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

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Fri May 9 13:30:04 EDT 2008

We may be quite close once accomodation is made for terminology.
See below **

On Fri, May 9, 2008 at 2:56 AM,  <vunzndi at vfemail.net> wrote:
> Dear Ruth,
>  let me please say first of all that I agree entirely that an approach which
> the student does not internalise a language in anyway whatsoever will not
> work. but rather it also needs to be noted that non grammar-translation
> methods do not always work. By halfway houses I was refering to those
> methodologies thet students internalise but do not have total fluency as a
> primary aim.

In a sense, our summer SXOLH may be one of these halfway houses.
Efficient for vocab and internalizing, but with grammar description
(mostly Greek, though) providing for an analytical side and
allowing a student to see structure that they haven't internalized.

>  Studies of adults who move from one language community to another show that
> whilst these adults can function to a degree in a second language, however
> without specific language study there are some points of a language that are
> not usually grasped.

This is especially true for international expats who need to work in a new
country and often use English in international settings. There is also the
'plateau' phenomenon where language learners adapt to a particular level
of competance and just freeze forever. Extensive free reading often
releases a person to make continual forward progress. A class framework
can add both supervison and structure to that progress.

>  The basic unit for communication in the sentance, however non-native users
> of a language often translate at the level of words. There are many cases
> where the changes a not a matter changing words but of different structure.
> A simple example would be, "Hello, Mr Green!" in say Chinese the word order
> changes to that of "Mr Green, hello!".
>  Learning a language has levels - if a persons understanding is at level one
> then then can understand a level one expression by either what they know or
> extending vocabulary, and a level two expression may be comprenedable with
> guidance, however a level three expression is beyond the person. Many
> language learners try to improve by increasing vocabulary, though some
> vocabulary increase maybe needed it is guided exposure to language of the
> next level up that is essential. Other language learners are at level one
> and wonder why they do not progress by exposure to level 3 language.
>  In fact by this model there are more than 3 levels to Koine Greek ( I would
> say 4 or 5) - the key to a good course is how to enable people to progress
> from one level to the next. Whilst grammar tramslation without
> internalisation can not efficiently achieve this - if the aim of a
> individual is to be able to read the New Testament , a programme of
> carefully selected material should enable a person to reach this goal in
> much less time than the 10 thousand plus hours required to master a
> language. Furthermore paying attention to translation issues is essential if
> the aim of the individual is to in many cases express the conclusions of his
> findings in some language than Greek to others.

Yes, I would think 4-6 levels would be a practical way to assess overall
progress for Koine. I think 10000 hours is excessive, though. Foreign
students at Hebrew U go thru a 6-level training that accumulates
approximately 46 "credits" of modern Hebrew, which is required, but is
not credited to their degree programs ! smile !, and may be passed/
skipped by proficiency exams. If one calculates 15 class hours+15
outside study+20 play/extra usage per credit, then a student will have
typically invested 2500 hours into language acquisition during
their first 12-24 months of a program. They probably come out at a
Hebrew equivalent to an English TOEFL level of 550 and above. I am
not sure since, I don't work with English testing either here or at US
institutions where I've seen that figure. In any case, they are expected
to be able to take classes, lectures, tests, and write papers in
Hebrew. The first semester after achieving the level can be an
excilerating, challenging experience as the student translates their
rating on paper to reality. The above is why I tend to use the figure
3000 hours. 10000 is better, of course. The nice thing about 3000 is
that the student is already at such a high level that they simply keep
using the lanuage and will pass 10000 hours at some point if anyone
were counting.

>  In conclusion yes - grammar translation without internalisation is not
> really up to scratch, but also internalisation without grammar transaltion
> also does not meet the true needs.

I read your last sentence in different directions. If it means using efficient,
communicative teaching techniques and including enhanced grammatical
input, and extensive reading, assisted or not. then oui, absolument. I
would certainly expect students to take and pass traditional exams,
even to score higher for the same time input.
If it means assuming that grammar-translation is an engine that will
achieve whatever internalization is necessary for the desired reading
skills or that it might do so with minor adjustments, then we are talking
two different approaches and not taking advantage of how humans are
wired for rapid language acquisition. The nice thing about
some approaches is that learning can be at a 200% faster rate and
be fun. I would recommend reading some of the case studies in the
first 50 pages of James Asher's Learning A Language Through
Actions, 6th edition, 2004. The studies include classes and students
tested for grammar and reading after the first year against equivalent
control groups.


>  Regards
>  John Knightley
>  Quoting Randall Buth <randallbuth at gmail.com>:
> >
> > John Knightley egrapse
> > <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.
> >
> > >
> > >
> >
> > shalom John,
> > Thank you for the input on the broader points. I've extracted one
> > item that reflects a common assumption that I think needs more
> > discussion within a 'point of antithesis' discussion.
> >
> > It seems logical that if a primary goal is reading, that the most
> > direct and efficient way to the goal would be to just read.
> > But is it? Are humans wired that way?
> >
> > This reading goal and framework is often thought of within second
> > language acquisition studies as a historical mistake that the
> > Coleman (?) commission made in the 1920's in US education
> > policy. With "wonderful" 'monolingual' results to use John
> > Schwandt's term. [last sentence was friendly but ironic ]
> > Today, second language acquisition and full literature
> > programs do not treat the 'reading only' programs as
> > 'supplying the goods'. Graduate students who do 'German for
> > Reading' courses do not think in the language and cannot do
> > a close, literary reading of a text in that language. The 'for
> > reading' courses are for people who are NOT interested in that
> > language, for people who do not intend to spend their lives
> > perusing that literature. Literature departments do not
> > recommend that their own students do such courses.
> > I think that it is important for discussions about KOINH to come
> > up with programs that can compare to full literature programs.
> > For people who may be teaching or would like to comfortably
> > read the literature from WITHIN the language. The halfway
> > houses where people don't internalize the language already
> > exist. But because of the way that they are structured,
> > they become Hotel Californias. "Such a lovely place."
> > What about people who want a full language program? They
> > want to internalize KOINH.
> > Some of the seminary students will be among them.
> > Certainly next generations teachers. Surely there are many
> > out there that want out of Hotel California.
> >
> > Randall

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

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