Certification in Greek language competence for non-native speakers
The first steps taken in teaching Greek to foreigners (mostly potential university students in Greek universities) started in 1962. However, from the 1970s onwards, the School of Modern Greek at the University of Thessaloniki, the Institute for Balkan Studies and the School of Foreign Languages at the University of Athens Mensa organized the first established courses. Greek was also taught in organizations, institutions and private language centres. Today, several Greek universities and private institutions in various parts of Greece offer courses in Greek as a second/foreign language.
Up until 1998, the only certificates of attainment in Greek as a foreign language that were recognized by the Greek state were those issued by the School of Modern Greek of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and its counterpart in the School of Arts at the University of Athens. The Ministry of Education established the Certificate of Attainment in Greek legally in November 1998 with the Presidential Decree 363/15.10.
Procedures and processes
The Centre for the Greek Language (CGL) provides overall support and promotion of the Greek language in Greece and abroad, and is also responsible for issues related to language education and policy. CGL is a private law body supervised by the Greek Ministry of Education and cooperating with the Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs. CGL operates as a coordinating, consultative and executive body of the state.
Today, there are several non-formal learning programmes for foreigners to learn the Greek language.
- The General Secretariat for Lifelong Learning offers non-formal learning courses that lead to the Greek Language Competence Certificate. These courses also include elements of Greek history and culture. This is a prerequisite for obtaining a long-stay permit in Greece, according to Presidential Decree 150/2006 (FEK Α΄ 160). A2 level certification is increasingly in demand for jobs in the wider public sector and in the private sector, such as municipal cleaners, taxi drivers and nurses. As these occupations are in demand from foreigners, there is surmounting interest to obtain the A2 level certification.
- The Ministry of Education also offers the National Language Certificate that any individual can attain by passing examinations, regardless of how the language skills were obtained. Organizations in the public and the private sectors recognize this certificate, and it is also a mandatory requirement when applying for public sector positions.
- Some universities and other institutions such as the School of Modern Greek Language of the National University of Athens, the School of Modern Greek Language of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the Democritus University of Thrace, the University of Ioannina and the Institute for Balkan Studies offer Greek language courses for non-native speakers. Participants receive the Certificate of Attainment in Greek after completing the course successfully.
The Greek Language Competence Certificate has six certification levels: A1 and A2 (basic user), B1 and B2 (independent user) and C1 and C2 (proficient user). The Presidential Decree 60/30-6-2010 of May 2011 established these levels in accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages of the Council of Europe.
Adequate knowledge of the Greek language as well as historical and cultural elements are necessary for attaining level B1, determined through an examination carried out under the responsibility of the CGL.
Assessment at all levels comprises the evaluation of the four classic linguistic skills, namely listening comprehension, reading comprehension, writing and speaking. At levels B2, C1 and C2, one more skill is added, namely, the use of language related to the candidate’s morpho-syntactic and vocabulary knowledge.
Methods of assessment
- Closed type (e.g. true/false questions, multiple choice questions, filling gaps in text) or open type exercises (mainly short notes) are used to assess reading and listening;
- Oral discussions in pairs are used to evaluate speaking skills;
- The written test emphasizes the candidate’s competence to understand essential details of certain subjects used in everyday life such as newspaper advertisements, radio and television press announcements, operating manuals, messages and comments. Candidates are also expected to use the Greek language efficiently within a given communicative context and to express personal opinions, write a letter, transmit information and compose short essays;
- the texts used in the written test are authentic texts that are edited and adapted to conform to each certification level; and
- a written test is also conducted with questions relating to basic elements of Greek history and culture.
Since 1999, the Centre for Greek Language (CGL) has been responsible for awarding the official Certificate of Attainment in Greek, in particular, the division for the support and promotion of the Greek language. Candidates can also take the examinations abroad in designated centres according to art. 10 par. 1 and 2 of Statute 2413/1996 (ΦΕΚ 124/τ. Α΄/17-6-96) and Presidential Decree 363/1998 (ΦΕΚ 242/τ. Α΄/29-10-98).
The examination process is open to third-country nationals who are at least sixteen years old and reside legally in Greece (except the examination for the A1 level in which the participants can be also children between the ages of eight and twelve years or teenagers).
Examination centres certified by the CGL conduct a one-day examination. Experienced CGL evaluators grade the examination papers.
Outcomes and ways forward
The Certificate of Attainment in Greek language is being used by foreigners to practice various professions on the labour market. Moreover, foreigners holding the certificate and fulfilling other necessary criteria can be employed as a civil servant in Greece or register at a higher education institution, if they do not hold a Greek secondary education certificate (P.D. 138/9-7-99).
The recognition of Greek language competence is expected to be facilitated through an online system that supports the electronic submission of applications. Therefore, applicants can apply electronically and do not have to visit the examination centres. The online system was piloted in 2014 and rolled out for all examination centres in 2015.
CEDEFOP. 2014. European Inventory on Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning: Country report Greece. http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/country-reports/validation-greece-2014 (Accessed 19 January 2016).
CEDEFOP. 2016. 2016 Update to the European Inventory on Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning: Draft country report Greece. (The draft country report awaits quality assurance content validation).
Greece. Ministry of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs. 2012. Guide to the Examination for the Certificate of Attainment in Greek. Thessaloniki, Ministry of Education, Lifelong Learning and Religious Affairs, Centre for the Greek Language.
Source: UNESCO UIL