How much daily reading? a bigger question, 3

Randall Buth ButhFam at
Tue Jan 8 16:48:49 EST 2002


>But I have doubts concerning your method. Classic Greek isn’t just 
>any language, it’s a dead language, an language not spoken or written for 
>thousands of years. Knowledge in greek comes froe careful studying of 
>the sedimentations not from lively participation in ongoing 
>When we start to write in greek we aren’t actually  reliving the good old 
>days but rather, at best, poorly imitating that that ones was.

The above is the challenge of a special situation. 

Your doubting is mixing two different points: 
1. Yes, we have knowledge of ancient Greek based on careful studying
of the 'sedimentations'. 
2. But we don't need to teach the language that way.

All languages are equally dead in a classroom. Only the teacher, to one
degree or another, knows the 'code'. This is true of Russian, Chinese and 
ancient Greek (classical or koine). 
(Actually, in our Biblical Hebrew ulpans we use two teachers. They can 
teach more effectively be speaking and responding appropriately at 
times when direct communication with a student would be slow.)
e.g. A: "sameaH atta?"  B: "sameaH" (A:'are you happy?' B:'happy'.)
The teacher's job is to efficiently bring the students up to a FLUENT 
control of the 'state of the art'. 

Sometimes people assume that the teachers are supposed to be 
perfect and not make mistakes. When the teacher does not teach 
a mother-tongue we can assume mistakes, lots of them. That is 
not the problem. In natural language teaching students learn rapidly 
and continually self-correct as they encounter new material with the 
features, vocabulary, or structures that they were wrestling with. 
(By the way, this natural self-correcting process is already in the 
literature in second langauge acquisition studies. See Stephen Krashen's 
writings in particular.) The process also takes place faster than if 
continually filtered through English, Swedish or Hebrew, KAI TA 

a quibble:
"an [sic] language not spoken or written for thousands of years"
Ancient Greek has been written until comparitively recent times. 
Throughout the Byzantine era the elite and educated continued to
write a full classical langauge, even while pronouncing it with basically
the modern pronunciation plus /y/ ([OI], [U]). Of course, we don't 
use their material for 'proving' or attesting particular nuances or
at an earlier period. But think of the relatively easy access that those 
writers had of the ancient language! That should be the goal for our 
own teaching. 


Randall Buth
Director, Biblical Language Center

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