How much daily reading? a bigger question
ButhFam at compuserve.com
Sat Jan 5 20:35:11 EST 2002
>I would like to hear from those teaching Greek (and others at a similar
>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
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
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
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
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
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
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
the design of the "field of study". Recognizing the problem is the first
to a solution. There are actually quite a few things out there that could
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
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
so thank you for a question, and pray that the 'field' keep an open
mind on where it wants to be next generation.
Randall Buth, PhD
Director, Biblical Language Center
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