[B-Greek] Subject: Difficulty of reading passages

John Sanders jfs at jfsanders.com
Wed Jul 4 23:23:13 EDT 2007

I apologize for the late response, but I do have some thoughts about learning Greek.
Your comments about graded reading of Greek to help in the learning process are rational, but I do think there may be a better way, but not necessarily easier.
First, a few general comments:  Latin and Greek, for most of us, is a closed set, so we know what we want to learn and be able to read.  Languages are essentially learning patterns, a mosaic of patterns for sure, but still patterns.
You understand the right concept in learning languages in general, that is to practice the language itself.  Practice and practice and practice.  I am a believer in both audio and visual for learning.
You can begin with any book, Luke is as good as any, but you can choose your own starting place.  I would also recommend you procure a audio version of the GNT and then MP3 it.  Then select the amount of time per day you are able to engage in Greek (a cautionary note here, reading a grammar or looking in a dictionary does not count as time engaging in Greek, talking about a language is not the same as talking the language).  
Then you read, listen, read while listening, over and over and over.  I would memorize the passage and then record my own reading, over and over and over.  The first four verses of Luke may take three or four days, the first chapter of Luke may take three or six weeks.  Time is not the measurement stick, but ones ability to speak the verses with ease and comfort.  It is like piano practice, go over and over and over, reading, listening, and speaking; even taking dictation from the recording.  If your vocabulary is week, look up the vocabulary ahead of time.  Visualize your own recording.  There is a lot of dialogue in these books, picture yourself in that dialogue.  If you are able to work with others, take parts in the presentation: narrator, player one, player two, etc. 
This is not easy; it takes a lot of work, a lot of discipline, a lot of stamina and grit on your part.  It is generally more intellectually pleasing to read a grammar than it is practicing and practicing and practicing.  Practicing also appears to be slow; it may take six months, perhaps a year, perhaps longer.  But somewhere along your practicing you will become familiar with the patterns of the language; it will just “feel” right.  You will become familiar with the vocabulary; you will just be comfortable with it.  At some point you will come to a chapter, perhaps in Luke, perhaps in Acts, perhaps elsewhere, you will just read, you are comfortable with the patterns, you are comfortable with the vocabulary.  If you like to read, then you will read Greek as much as you can, just because you can read.  If grammar is not the center of your life, you will put the grammar books away and just read.
I do not wish to imply that grammarians are bad people or that grammar (or linguistics) is unnecessary, but that one can read without always thinking of the grammar or of even being aware of the grammar.  
John Sanders
Suzhou, China
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