How much daily reading? a bigger question

Randall Buth ButhFam at compuserve.com
Sat Jan 5 20:35:11 EST 2002


TW BRENT
CAIREIN

>
>I would like to hear from those teaching Greek (and others at a similar
level 
>of proficiency) as to the minimum number of lines that should be read each

>day in order to gain proficiency in Greek.  In other words, how much did 
>you read per day to get where you are today with your Greek.  
>
>As I draw my introductory class to a close this semester, I would like to 
>have a baseline for my students set by various people who have already 
>attained proficiency. 

You have raised a very important question, one of  the most important 
questions for this list where so many are involved in various stages of 
learning Greek or teaching. 

I have several different kinds of answers/advice for various parts of the 
question. 

1. "Minimum number of lines":  I am in the process of developing guidelines
 for a two-year segment of a program that will take a person to an 
intermediate fluency in Koine Greek.  At the moment the expected minimum 
reading figure is 35,000 lines. That figures out to about 350 to 500 lines
of 
reading per week, depending on whether vacations are included in the 
reading schedule. On a five-day week that would be 70 to 100 lines per day.

However, this overlooks point #2:

2. "in order to gain proficiency in Greek". This needs to be raised within
a 
larger framework: does anybody become proficienct in any language 
through only reading? I don't believe it, though it may sometimes feel that

way in closely related languages like German or French where the student 
has ALSO been exposed to interactive classes for a couple of years at an 
earlier stage or where they were able to visit people or places and use the

language for a short period, e.g. 2-3 months. 
 
3. " teaching Greek (and others at a similar level of proficiency)". My 
experience of Greek teachers is quite different from Arabic, Hebrew or 
 French teachers. While there might be a few exceptions out there, ancient
 Greek teachers do not have usually have basic fluency in the language that

they are teaching. For example, if you asked a French teacher to describe 
what they did over "le week-end" in French, they would do so without a 
problem or major effort. (If they can't, they need to be a French student 
a while longer.) For an ancient Greek teacher this would be a much 
greater effort, comparatively. A comparative example:
I run a special Biblical Hebrew summer school. I would not hire an
instructor 
in Biblical Hebrew who cannot speak Hebrew with me and cannot conduct 
the class in Biblical Hebrew.  

4. A person can read Greek daily for twenty years or more and not reach 
a basic fluency in the language. OU CRH, TAUTA OUTWS GINESQAI.
 The best thing for the field, in my opinion is to ask if the emperors are 
wearing any clothes? The field will need to redesign itself if it wants a
true 
proficiency to be attained by students and teachers alike. By the way, I 
would find this quite time consuming to write to you in Greek. I admit to 
not having real clothes. Not from lack of effort in training or study, but
from 
the design of the "field of study". Recognizing the problem is the first
step 
to a solution. There are actually quite a few things out there that could
help 
the field. 
DUSKOLON AN EIH TO TOUTO UMIN GRAYASQAI 
ETI MALLON TO DIHGEISQAI UMIN TI EPOIOUN EXQES. 
ALLA -- NAI -- TADE MEN WDE HN EUKOPA, PLHN BRACEA.

5. A little trick that can be useful: 
When reading a text, paraphrase it to yourself in your own Greek words on 
the spot. Use synonyms, shorten or expand. Retell in a different tense, 
redescribe a past sequence in the present or vice versa. (You will 
probably
find this challenging, at least as much as classics students when taking a 
composition course.) (Writing, by the way, is a different skill than simply

speaking a language. There is considerable pressure to analyze and rethink 
one's thoughts that does not occur in normal speech communication. Students

discover this in their first language when trying to write term papers and
essays.) 

so thank you for a question, and pray that the 'field' keep an open 
mind on where it wants to be next generation. 

blessings,

Randall Buth, PhD
Director, Biblical Language Center
www.biblicalulpan.org



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