[B-Greek] Point of Antithesis in Language Teaching Methodologies

vunzndi at vfemail.net vunzndi at vfemail.net
Wed May 7 21:06:07 EDT 2008

John Schwandt has an interesting point here. The aim of studying a language.

Living in an area where education is in the national language, but  
people speak a different language at home, and where English is taught  
as a second language using achievement rather than proficiency  
tersting (that is one is tested basically as to how much of the text  
book(s) one can remember).It should be noted that being bilingual does  
not guarantee some one will be able to translate between the two  
languages - there are many bilingual people in the world who can not  
effectively translate between the two languages they know. Also there  
are sadly many people who use the grammar translation method (refered  
to as the monolingual method below) to learning a modern language -  
the result being they can pass certain tests but not communicate in  
that second language.

Language learning can focus in five basic skills reading, writing,  
listening, speaking and translation. There do exist people who have  
mastered some but not all of these skills to a high degree, a common  
one being those who can read English but not speak.

What does this have to say about learning Koine Greek - it says  
firstly that if ones primary aim is to be able to read the New  
Testament in Greek and where desired translate a phrase or sentance  
into ones native tongue then a methodology based upon reading and  
translation, with attention of the principles of translation and good  
dictionaries, will sooner or later work if one puts in enough hours.  
Graded but natural material can be of great help. For the student who  
has already read through the New Testament reading other Koine  
material as well as re-reading the New Testament is the logical way to  
go. Second in days gone by when Classical Greek was a high school  
subject, studying classical Greek was one way into koine Greek. Third  
to study a language in a non grammar translation methodology requires  
resources to create a foreign language enviroment, opportunities to  
read/write/listen and speak, this is a great challenge when  
considering Koine Greek.

There are a number of half way houses approaches which break the  
grammar translation / monlingual mould but do not treat Koine Greek as  
a modern language. These sometimes are limited by requiring the  
students a some point to sit an achievement (assumes grammar  
translation method used) rather than proficiency test. As a educator  
it the development of such half-way houses that offers in the  
forseeable future the best hope for progress in the teaching of Koine  

John Knightley

Quoting John Schwandt <jschwandt at nsa.edu>:

> In these discussions I have often discussed antithetical methodologies of
> teaching language.  I think Bert's terminology to describe the
> institutionalized methodologies of Big Classical Language Education:
> Academic 'uniformitarianism' below 'escape velocity'(slow, steady, never
> arriving)
> demonstrates that there is an antithesis.
> I used to distinguish between methods that strive toward fluency and those
> that don't, but I believe the term "fluency" and confuse the issue.  I don't
> think I have anything novel to bring to the table but below is my most
> recent attempt orient myself to the topic.  I would appreciate any comments.
> I think it is most helpful to distinguish between monolingual approaches
> (where students must translate to understand) and multilingual approaches
> (where students are expected to think in the target language.).
> The issue of fluency (assumed use of language without translation) is only a
> measure of material or quantity within a multilingual approach and can vary
> widely.  Thus "fluency" is unhelpful for the debate between monolingual
> approaches and multilingual approaches since it is merely an internal issue
> within the multilingual approach.  (It confuses the issue to use the term
> equivocally for multilingual approaches.  I am guilty of this unintentional
> equivocation.)
> The point of antithesis between monolingual and multilingual approaches is
> whether students are learning how to think in the target languages
> (multilingual), or merely use paradigms and mathematical grammatical formula
> to translate it into English for it to have meaning (monolingual).
> Here is a brief list of what I see are opposing traits of each approach: (I
> hope my outline formatting comes through.)
> Monolingual
> 	1)	Students and teachers never think in the target language
> (with the exception of "salve")
> 	2)	They never learn how to learn to think in a foreign
> language. (They never learn multilingual methods, the will use the same
> methods to learn the target language as they used to learn biology.)
> 	3)	Students and teachers are dependant on their translation to
> understand meaning.
> 	4)	The speed and enjoyment of understanding the meaning of a
> passage is slower and more difficult than a multilingual approach since
> there is a necessary conversion/translation step rather than immediate
> understanding within the target language.
> 	5)	It only exists in graduate schools (all languages) and
> "dead" languages at any level
> 		a.	Seen as a short cut to get students to a level where
> they can understand the meaning of texts without taking a large number of
> language courses.
> 	6)	There is a plethora of recourses and curricula
> 		a.	Curricula that emphasize inductive or deductive
> teaching translation skills are available.
> 	7)	Easy to administrate
> 		a.	Rote memory of vocabulary and forms is something
> easy to quantify to justify student progress
> 		b.	Easy to find teachers and swap them in and out of
> the machine
> 			i.	There is a low bar of experience to lead a
> class through a formulaic curriculum
> 			ii.	The current institution of academia only
> produces monolingual teachers
> 		c.	Transferability of students and classes is easy
> since nearly everyone uses the same type of curricula
> 	8)	Such approaches will never arrive ("achieve escape
> velocity") at any level of multilingual fluency (see #1)
> Multilingual
> 	1)	Students and teachers think in the target language to
> greater and lesser extents.
> 		a.	This is true even if the universe of discourse is
> quite small (e.g., To "get around" on a Greek island you only need very
> basic grammar and about 1000 vocabulary words.  Of course to do more than
> "get around" like talk about ones hopes and dreams a person will need to
> gain a broader understanding / fluency)
> 		b.	They end up dreaming in the target language (not
> merely about letters and forms.)
> 	2)	Students and teachers learn how to learn to think in a
> foreign language.  (They learn new methodologies for training their mind not
> readily apparent [or forgotten] in their home language.)
> 	3)	Students and teachers do not need to translate passages in
> order to understand them.  They can simply read them with understanding in
> the target language.  Thus they will necessarily have a better understanding
> of the passage, since the translation conversion process necessarily changes
> things.
> 	4)	The speed and enjoyment of understanding the meaning of a
> passage is faster and easier than a monolingual approach since students and
> teachers avoid a necessary conversion/translation step
> 	5)	This type of learning is common for most modern language and
> ESL courses.
> 		a.	It is extremely rare to find a "dead" language
> taught this way.
> 		b.	It is seen as an unnecessary burden to expect
> students to actively think in the language (which necessarily would involve
> compositional skills) when they will only have texts to read (which they
> could simply learn how to translate).
> 	6)	There are only a few classical language curricula that
> pursue this approach.  But there are plethora of ideas, activities, lessons,
> and methods developed in ESL curricula that can be used for any language.
> 		a.	Curricula that emphasize inductive or deductive
> teaching translation skills are available.
> 	7)	Not as easy to administrate
> 		a.	Grading becomes more subjective like literature
> courses (big surprise).  Student must be graded by questions about their
> understanding of the content of passages rather than lists and formulas.
> 		b.	It is difficult to find teachers willing to work in
> the language and elevates the role and value of the teacher and the
> investment in the teacher.
> 		c.	Transferability of students and classes is not as
> easy since nearly everyone uses the a monolingual curricula, but
> multilingual students will certainly succeed in monolingual courses.
> 	8)	Such approaches will yield the fruit available from
> monolingual approaches (ability to translate into one's home language) since
> they no the meaning of the text and know how to best represent that in their
> first language.  Actually, they will be better translators since they will
> not be slaves to formulae.
> Blessings,
> John Schwandt
> ---
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