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English Language in Cyprus

The British colonial past of Cyprus (1878 until 1960) has left Cypriots with a very good level of English. Today English language is no longer an official language in either the Republic of Cyprus or the Turkish occupied north, the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, though English remains official in the SBAs. Since the effective partition of the island in 1974, Greek and Turkish Cypriots have had little opportunity or inclination to learn the others language, and are more likely to talk to each other in English.

People who visit Cyprus tend to speak to the locals in English as it is highly expected that the Cypriots are able to use the language almost fluently. The tourists to Cyprus come mostly from the UK and other Northern European countries that use English as a lingua franca, a fact that contributed to the domination of the English language, especially in the Tourism industry. Additionally there is a relatively big proportion of Greek Cypriots who have lived and worked or studied in the UK and in some cases, in the USA. Knowledge of English is considered to be a substantial qualification for any employee in the country. Also it casts a symbol of sophistication and almost every Cypriot is making efforts to enhance their competency in English language skills.

English is fairly well represented in the local media: the radio, the television and the print. There are some English language radio channels, and some Greek ones, which broadcast regularly news in English. However, there is no dedicated, English language radio news service. As far as the Television is concerned, there is no channel broadcasting in English, even though on the national channel CYBC 2 there is a regular English language news programme. There are three English language newspapers on the island, a news daily, a news weekly and a business weekly. They are available in several shops.

Consequently it isn’t essential to learn Greek, even if you plan to live and work in Cyprus. Unfortunately, because of the vast range that English is spoken by Cypriots, many foreign residents make very little effort to learn more than a few words in Greek and tend to live a life in isolation as if they were on an extended holiday. Not only one can get by this way, but consider how ideal will that situation be for any person willing to reside and work in Cyprus!

There are some business sectors, such as tourism, construction and some areas of information technology, where you do not need to communicate in Greek to do business. Whether you are planning to work or start a business in Cyprus, learning Greek should not be seen as an option, but as a necessity. In fact if you are a professional wanting to practice your profession, it’s essential to learn the language. Speaking some Greek will transform both the social life and the business opportunities of a foreign resident!

Further more, deciding to learn Greek could help you to appreciate and take in the Cypriot philosophy of life and also assist you when you want to make an excursion in the countryside, opening many doors that remain firmly closed to resident ‘tourists’, because older people in the countryside rarely speak English. By just learning the basic pleasantries in Greek one can earn the respect of Greek Cypriots.

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