[B-Greek] Finding Time, was: Tips for first-time teaching of NT Greek?

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Wed May 7 07:52:51 EDT 2008


>> Mark Lightman Wrote:
>>  Your students will
>>  learn Greek very well if they are bitten with the Greek]
>>  bug, if they wind up averaging say an hour of Greek a
>>  day for the rest of their lives.  If they don't, they won't.
> I am not sure if the "If they don't" refers to being bitten by the
Greek bug or to averaging an hr/day or to both.  I assume to both.  I
find that a little discouraging and a bit unrealistic.
I am having a hard time to get an hour a day of Greek.  I could do it
if I were to neglect some of my other duties.  I am especially
thinking of my duties as husband and Father but there are other
obligations as well.  (And I am enjoying the happy circumstance of
having a wife and children who are more than willing to make
allowances so that I can indulge in my "strange" obsession.)
However, I am content with the idea that I may never get really good
at Greek.  At least I am enjoying the trip, even if my goal is only to
reach the half-way house and not to do the whole course so to speak.
What about someone who is learning Hebrew as well as Greek.  (S)he
pretty well has to get up in the morning, go to work, come home, have
supper, study languages, go to bed.
Very few people could do that without neglecting something else.
(Unless someone works 8 hrs/day and lives right next to the
Bert de Haan.>

Well said.
Academic 'uniformitarianism' below 'escape velocity'
(slow, steady, never arriving) will probably not work well for
persons beginning Greek studies after 'normal' schooling years.
Has normal become Post-35?
There are two or three approaches to solve the problem.

1. There may be occasional 'level-jumping' periods. Level-jumping
periods are times when a person gets into a semi-immersion
situation for 3-6 weeks and literally rises a 'level', an academic
year's worth of fluency, artificially calculated at expectancies of
what happens with languages more easily measured, like modern
Hebrew. I've calculated that it would probably take about four/six
6-week summer immersions to reach a functional fluency in Greek.
Our program doesn't have the teachers or student base to develop
all these levels, YET. (Not that we don't have the desire or vision.
But one step at a time.)
Don't despair from these figures! When I say 'functional fluency' I
am talking about a level that people do not even dream about at
the moment. Even after the first level, Greek starts to feel like a
real language. We have materials for a second level but have not
yet run it. Contact us this Fall. And start playing with some of the
audio MP3 already available.
(The same is true for Hebrew, though it is much more easily
achievable, since biblical can piggy-back on modern. Biblical
Hebrew coursework ba-tfutsot hasn't caught on to that yet, but
it's true. Modern Hebrew morphology transfers 100% to the old
language, not like modern Greek. All of the fluency developed in
modern transfers to the ancient language. It works the other way,
too, when taught correctly. We have many summer Biblical
Hebrew students continue in modern Hebrew and find the transfer
relatively seamless. The fluency they started in the Biblical ulpan
transfers to their modern and just keeps growing. [NB: this does
not happen for students from biblical Hebrew traditionally taught.
They must start over and do not get to pass 'Go'. At about the four
to six-month mark things finally 'click' and they start hearing
Hebrew and taking advantage of the surroundings for immersion
language learning.]

2. A Tuesday night "Jesus Book Club". We suggest that to our
NorthAmerican Hebrew students, though the principle holds for
Greek, too. A first century Greek book club.    Most of our
Hebrew students are Christians who would like to read the
book that Jesus read with his followers.  In US culture,
Tuesday is the most neutral, open, evening of the week.
It is a time when people, even church groups could get
together for a shared book night. The first year a church group
would need an intro to the language, but the second year and
following would allow groups to read and discuss various books.
Realistically, the teachers and students would not be at a level
to discuss this in Hebrew, but they would be at a level that
should satisfy Bert's wishes. But to do Greek AND Hebrew
would require a Monday book club, too. And that would
probably appeal more to the cross-country and tennis crowd
than the football fans. [To non-US listers: Monday night has
traditionally had a professional US football game on television
in the Fall. If that is still practiced, then there might be
distractions for sports' fans. Hopefully no distractions.]

3. You are going to need to start talking to yourself and learn
to be learning through listening. There is often 'downtime' in
a week when a person can get some good listening in. The
caveat in this, though, is that listening in a new language is
usually much more tiring than listening to the radio in a
language already well-known. The principle in point 3 is to
find useful 'downtime' and to mix it with pedagogies and
resources that most enjoyably use the 'downtime'.
Sociological predictions are that we will have more and
more of this 'downtime' in the coming generation as life
becomes more and more automated. One will just need to
filter the 'information overload' with constructive use of
available time.

4. An old truism with language learning is that it is best
early in one's life. the earlier that this is done the more
natural the pedagogy must be. The idea of reserving it
until someone is mid-twenties, and then using
pedagogy guaranteed not to lead to fluency, is what
you would wish for your enemies, not your friends.
So those who may have missed this window may go
back to points 1-3 -- AND advocate for newer programs
for the next generation. there are high school students
on this list and they could really be going places if we
had pedagogy and courses in place designed for their
capabilities and for 'intermediate school'.
[NB: WHD Rouse said the same thing about
100 years ago. A flame, a light, and snuffed by
the bureaucracy and technology of the time. Some
generation this cycle will break. Now? We certainly
have new technological options if we could think thru
how to best use them.]

* Unnumbered. We encourage students to speak with
spouses in the language of interest. A spouse does
not need to be a graduate student or biblical studies
student in order to enjoy sharing a language and
reading a text with a spouse. But the intro into the
shared language needs to be fun and attractive if a
larger percentage of spouses will willingly join the

If the above seems rosy, remember that optimism
can be constuctive.

Randall Buth, PhD
randallbuth at gmail.com
Biblical Language Center
Learn Easier - Progress Further - Remember for Life

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