[B-Greek] Polis: Speaking Ancient Greek as a Living Language

Mark Lightman lightmanmark at yahoo.com
Tue Jun 23 21:15:51 EDT 2009

I just finished the book.  Randall's comments below are all very accurate.
I would just add:
Though the book is designed for beginners, as an intermediate Greek learner
I found it very helpful as a review.  The exercises test your active learning 
abilities.  You spend more time listening to Greek and writing in Greek than
you do reading, and everything you read is in Greek, including the chapter
headings, the grammatical  explanations, and the directions for the exercises.
If your Greek is pretty good, you can skip the French even if you know it,
 and it is a strange and pleasant experience to spend about 10 hours 
reviewing the basics of Greek without ever
encountering any English.  The graphics of the book are great, with large,
multicolored fonts.  Many of the passages are based on the NT. 
The c.d. is wonderful, giving you a chance to listen
to unfamiliar Greek that is at times very dramatic and funny.  The book covers
about 40% of the grammar and then ends.  I'm looking forward to future volumes.  If you
are brand new to Greek, you probably either need to know French or should
wait for the English version, but again I think on one level, the better your
Greek is, the more you will enjoy this book.   Whatever
you think of living language methods, I would imagine anybody of the list would
find this book interesting and lots of fun.   Where else will you find a book that
has Antiochus Epiphanes sounding like a Greek teacher?  Rico has him say to the
Mark L. 

--- On Sun, 5/31/09, Louis Sorenson <llsorenson at hotmail.com> wrote:

From: Louis Sorenson <llsorenson at hotmail.com>
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] Polis: Speaking Ancient Greek as a Living Language PS
To: "B-Greek List mail to all" <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Date: Sunday, May 31, 2009, 4:01 PM

The title of the work is 
Polis : parler le grec ancien comme une langue vivante by Christophe Rico
ISBN 2204087572
book is alas in French and will have less of an impact than it could
have were there a parallel version in English (which would increase
sales tenfold).  I'm sure it still has value for English (non-French)
readers. BTW, I've noticed there are certain areas where the French
seem to have a stronger presence in certain subject matters. Epictetus
and the Septuagint are two).  

Are the language learning
methods in Europe for classical languages the same as in the English
world?  Dr. Buth and Rico are both in Israel, where multilingual
environs exist. It's most likely that there is where innovation and
ingenuity by those using living language methods to teach Hebrew.
Porting those successful experiences from Hebrew to Greek only makes
common sense.

Louis Sorenson
Date: Mon, 1 Jun 2009 00:20:13 +0300
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] Polis: Speaking Ancient Greek as a Living Language PS
From: randallbuth at gmail.com
To: cwconrad2 at mac.com
CC: llsorenson at hotmail.com; b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org

besides all of my typos in the email I just sent, 
I also found that the skits and dialogues in Christophe's
book have French translations provided 
and the exercises have answers provided 

between the grammar tables and the lexicon. This 
will certainly help the student outside of class.


On Sun, May 31, 2009 at 11:59 PM, Randall Buth <randallbuth at gmail.com> wrote:


It is good to see people aware of Polis by Christophe Rico. 

I think that is a book that can encourage many Greek teachers 
in doing a 'living language' approach to teaching Greek. The 

website has quite a few notes and articles. This is a happy day 
for Greek studies because it is another voice about the direction 
that the future must take.

Throughout the book there are little skits of daily situations where 

students interact in Greek about their lives, first about Greek 
class and then in the larger world. I think this is especially useful 
for people to see how a language can be used for meaningful 
communication even in early stages. There are some NT texts 

woven into these chapters and some cute little drawings often 
illustrate a feature of the skit or story.

One feature that I appreciate is that Christophe is not afraid to step 
out of the bounds of antiquity. He has coined τηλεφωνον 

THLEFWNON for telephone and applied Homer's ωκυπορος 
WKYPOROS 'swiftboat'
to a train, similarly to Wilson's application of ωκυπορος 
υογοητικη WKYPOROS YOGOHTIKH to the Hogwart's Express

in his ancient greek Harry Potter. Wilson, though used 

αμαξοστοιχεια AMAKSOSTOITEIA 'carriage line' for train. whether 
done in class for fun and comic relief or outside of class, items 
like this are inevitiable when a language is transported into a 
new culture. (It still happens today when an Amazonian or 

Phillipine tribal language 'comes out of the jungle'.

