How much daily reading? 3 a bigger question

Randall Buth ButhFam at
Tue Jan 8 18:36:20 EST 2002

(Please excuse the resending/rewording I had an email 'glitch'.)
>But I have doubts concerning your method. Classic Greek isnt just any 
>language, its 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  communication.
>we start to write in greek we arent actually  reliving the good old days 
>but rather, at best, poorly imitating that that ones was.
>Jerker Karlsson

The above is exactly the challenge. 
Please notice that the above actually mixes two concerns. 
1. It is true that our knowledge comes from carefully sifting though old 
2. But that doesn't mean that we need to teach it that way. 
Consider the other side: 
every language is equally dead in a classroom. The students come in 
without the "code". The teacher, hopefully, controls the code, pretty well.

When we teach Bib. Hebrew we actually use TWO teachers for much 
of the time. Two teachers, both of whom share "the code", are able to 
respond to each other in appropriate ways. Students who are watching 
are able to learn things that are difficult to teach directly. 
e.g. "sameaH"/"`atsuv" 'happy'/'sad' with approriate acting. 
A:  "ha-`atsuv atta?   B:  "`atsuv"  
A: ha-sameaH atta? B: SameaH, eni `atsuv/
Our biggest problem i the field of Greek studies is that teachers do 
not control the code to a high/fluent enough level to shift into more
modes of sharing the code. 

So if we can teach Russian or Chinese in a classroom, why not 
ancient Greek? One typical excuse is "perfectionism"--i.e., we can't know 
if the teacher is perfectly controlling ancient Greek. Actually, we 
can assume the opposite--the teacher will make many mistakes. But the
students still learn at a much faster rate. Any natural language learning 
is actually on a continuing track of self-correction. Things get better 
and better for the student, expecially as they read lots of original 
text and bump into idioms and structures that they have either been 
looking for or struggling with. Learning is deeper and sticks longer than 
when taught through another language. Teaching Greek through English, 
Swedish or Hebrew would guarantee misconceptions on a grosser scale. 
I've certainly seen this with Hebrew. The misconceptions that arise in 
Hebrew by learning through a foreign language continually arise in my 
classes at Rothberg (Hebrew U) with foreign students. Anyway, my 
main point is that classrooms make all langauges "dead". It is up to 
teachers to bring students up to a FLUENT "state of the art". And that 
probably requires restructing the way we teach Greek. 

a quibble:
" an [sic] language not spoken or written for thousands of years"
Actually, people were writing a 'high language' until relatively recent 
times. Josephus probably didn't speak like he writes. Throughout the 
Byzantine period the elite and educated continued to write a
Greek. We don't use that material to 'prove' meanings and structures 
from ancient times, but those people certainly knew their Greek to write 
such material. And they would have had a much easier time perusing the 
old material than people incapable of conversing in the 'old style'. Even 
more remarkable, during the Byzantine times those people were handling 
that high language with only a modern phonology plus "/y/" (i.e. 
[OI] and [U]). 

Randall Buth

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