About learning Greek

Trevor & Julie Peterson 06peterson at cua.edu
Fri Mar 8 07:50:14 EST 2002

Well, one thing is to keep reading. I presume English is your native
language, but if you went nine months without communicating with anyone
else, or using exclusively another language, you might find that you had
some trouble getting back into it. How much harder is it for a language like
ancient Greek that you probably haven't internalized. I don't know of
anything geared more specifically to your needs, but the material that
Randall Buth is developing is intended to overcome some of this. The first
course is basically all listening, with clauses and phrases set to pictures.
It gives you the chance to learn Greek in much the same way that you
probably learned English--no one explains everything to you--you just hear
some familiar stuff and some new stuff constantly applied in varying
situations, and your mind naturally sorts out the features. You might not be
able to explain all the details of the grammar in technical language, but
you know how to use it. Moving from there into reading was basically a
matter of learning to match the symbols on the page to the sound formations
in your head. One thing that makes Greek so hard to learn, the way that it's
normally taught, is that there is none of this internalization. In just
about any modern language class (except the one-semester deals that get
graduate students their reading requirements) you learn to read and speak
the language. To reduce the process to reading only tends to make it into
more of a logical puzzle that you solve rather than understand.

Of course, I'm only part-way through the first course, so I can't say too
much about how well the method works. But I do think it has an element
that's been absent in other approaches. Otherwise, I would suggest reading
regularly--until you've done so for a long time, your grasp on the language
will never be so strong that you can retain it well without constant
interaction. I would also advise, if you haven't done so already, learning
the language "both ways." Don't just learn to read--learn your vocabulary
both ways, and learn your forms well enough so that you can inflect
spontaneously. Play around with the language. Try composing some stuff in
it. Try shifting sentences that you read from first person to third. I had a
friend who would talk to himself in languages he was learning. Some people
like to try composing prayers in Greek. Whatever interests you and gets you
working creatively with the language can only help.

Trevor Peterson

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Peter Osborne. [mailto:s351016 at student.uq.edu.au]
> Sent: Fri, March 08, 2002 3:37 PM
> To: Biblical Greek
> Subject: [b-greek] About learning Greek
> Hi,
> This is not a technical question about Greek language, but a
> question about
> learning strategies.  I'm an undergraduate Ancient History/ History major
> who has a strong interest in Biblical Greek.   I started studying NT Greek
> under Dr. Rick Strelan (a subscriber) and I'm indebted to him for a gentle
> introduction to the language that did much to build my confidence and
> enthusiasm for the language.
> I then switched to Classical Greek because it suited my plans for
> post-graduate study better.  The transition was not easy because the vocab
> was different.  I studied a further two semesters using the JACT "Reading
> Greek" course (Cambridge Uni).  I must admit that most of the time while I
> was doing this course I felt as if I was barely keeping my head above
> water - I certainly did not feel that my learning was secure -
> even though I
> was a diligent student and managed excellent marks.  I then
> stopped studying
> Greek for nine months and this semester have taken it up again.
> Much to my dismay, on revising my previous learning, I find that I have
> basically forgotten 70% - 80% of the grammar and especially the
> vocab I have
> learned over the three previous semester of study.  Rick will be gratified
> to know that his stuff is the most secure of all.
> I'm quite discouraged about this because I am genuinely interested in
> achieving some proficiency in the language (as opposed to just passing
> exams).
> Have others had similar experiences?
> I know everyone's different and for this reason, people are sometimes
> reluctant to guide others in these sorts of areas.   But could anyone
> suggest a strategy or strategies to make the learning more secure
> given that
> I have about 10 hours per week available, I would like to relearn
> the stuff
> I've forgotten, and I'm faced with a fairly solid regime of new stuff to
> learn together with practise translations?
> I have been using a card system which means I can do memorising on the bus
> and train - but perhaps something more is needed?
> I would really appreciate the benefit of others' experience and ideas.
> thanks
> Peter Osborne.
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