Greek is the official language of the country and the mother tongue of the vast majority of the population, although the English-speaking visitor has no significant language problems. English is the most widely learned and understood foreign language in Greece, followed by French, Italian and German. A basic knowledge of English can be expected of almost everyone working in the tourism industry and in public transport. Learning a few Greek terms such as “hello” and “thank you” will be most welcome.
The Latin and Cyrillic alphabets were derived from the Greek alphabet, and about half of the Greek letters resemble their Latin counterparts, and most Greek letters resemble their Cyrillic counterparts. With a little study, it is not too difficult to decipher written names and common terms such as “hotel”, “cafeteria”, etc. You will find that place names on street signs throughout the country are often transliterated in Latin letters (some signs, especially on newer streets, are even translated entirely into English).
Like everywhere else in Greece, you will find several spellings for the same place because the Greek alphabet has been transcribed into Roman and because Greek grammar rules change the spelling of the word depending on whether it is the subject or object of a verb or to indicate possession (each of these rules also changes the pronunciation), and because of the 1976 language reform. On the maps you will see signs and place names spelled differently for the same place. Sometimes a place is written as it is pronounced, sometimes it is written with Roman letter substitutions. So you will see Heraklion, Iraklion, Heraklio and Iraklio for Ηράκλειο and Rethymnon, Rethymno, Rethimnon and Rethimno for Ρέθυμνο.