece: mainly Albanian, Bulgarian, Russian, but also Chinese, Pashto (Afghanistan), Urdu (Pakistan) etc. There are no official data concerning the exact number of immigrants, their nationalities and language. It can be assumed that their number is about 500,000-700,000, i.e. about 7%.

In the Greek area a number of regional dialects are also spoken: Pontic, Cretan, Tsakonian etc. These dialects are in a process of recession due to the prevalence of Standard Greek.


The Muslim minority of Western Thrace

The Muslim minority are Greek citizens exempt from the exchange of populations in 1923 according to the Treaty of Lausanne. It is composed of three ethnically different population groups: the largest one is Turkish speaking and of Turkish ethnic identity, the other is Pomak speaking a Bulgarian dialect, and the third is Roma speaking either Turkish or variations of Romani languages. The Treaty of Lausanne constitutes the basic charter of the Muslim minority’s education and gives them the right to establish schools, where they may use their own language and freely practise their own religion. On the basis of this legal arrangement, bilingual schools were set up in Thrace offering a Turkish-Greek curriculum.


This language was spoken by populations settled in Central and Western Greece from what is today Albania during the late Middle Ages. Arvanitika was strongly influenced by Greek and now is gradually becoming extinct.

Aromanian (Vlachika)

Vlachika is the Romance language spoken by the Greek Aromanians, generally known as Vlachs, a minority who lived in the mountainous regions of Thessaly, Epirus and Pindus. Following the signing of the Treaty of Bucharest in 1913, Romania funded a number of Vlach schools, a situation that came to an end after the Second World War. This minority is nationally assimilated to Greeks though it maintains a special loyalty to its traditions. Vlachs try to maintain their language by using it on special occasions. However, their language is now considered by the Council of Europe to be in danger of extinction, with only 50,000 out of 200,000 Aromanians speaking it.


Armenian is the language spoken by the Armenian minority, which numbers around 20,000 people. This number includes those who fled Turkey during the 1915 genocide as well as those who came to Greece as economic immigrants more recently. Under the supervision of the Armenian community mother-tongue classes (Saturday classes) are offered in Athens and Thessaloniki. 


Although decimated by the German deportations during the Second World War, there is still a Judaeo-Spanish community speaking Ladino of around 5,000, of which around half live near Thessaloniki. Under the supervision of the Jewish community, mother-tongue classes (Saturday classes) are offered, mainly in Athens and Thessaloniki.


Slavomacedonian, a South Slavic language, is spoken by a minority population on the border of the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria and Greece. There is no teaching provision for this language , as due to political reasons its status has been the object of controversy 


Teaching foreign languages within the education system and actions promoting Greek 

The Greek school curriculum offers two foreign languages. English is the leading foreign language: it is compulsory from the first grade of elementary school up until the end of lower secondary school, initially for one hour and from the third grade onwards three school hours a week. French, German or Italian are the second choice of foreign languages. French and German are offered from the 5th grade of primary school and Italian from the first year of lower secondary. Through their schooling, students are expected to have developed B-level competence (on the 6-level scale of the Council of Europe) in English and A2-level competence in French or German by the end of lower secondary school.

Social needs for languages have made it necessary for many families to send their children to evening language schools and to provide them with private tuition classes for additional foreign language proficiency.

The Greek language

The mission of the Centre for the Greek Language (CGL), which is the official state institution for the language, is: the overall support and promotion of the Greek Language in Greece and abroad; the organisation of Greek language teaching to foreigners; the support of teachers of the Greek Language; the production of conventional and digital materials and resources which may contribute to the promotion and spread of the Greek Language.

The CGL has two unique Archives of the Greek Language (the D. J. Georgakas Archive of Modern Greek Language and Literature 1800-2000, of 3 million slips of paper carrying excerpts, and the Em. Kriaras Archive of Medieval Greek Language and Literature, of 1.5 million slips of paper), on the basis of which it is preparing two national dictionaries). In addition, the CGL over the years has developed an abundance of digital language resources (covering Greek in its diachrony from antiquity to the present) easily and freely accessible to all (link); it also devised distance courses to train teachers in the teaching of Greek as a second/foreign language.

The CGL is the body responsible for the Certification of Modern Greek in Greece and abroad (link). The official exams are held annually every May, through the Centre’s certified 160 Examination Centres abroad, and certify proficiency, on the six-level scale of the Council of Europe,  in alignment with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) – which has been translated and published by the CGL in Greek (link). Besides proficiency language testing for general purposes, the CGL conducts Certification Examinations For Special Purposes (i.e. for EU citizens, returning Greek expatriates, immigrants, refugees). This is the official State Certificate for Greek.

Foreign languages

The Greek state’s multilingual policy has been facilitated since 2003 by a large-scale project developed by a group of experts from the Universities of Athens and Thessaloniki. This project has resulted in the development of a multilingual examination suite – known as KPG - offering people who are living and studying in Greece language proficiency exams in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Turkish. The Greek Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs administers the exams and is responsible for the state certificate to successful candidates. The State Certificate for Language Proficiency in each of the six languages is officially recognised as a work qualification. 



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