[B-Greek] A question to Dr. Buth and his school's teaching methodology

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Mon Mar 30 08:41:16 EDT 2009

On Sat, Mar 28, 2009 at 1:16 AM, Eddie Mishoe <edmishoe at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Dr. Buth:
> You seem to emphasize a lot of verbal, out loud learning of Greek, which leads me to ask how your students are to continue their studies once they return home, away from other "speakers" who employ your method? I certainly am not criticizing the oral teaching method, it just seems to me that once your students return home, they return to the reading/researching of the (dead) biblical text, and other Greek texts. Do you instruct these students to read and learn vocabulary "out loud, orally" when they are back in isolation in their studies?
> Eddie Mishoe
> Pastor

shalom Eddie,

As always, good questions often involve a complex interaction of
factors that makes quick, easy responses difficult. But I'll try.

I guess first, it's important to underline that the bigger question is
'how do humans most efficiently learn languages?'. The paradoxical
quick answer is "by using a language". The fastest and only guaranteed
method of learning a language is by using a language.

Aural-oral pedagogy develops out of that because spoken communication
ends up taking place as rapidly as people can speak and forces
communicators to process a language at these speeds. And aural-oral is
known to work in first languages, and it isn't limited by potential
dyslexia (there is no corresponding "dysaudia"). Aural-oral practice
develops processes in brains that function faster than one can think
about them. Such rapid communicative skills take considerable time to
develop, and we've mentioned figures like 2000, 3000, and 5000 hours
on this list. Your question ultimately becomes "how does one work
towards those 2000+ hours?"

Before answering, let me add another paradox. Reading can contribute
towards the high skills mentioned above, but it only seems to do so
when it is built on a fluent core usage of the language. That is, if a
person can rapidly communicate with a basic core of a language,
reading will allow the language skills to grow and mature into the
full language. On the other hand, reading only, without a
communicative fluent core, will not lead to that mature fluency and
control of the language. There is ample testimony to the truth of this
last statement by both Hebraists and Grecists who have spent 20+ years
in the field if they have not had a spoken, rapid language use
accompany them throughout their years. Several of my friends here in
Israel have an additional personal perspective. They can compare
Hebrew use and functionality with Greek when evaluating all of these
questions. We all agree that there is a major piece of a language
missing when one cannot rapidly process a language at communication
speeds. Even when reading one does not process the language 'from
within' if one does not have that rapid-internalized core and the
ability to think with and within the language.

So how does one continue, assuming that they have started to build an
aural-oral core?
a. they speak with a friend who is also learning/using the language. A
husband wife team is also valuable for this. As I say often, "language
is a team sport". (NAI, H GYNH MOY [H HDH OMILEI TH EBRAIKH] ηρξατο
b. listening to materials is good, and these should include some at
something of a natural conversational pace. It is important that these
listenings be/become understandable. It does no good to listen without
understanding, though by understanding I am not talking about
consciously and rapidly labelling words (parsing), I mean following
and picturing what is being said according to the language being used
as it is being used. We have a growing supply of audio recordings in
Koine Greek and should have John and 1John with PDFs available for
general distribution in about two weeks. (I must finish prooflistening
and send it to the US for easiest distribution.)
c. speaking to oneself while reading is good, e.g. rephrasing whatever
one has just read, summarizing or putting into a different time
context or different person (1st person to 3rd or vice versa) can be
d. a person can pray or take moments to try to describe whatever is
going on around them. This usually results in quickly pointing out
items that need work and makes those items easier to remember when
encountered and learned.
e. begin to use the language. this is simply a reprise of 'a' in this
list and needs to be repeated because there are many people out there
who would like to do this if given half a chance. How does one develop
excellent conditioning and endurance? by starting an exercise program.
It even helps to find some interesting material to read and discuss
with friends.
In particular, pray for the leadership of those planning Koine Greek
programs and those involved in academic fora like SBL and ETS. The
situation needs to change and it takes a certain amount of courage to
step out in a direction that most people are trying to pretend doesn't

(isn't it nice to feel properly greeted by ERRWSO?
That feeling of wellbeing comes from using 100 times in real communication.)

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

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