Clea Gaïtas Sur applies trilingual ability for connections at home, school


Photo Submitted: Clea Gaitas Sur

STARTING EARLY. Since a young age, Gaïtas Sur has been heavily involved with the Greek language and community. “Speaking Greek helps me connect with my mom’s family and culture,” she said. Her family believed it was important for her to embrace this part of her identity in her childhood.

In the US, roughly 22 percent of kids are bilingual; however, relatively few of those kids can speak Greek. Junior Clea Gaïtas Sur not only speaks Greek proficiently, but she is also learning French at St. Paul Academy and Summit School.

Because French is Latin based and Greek is not the two languages Gaïtas Sur can speak are quite different. Accordingly, Gaïtas Sur’s knowledge of Greek is not the most helpful when it comes to learning French. Despite the two language’s differences, Gaïtas Sur said, “I think knowing a little Greek and having a bilingual mom gives me a good ear for language,” which helps when it comes to learning any new language, specifically French.

Among many other benefits, being able to speak multiple languages can increase both cultural awareness and strengthen connections between family and place. “Speaking Greek helps me connect with my mom’s family and culture,” said Gaïtas Sur. Eliminating the barrier that language can create makes her interactions and bonds unique. “I would like to learn more [Greek],” said Gaïtas Sur, “so that I can have more engaging conversations with my Greek family.” Learning more Greek must be done outside of school, as it is not a class offered at SPA.

I think knowing a little Greek and having a bilingual mom gives me a good ear for language”

— Clea Gaïtas Sur

Although Gaïtas Sur can’t take Greek at SPA, her knowledge helps with many of her classes. “A lot of words originate from Greek, so it is easy for me to know the meanings,” said Gaïtas Sur. Greek word parts appear in several classes, ranging from English classes to science classes like Biology. When doing homework, “my mom points out words that originated from Greek that I didn’t even know about,” said Gaïtas Sur.

While her ability to speak Greek is quite helpful in the classroom, Gaïtas Sur doesn’t use Greek that often. Gaïtas Sur sometimes speaks some Greek with her family: “I’ll occasionally throw a little around with my mom’s parents” said Gaïtas Sur. It is not easy to find people to speak Greek with, as there are only about 365,000 people who can speak Greek in the US. Gaïtas Sur’s ability to speak Greek impacts her life daily: it aids in the learning of other languages and connects her to her family and culture.