[B-Greek] Beginning Greek Textbooks

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Wed May 24 08:12:18 EDT 2006

We go through this exchange several times a year -- with a pretty  
much predictable array of broadly alternative alternative answers to  
the question, each expressed with a high degree of confidence and  
often warning against the pitfalls of textbooks proposed or endorsed  
by other list-members. Nor do I except my own response from that  
characterization. With regard to textbooks as with regard to much  
else, de gustibus non disputandum est.

My own predictable response:

Beginning (ancient) Greek textbooks fall into categories, depending
  (1) on whether the textbook focuses on
	(a) Homeric,
	(b) Classical Attic, or
	(c) Koine Biblical Greek,
(2) on whether the textbook employs
	(a) the old-fashioned method with lessons offering a brief  
presentation of new grammar items, a few new vocabulary words, and a  
number of made-up Greek sentences (all-too-often formulated in  
English phraseology and converted into Greek with questionable  
idiomatic propriety); there may also be some English sentences to put  
into Greek with the same dubious disregard for Greek idiom, or
	(b) the more recent method with lessons beginning with substantial  
chunks of connected narrative or dialogue or expository text,  
essential glossary for reading that text, explanation of unfamiliar  
constructions illustrated by the initial text, and exercises focusing  
on phrases employing the newly-introduced constructions rather than  
upon made-up sentences.

Of old-fashioned-method textbooks, Pharr is excellent for Homeric  
Greek, Crosby & Sheaffer (a century-old classic), Hansen & Quinn,  
Mastronarde are good for Classical Attic; Clayton Croy is good for  
Koine Biblical Greek (many list-members like Mounce (I don't) and  
many like Machen (I've taught using it and I despise it).

Of textbooks using the more recent method, Athenaze and the JACT  
Reading Greek course are very good for Classical Attic, and Colwell  
and Tune is rather good for Koine Biblical Greek.

The VERY best textbook for Koine Biblical Greek, in my opinion is  
unfortunately out of print, although some of our list-members are  
endeavoring to produce a web version of it: it is Robert Funk's  
Beginning-Intermediate Grammar of Hellenistic Greek. You can see some  
of it on-line now at http://www.nauman.org/funk-bighg/

Ultimately the worth of any (ancient Greek) textbook depends NOT upon  
the textbook so much as on the pedagogical skills of the teacher and  
the industry and application of the learner. I think it is much more  
difficult to learn ancient Greek without having a competent  
instructor or at least some competent consultant to respond to the  
inevitable questions that arise in any course of language study. To  
some extent we hope that this forum provides a makeshift "competent  
consultant" to beginning students of ancient Greek, especially of  
Biblical Greek.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad2 at mac.com
WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/

More information about the B-Greek mailing list