About learning Greek

Chuck Tripp ctripp at ptialaska.net
Sun Mar 10 23:20:59 EST 2002

> "Vocabulary and cards..."  would you mind clarifying this please?

The goal I guess is this: to think in greek as you read it rather than doing
simultaneous translation.  When I first started in this, I managed to get a
hold of little flash cards to pick up basic vocabulary, e.g. KURIOS=Lord,
ERXOMAI= I come, etc.Which is o.k. I guess to get started.  There is a
limitation though and it is this: greek kind of becomes english by another
name.  It's not so bad when you are dealing with nouns and fairly straight
forward verbs, but when you get into some of the particles and the words
that tie greek syntax together, it kind of breaks down in my opinion.  It
has taken me the longest time to sort out those word which don't seem to be
doing anything in a sentence.  They only begin to make sense to me if I am
thinking in greek.

Now I write out my own 'flash cards' but with a difference.  First off, I
use the 3x5 cards (I used to cut them into 4 pieces but there was not enough
room for all the information I wanted to include).  When I encounter a new
word that I think is worth remembering, in addition doing the standard
looking up of the word, i'll write the sentence in which I found it.  If the
word is a composite, i'll look up the base word without the prefix so I get
a sense of how the prefix changes the meaning of the root word.  I'll look
up several of the noun and adjectives (if it is a verb) and write that down.
So in the end I sometimes fill my card and even go onto the back.

Here is an example:

I ran into the word AIXMALWTOS in Herodotus 1.129.  I am pretty sure it
appears in the LXX.  If I were simply making a simple flash card I would
have just written 'taken captive' or 'captive' and forgotten the word.  But
AIXMH, a related word, means the 'point of a spear.'  AIXMALWTOS then should
bring to mind the mental image of someone being lead away at the point of a
spear, not the image of the letters C-A-P-T-I-V-E.  So I wrote AIXMH as

Here's another one:

STIZW.  Ran into that in Hdt 5.6.  Mark with a tattoo.  Usually a sign of
disgrace.  Looking up and down the from STIZW, I noticed STIGMA: a tattoo
mark.  I know that word, stigma in english.  I wrote STIGMA down too on my

Here is a third example:

Ran into ARAOMAI, in Hdt 1.132.  Definition: pray to a god, curse vow.
"...ARASQAI AGAQA..." in Hdt 1.132.  Looked up and found ARA, hH.  Prayer,
vow, curse.  Second definition: Godess of destruction and revenge.  O.K. I
am thinking that this word originally meant to call on ARA the godess of
destruction and would properly mean a curse but the word could in a generic
sense mean to pray.  Upon further looking I find that KATARA,  (KATA+ARA) is
the common word in LXX and GNT for curse.  Makes sense, KATARA would be a
more intense version of ARA.

All this helps me to know the word in a greek context as opposed to the
context of a 21 centure english speaker.  You would not want to this with
every word though, pick your battles.

Chuck Tripp
Kodiak, Alaska

----- Original Message -----
From: Peter Osborne. <s351016 at student.uq.edu.au>
To: Chuck Tripp <ctripp at ptialaska.net>
Sent: Sunday, March 10, 2002 11:37 PM
Subject: Re: [b-greek] Re: About learning Greek

> Thanks for all of those thoughts Chuck.  Reading and hearing is something
> that a few have mentioned. I didn't quite follow your second last para
> "Vocabulary and cards..."  would you mind clarifying this please?
> thanks
> Peter.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Chuck Tripp <ctripp at ptialaska.net>
> To: Biblical Greek <b-greek at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
> Sent: Saturday, March 09, 2002 7:06 PM
> Subject: [b-greek] Re: About learning Greek
> > Peter,
> >
> > I have been experiencing very much the same frustrations.  Prior to
> > embarking on my greek project, I had picked up to different degrees two
> > living languages (besides my native english) and one of the things that
> > makes learning greek different is that it is a deadl language with no
> native
> > speakers.  You can't watch sitcoms in N.T. Greek, you can't get together
> > with a bunch of native NT greek speakers to where  greek syllables,
> > and sentences are just running through your head as you fall asleep at
> > night.
> >
> > Normally when you are learing a new language and listening to somewhat
> else,
> > you'll hang on a word or phrase that you don't understand, ponder it for
> > second, and if you can't decode in that time you let it go because the
> > speaker is still speaking.  In Greek, because you are reading, you might
> > spend hours on a sentence.  Which is not really how the human mind
> a
> > language.
> >
> > Suggestions.  When reading, I assume you are in the decoding phase of
> > learning where you spend a lot of time looking up words, de-cyphering
> > syntax of a sentence etc.  After you have de-cyphered a chapter, be it
> > the NT, LXX, or other ancient greek text, go back and read it quickly,
> > you would a newspaper.  Try reading it out loud.  Because you've
> de-cyphered
> > it you should now be able to read it with meaning.  What I do, is I
> > all the words I don't know, number them, and using numbered notes along
> the
> > margins write short definitions.  That way when I go back through
> I
> > don't have to stop and look up works again.  Also another idea is to
> > ahead a chapter or two at one shot, don't stop to look up words or pause
> to
> > decypher syntax.  Just read.  Then go back and do your de-coding.  Then
> > back again and read as you would a newspaper.
> >
> > Other suggestion:  there is a website: greeklatinaudio.com I think is
> > address where the guy is posting MP3 readings of the N.T.  I think he is
> at
> > about Matthew 18 or so.  I download the new readings as they are posted
> and
> > listen to them at my desk at work on my computer.  The guy uses modern
> greek
> > translation.  There is also a tape set of the GNT which is available at
> > Christian Book Distributers.  Zodhiatese I think is the author.  Again
> > modern Greek pronounciation.  I started doing that on the suggestion of
> > B-Greekers and I have found that to be very helpful, very helpful.  Just
> > listening seems to have awaken a part of my brain to the learning of
> > that was not previously engaged.  I find my self repeating to myself,
> > and pieces of N.T. greek sentences a similar experience to when I was
> > learning my two second living languages.
> >
> > Vocabulary and cards.  Try to think of a sentence where a given word you
> are
> > learning has been used rather than just an English equivalent.  Try to
> > detach Greek from English, so that Greek is just Greek.
> >
> > Finally, I would advice what I call brute strength and ignorance, in
> > words naked tenacity.  I have been at this for 7 years.  There have been
> > times like you where I get sick of it and lay it aside for 6 months,
> forget
> > a bunch then get back to it.  But it is possible to reach your
> >
> > Chuck Tripp
> > Kodiak Alaska
> >
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: Peter Osborne. <s351016 at student.uq.edu.au>
> > To: Biblical Greek <b-greek at franklin.metalab.unc.edu>
> > Sent: Friday, March 08, 2002 11:37 AM
> > 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
> 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
> > > basically forgotten 70% - 80% of the grammar and especially the vocab
> > 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
> > 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
> > > 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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> > >
> > >
> >
> >
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