[B-Greek] A Greek Pedagogical Question

Kent Clarke kentdclarke at hotmail.com
Tue Jul 19 00:32:47 EDT 2005


Friends and Colleagues of B-Greek:

 

I was recently asked by a fellow Greek professor to look at an internet site
that seeks to help Greek students learn the language through a more
inductive (reader oriented) approach. I have formally taught Greek for five
years now (but began my own study of the language almost 15 years ago) and
admittedly use a more deductive (traditional) approach. With lots of
encouragement and some individual hands on instruction for students having
difficulty, we seem to have had very good success (putting through close to
70 first year Greek students each year, the surprising majority being
non-Greek/biblical studies majors; and close to 20 second year students, the
majority being Greek/biblical studies majors).

 

After looking at the site for several hours (which can be viewed at
http://www3.telus.net/norbertre/index.html ) I sent the following response
to my colleague. I would be very interested in any feedback from the B-Greek
list (and especially from Greek professors more "seasoned" than I, but also
from those students of Greek who may have learned the language more
inductively) regarding the whole pedagogical approach between deductive and
indicative language approaches. I attach the following:  

 

The site seems to be well done. I think Norbert's efforts are rewarding,
especially when applied to a traditional approach to teaching and learning
Greek (that is, how you and I teach Greek haha).

 

However, I'm not sold on his idea (or his more inductive approach) as an
exclusive approach to learning Greek. I think it is good that students begin
learning to read Greek text right away, but in order for them to read text
well (which I hope they do by the time they get through with you and I) it
would literally take years and a very large number of stories to complete
what we attempt to teach more deductively in two years.

 

There has been much talk about an inductive approach to learning Greek (or a
more reader oriented approach) over the last decade or so, but I know of few
that have really produced a Greek aptitude in students who have used these
approaches (perhaps Athanaze's Classical Greek grammar being at least one
exception with its more deductive-inductive combination). In some ways, I
think the inductive approach attempts to be a "soft sell" for anxiety ridden
students. Learning Greek deductively (i.e. through paradigms, grammars, and
syntax) is hard work, but its tried, tested, and true. The inductive
approach (i.e. learning through immediate language usage and contextual
recognition via tools like stories or texts laden with singular syntactical
features etc), while initially more rewarding, really fails to help all but
the most motivated student progress beyond the most elemental parts of the
Greek language. Not to mention the fact that more inductive approaches may
tend to turn Classical or Koine Greek into a modern spoken language when its
not.

 

If you think how long one has to be completely immersed into a second
language culture to be an adequate user of that language (I have been told
on numerous occasions, for example, that if one wants to learn a second or
third modern language fluently, it would take him/her two full years
immersed in that specific language culture. This is the ultimate inductive
approach; which is virtually impossible to do with ancient Greek. Norbert's
"system" has good potential usage, in my opinion, when combined with a more
traditional and deductive approach (any additional resource that gets a
student practicing the language is beneficial). So, for example, when
Norbert teaches students the use of the first declension noun, it would work
well when combined as an exercise after the first declension noun is taught
deductively (but I really think more modern Greek grammars like Mounce's
Koine Greek text with its workbook, while having some short-comings, does
this same thing quite well already).

 

I hope I'm not close minded, but my own learning process in regards to
Classical and Koine Greek (and I really began with a terrible language
aptitude!!!, but now I teach the subject) has me convinced that despite all
the short-comings of a deductive approach to the Greek language (first and
foremost being that it can be quite difficult if students are not constantly
encouraged and given the "bigger grammatical picture"), there really is no
substitute for rolling up your sleeves and memorizing basic Greek grammar
(inclusive of paradigms) and vocabulary. As students advance and continue to
learn and use the language, they will slowly become more proficient at
recognition and be less and less dependant upon paradigms. I think that few
of us who continue to use Greek can produce faithfully all 52 some odd
paradigms now, but hopefully one can correctly parse a particular noun,
verb, or participial form by recognizing its distinct lexical or
declensionary features (i.e. the basic augment and sigma form for the aorist
indicative, reduplication and kappa for the perfect indicative etc, etc)
eight out of ten times without needing to turn immediately to a lexicon. I
don't think I would be as proficient at doing that if I did not at some
point during my first or second year of Greek memorize all the paradigms.
The other thing that the deductive approach offers with the memorizing of
paradigms etc, it that you learn quite quickly (generally within one year)
the basics of the entire Greek grammar and how the language more broadly
works. The inductive approach generally does not offer that as effectively,
and in fact more often than not I think the process of learning grammar in
an inductive approach can drag it out so long that the student never really
develops a broader and connected understanding of how the Greek language
actually works. So I think an inductive approach combined with our
traditional deductive approach is best. What do you think??

 

 

I would be grateful for any discussion or insight from the list members
regarding any issue I have raised

 

Kind Regards;

 

Kent

 

Kent D. Clarke (Ph.D. Bristol) 
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies 
Seal Kap House 
Trinity Western University 
7600 Glover Road 
Langley, British Columbia 
Canada V3A 6H4 
Ph. (604) 888-7511 ext. 3116 
Fax (604) 888-5336 
E-mail kentc at twu.ca

 

 

 




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