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

Mitch Larramore mitchlarramore at yahoo.com
Sun Jun 7 20:14:59 EDT 2009

Dr. Buth:

I apologize for not being very clear in my last post. Yes, I think people can learn Spanish and subsequently "think" in Spanish as long as they are submerged in the culture or being taught by someone having been baptized in the culture. My daughter grew up speaking Spanish in the house and English in school. Often she would speak both simultaneously and ask me, "What language am I speaking now?" But she started at the age of 1 day old (with her mother).

What I should have said is that people can not think in a "dead" language, regardless of what modern nuances we assign to the ancient words that appear on a piece of paper. When submerged in a culture, you can taste, see, hear, experience, touch, smell, cry, love, hurt, be afraid, angry, etc. all the words and phrases particular to that culture, but you can't immerse yourself in Koine Greek, if you ask me. Reading volumes of works, no matter for how long, always keeps you at arm's distance from the culture and their words/phrases/etc. 

I spent a couple of years in Greece. Modern Greek students considered Ancient Greek to be a second language. It is very difficult for them to comprehend when they read ancient Greek. So much so, that they are not at an advantage over an English student studying the same ancient, "dead" language. They thought, of course, in modern Greek, so they often were confused and couldn't get past "unlearning" their modern Greek words/constructs/etc. I didn't have that problem, making that another advantage as an English speaker. 

I was amazed at how hard Ancient Greek was for these native Greek students. Many of the native Greek students dreaded having to take Ancient Greek. They had an easier time with Koine/Biblical Greek, but even there I was amazed at how poorly these students, not GUMNASIO level kids, but PANEPISTHMIO level, understood Koine grammar and syntax. It was rather hard for them to diagram basic Biblical passages. 

When talking with some of the professors of Biblical Greek, they often would say that they had a distinct advantage in understanding the fine nuances of Koine due to their having grown up in Greece. When I asked for some examples, they were not really able to produce any of interest, some of which they mentioned I had already read about in Advanced Greek Grammars. It reminded me just how much Greek had changed over a couple thousand years. 

Please don't take this as anything against your fine institution. I think you are definitely going about the study of Koine the best way available for us today. And perhaps I'm just over-reacting against the native Greek students and their inability to grasp ancient Greek. I was really expecting them to run circles around me.

Mitch Larramore
Sugar Land, Texas


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