[B-Greek] Try something (was Is this a good way to give students 'translation' lessons?

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Sun Jun 7 15:43:05 EDT 2009

Mitch egrapsen

>The most advanced Greek scholars in the world would be significantly slowed down in their reading of some random, obscure ancient Greek text. I think this method (Decker's) works EQUALLY for beginners as it would for scholars. The difference is that they are applying it to different texts. For example, if a Greek scholar comes across a word/phrase/idiom that he's never seen before, he has to look up the word in a lexicon, which defines words in his native language. Granted, he will be able to see more nuances than a non-scholar, but he is still thinking in English.
>Also regarding the use of English when reading or translating Greek, non-native Greek speakers don't "read or think" in Greek; they think in English. They may be able to entertain more thoughts at a faster pace than others, but their thinking in English. Even modern Greek readers of ancient Greek are not thinking in ancient Greek, but in modern Greek. Many people seem to get upset with Dr. Dan Wallace's GGBB because he has so many categories and sub-categories of, for example, Genitives. He is simply presenting in English the thought process that non-native Greek speakers have to go through, even scholars, when thinking through the possible nuances of a Genitive.
> That's why the non-native Greek scholars (whose native language is English, of course) on this web page discuss the issues in English, not in Greek. I suspect that the top Greek scholars in the world could write a paragraph in Greek, but it would take about 100 times longer than to write it out in English.

>Thanks for interacting with this topic.
>Mitch Larramore
>Sugar Land, Texas

I can't help you with Decker's method, except to say that when people
get to more advanced levels they have the new material explained in
the language itself.
E.g., students here learning Hebrew get to a point where new
vocabulary or an idiom or funny structure is explained in a footnote,
in Hebrew. Even the ancient Greeks did this with 'older literature' by
writing footnotes called 'sxolia'.

There are wider perspectives for you to view in language learning.

You are from Tejas.
If an Anglophone learns Spanish to a high level, where they might go
to a lecture in Spanish and
discuss it in Spanish with friends afterward, they will be able to
read a book in Spanish and will not bother to think
in English.
That is a target goal in a second language for a language and
literature that is central to a person's identity or commitments.
And they will forever be learning new things, just like you learn new
English words, assuming that it is your 1st language.
You would probably already be doing the above in Spanish if you had
joined the 'Lifetime Cervantes Society' (this is a fiction I just made

The reason that some get upset with Wallace's categories, or perhaps
more often with the way in which those categories are used,
is that that is NOT how a person thinks, in Greek or English.
Languages underspecify much information, especially when considered
less-critical information. This is a compromise between precision,
ease of processing, and managing to focus on the the main points.

E.g., Greek nominative participles do not mark their relationship to
the subject and finite verb of a main clause, regardless of whether
concessive, conditional, circumstantial, or whatever other categories
might be listed. A speaker/writer simply demotes one event complex
into a participle and then specifies whatever event complex is
considered primary with fully inflected verbs. In many cases neither
the speaker nor the listener will be able to specify  the primary or
exact relationship. But they will know where the main point is.

On the other hand, when the speaker wants to specify the exact
relationship, then the event complexes will be encoded with fully
inflected verbs and a relationship word ('and', 'although', 'while',
'after', 'if', etc) will be placed with one or both of the clauses.
Wallace is essentially teaching students how to paraphrase in order to
maximally specify the relationships between nouns, events, and
That, too, is a useful exercise and tool.  But that 'maximal'
specification was not necessarily part of the original communication
and it almost always causes  a slight shift in the perceived original


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

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