[B-Greek] efficiency in classrooms

Dave Smith (REL110, 211,212) rel21x at charter.net
Fri Jun 2 11:05:12 EDT 2006

I wonder if Ed has not hit upon a bit of truth here, which has to do with
reading a language on the one hand and conversation on the other. It is
understandable why Hebrew Ulpans are so successful, although these neither
use 7th century B. C. E. culture or pronunciation. Hebrew does have the
choice of either Ashkenazi or Sephardic pronunciation, though Serphadic has
won out in Ulpans as it has in BH. On the other hand, there are at least
three choices in Greek: reconstructed classical pronunciation, Erasmian, and
Modern Greek. Though I was taught Erasmian, it was not long before I
realized that this was concocted and flawed, and that system's rendering of
diphthongs and U seems to rely on equivalencies that do not exist.
Pronunciation is not the only factor here, but also stress and the tonal
qualities of the accents.

I believe there are benefits to speaking a language in class, even for those
who only seek reading comprehension. It is the use of another sense, thus
the input to the learning centers of the brain is increased & multiplexed.
One might also suggest some Baklava, Souvlaki, Ouzo or Retsina. Allowing a
little flavor and aroma could make the 20 hr/wk a little more palatable! As
a young man, I took a Koine intensive, though it was only 10 hr/wk for 8
weeks. I can still hear many of that instructor's Greek phrases and words
ringing in my ears after 30 years. Dr. Buth's idea will definitely make a
contribution to the learning process, though I'm not sure of the
time/results ratio when the goal is to read, not necessarily to speak.

I would like to pose one question. Is it not necessary to use Modern Greek
pronunciation and stress to parallel the benefits of a BH ulpan and a Koine
ulpan?  Though less useful to those who have lived with the Erasmian system
for years, it would be accepting the evolution of language, rather than
creating another Esperanto. In contrast to Hebrew, which possibly concluded
its natural development and evolution with the written form of the Mishnah,
it appears that the evolution of Greek has never ceased.

Now, I do think Modern Greek speakers have a bit of an edge over
English/American speakers when reading the NT or other Greek dialects. The
parallel is probably much greater than one who knows German and attempts to
read Beowulf in Anglo-Saxon, that a Frenchman who does the same. Now the
Frenchman could have an advantage in Chaucer, but not Beowulf, and a speaker
of Modern English would have the advantage over both when reading Chaucer,
even though a certain difficulty still exists. Are not the liturgies of
Chrysostom and the Koine GNT still read in Orthodox services weekly?

David Smith
Hudson, NC

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Eddie Mishoe" <edmishoe at yahoo.com>
To: "Randall Buth" <randallbuth at gmail.com>; "b-greek"
<b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Friday, June 02, 2006 07:50
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] efficiency in classrooms

> I certainly don't want to be a killjoy in this
> discussion, and the one's before it of the same ilk,
> but I think it should be kept in mind that trying to
> teach Koine Greek by speaking it (as best we can
> assume it was spoken), does not aid one in acquiring
> the "native" (cultural) aspect of the language. We
> will always struggle with what kind of Genitive was
> likely to have been meant, a struggle native speakers
> would not encounter. We will always look at Koine from
> the outside. We may FEEL a few words or phrases here
> and there, but not the language itself, and being able
> to reproduce the 'sound' of a language does not aid in
> understanding the 'meaning' of a language. What we
> can't do now that Koine has come and gone is immerse
> ourselves in the culture (that is where language
> acquisition comes from). Knowing how a word ought to
> be pronounced brings you no closer to understand how
> that word works in all its splendor, wonder, and
> cultural sensitivities.  This is why a native Modern
> Greek speaker is no more closer to understanding the
> culture and language of Koine than one whose native
> language is English. Once the culture is gone, it's
> gone. If professor A reads volumes of Greek
> proficiently, but does not pronounce his words
> correctly, and professor B reads volumes and
> pronounces his words correctly, why would professor B
> be any better off?
> With the above in mind, I certainly would not
> discourage someone from trying to understand how a
> word or phrase, or even the language as a whole, would
> have sounded in Koine. One should not assume that by
> so doing this he/she will therefore better understand
> what it is like being a native Koine Greek resident
> steeped in its culture.
> Eddie Mishoe
> Pastor
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