So how does one use the book? For that I am not the best person 
to ask since I haven't used it or seen it in use. My impression is 
that is is not for self-teaching but is limited for use with a teacher. 

throughout the lessons in the book, the material is listed in Greek
without translation and much vocabulary is obviously intended to 
be introduced in class by the teacher. there are many written 
exercises that may help a student absorb/practice a grammar 

point introduced in the lesson. A lexicon is given in the back 
of the book with an estimated 600 entries. these are not defined by
have an example sentence provided in Greek with a French 
translation. A second caveat is that this book is not considered to 

be complete. Christophe intends to produce more materials. 

Of course, it becomes easier and easier to stay in Greek the 
farther along a student gets. while a student will need help getting
started, by the end of the book a student should have become 

accustomed to working in Greek. The grammar terms are in 
Greek, though these have a lexicon in an appendix with french
translation. They are mostly identical to what I use and we have 
discussed the advantage of getting together and trying to unify 

usage where we can. E.g., we both have GENIKH DOTIKH and 
AITIATIKH, though Christophe uses EYQEIA where I use ORQH.
And neither of us chose the other option ONOMASTIKH for 
nominative, even though the last term was chosen by Western 

Europe for the Latin to French/English trajectory. Christophe 
does not have a term for 'aspect', where I stick my neck out and 
Greek values for what was somewhat an underdefined category 

in antiquity.) When we get a chance we can also discuss word 
choices like Rico's SIKERA as 'cidre' (from MHLWN apples). 
SIKERA is a transliteration of Hebrew shexar, which was most 
probably good ol barley juice beverage (beer). SIKERA is in the 

NT (often mistranslated), though the common Greek word for 
beer was ZYQOS ζυθος. These are words students need to know if 
they are going to use the language.

The book does come with a nice CD and about an hour of 

recordings. These will be very helpful to a student but the 
limited length also shows the need of having a class for 
implementing the book. There are several student voices
acting out the scripts with engaging voices along with 

Christophe in the role of the teacher's voice. Pronunciation is 
Erasmian. Christophe defends this decision in print as allowing 
the pronunciation to follow a more fully differentiated spelling. 
Historically, it can be justified from the time of Alexander and 

the beginning of the Koine (3cBCE). Privately, he admits that 
'Living Koine' is a much closer fit to the first century but with so 
many years with one pronunciation he is not considering 
changing. And Christophe cannot use his pronunciation in 

For those interested, we can speak to each other in Greek 
and understand the different pronunciations. Learning to 
speak is more important that dialect. However, one should 
note that the pronunciation chosen will likely end up staying 

with the student if practiced for years. Christophe has also 
acknowledged the 1st century Koine pronunciation by having 
Jordash, one of BLC's Greek teachers read John 1:1-5 for 
a sample on the CD. 

It is wonderful finally seeing this in print and Lord willing it will 
be followed by more volumes. 
I would recommend this book highly for anyone on the list 
teaching Greek. 

And of course, the subliminal message is that we need to 

set the bar where student and teacher and communicate in 
the language. that wasn't very subtle, was it?


On Sun, May 31, 2009 at 1:09 PM, Carl Conrad <cwconrad2 at mac.com> wrote:

On May 30, 2009, at 9:43 PM, Louis Sorenson wrote:

Does anyone have an in on the forthcoming book (September 2009), Polis,
Speaking Ancient Greek as a Living Language. ? What language leaning
methods does this book use? (-- I have not had time to fully evaluate
the site's 'THE POLIS METHOD').  The method is described on the web
page.  How does this differ from Dr. Buth's method?  Is this the
beginning of more than one text using living language methods?

In fact there's quite a bit of information available at the web-site: http://poliskoine.com/site/ 

Evidently it's a method developed by Christopher Rico at the École
Biblique in Jerusalem and being taught at the University of Santa Croce
in Rome. Randall must surely know something about this -- and I wonder
whether Bill Mounce hasn't had some awareness of it.

Carl W. Conrad

Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
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