[B-Greek] How to Learn Ancient Greek — Mounce and others weigh in

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Fri May 29 08:07:19 EDT 2009

The discussion continues anon. Mike Aubrey has a guest blog by Daniel  
Streett -- actually a repost of a previous comment -- on the question  
of Streett refers to as "the grammar-translation" pedagogical strategy  
for teaching and learning Greek. I have myself consistently harangued  
against the notion that learning morphological paradigms and  
syntactical "rules" along with vocabulary lists that tend to be  
glosses does NOT bring students to a grasp of the Greek text as a  
Greek text, particularly when the "proof of the pudding" of successful  
acquisition of Greek "reading" skills is equated with production of a  
more-or-less literal translation into one's native language. I'm  
delighted to see these same points set forth much more eloquently than  
I could ever have done. You can read it at:
= http://tinyurl.com/ntfk7m

Seumas Macdonald remarks on this entry in Mike Aubrey's blog and gives  
a URL for downloading Streett's second-year Greek exam as a MSWD  
document showing how a Greek course centered on use of the language  
for real communication may be taught and tested for:

= http://tinyurl.com/mwsdmv

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

On May 24, 2009, at 7:16 AM, Carl Conrad wrote:

> The discussion continues:
>> "Hebrew and Greek Reade"r blog:
> http://hebrewandgreekreader.wordpress.com/2009/05/24/conversing-with-seumas-1/
> http://hebrewandgreekreader.wordpress.com/2009/05/24/conversing-with-seumas-2/
> http://hebrewandgreekreader.wordpress.com/2009/05/24/conversing-with-seumas-3/
>> Seumas Macdonald, "Compliant Subversity" blog:
> http://jeltzz.blogspot.com/2009/05/conversational-dead-languages-iv.html
> On May 23, 2009, at 8:50 AM, Carl Conrad wrote:
>> Much of our recent back-and-forth (I guess that means the same thing
>> as the German word I used to like, Auseinandersetzung) over the
>> usefulness of “Reader’s Editions” of the GNT or of Classical Greek
>> texts has turned upon the issue of what has been traditionally termed
>> “proficiency.” Traditional pedagogy in Classical Greek has as its
>> objective the acquisition by students of such proficiency that they
>> can comfortably read — without resorting to “decoding”: parsing aids
>> and glossaries and annotations explaining how the rapidly-recurring
>> problem-passages are to be construed and understood, and without  a
>> compulsion to convert the Greek text into one’s native language.  
>> Older
>> pedagogy in Biblical Greek used to have a comparable objective with
>> respect to the Biblical Greek text, but more recently the teaching of
>> Biblical Greek has surrendered to a far less ambitious goal: teaching
>> students to confront the Biblical Greek text through the analytical
>> tools for parsing and syntax and lexicographic discrimination  
>> prepared
>> by scholars and promulgated as tagged texts in software packages,
>> interlinears, analytical GNTs such as that published by the Fribergs,
>> and, more recently, “Reader’s Editions” of the GNT.
>> Others have noted as have I that teaching ancient Greek by drilling
>> into students the analytical tools for “decoding” ancient Greek texts
>> does not really succeed in bringing students to “proficiency” in
>> reading ancient Greek texts. There must be somewhere in those  
>> students
>> who really want to be proficient a drive to transcend "decoding" or
>> reading by analyzing the parts of a text and to arrive at an ability
>> to read the Greek as Greek -- as it was originally intended to be
>> apprehended by the ears and eyes of those who originally communicated
>> with the language.
>> Recently none other than Bill Mounce, whose textbook, Basics of
>> Biblical Greek, is standard fare in seminaries, has publicly  
>> suggested
>> that ancient Greek pedagogy must turn to acquisition of proficiency  
>> or
>> ability to understand ancient Greek through the use of the language
>> for real communication between students and teachers — through
>> conversation.
>> Here’s te URL for the entry in Zondervan’s Koinonia blog:
>> Mounce on the future of Greek pedagogy:
>> http://www.koinoniablog.net/2009/05/where-is-the-study-of-biblical-languages-headed.html
>> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fq1Zcv9DreE
>> What? Is Mounce endorsing the classroom method of Randall Buth? Is
>> that really conceivable? Is that something that is really conceivable
>> or practical in a seminary classroom. One resounding response is,
>> “Absolutely not!” or, as they express it, “No such thing!”:
>> "Hebrew and Greek Reade"r blog:
>> http://hebrewandgreekreader.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/no-such-thing-vol-1/
>> http://hebrewandgreekreader.wordpress.com/2009/05/20/no-such-thing-vol-2/
>> I expect that Randall will have his own response (he’s been arguing
>> the case on B-Greek for years now, all too often ‘whistling in the
>> dark.’ Mike Aubrey is going to have something to say about it. And  
>> now
>> Seumas Macdonald has entered with a series of thoughtful comments on
>> the pedagogical questions involved:
>> Seumas Macdonald, "Compliant Subversity" blog:
>> http://jeltzz.blogspot.com/2009/05/conversational-dead-languages-
>> i.html
>> http://jeltzz.blogspot.com/2009/05/conversational-dead-languages-ii.html
>> http://jeltzz.blogspot.com/2009/05/conversational-dead-languages-iii.html
>> I don’t intend to argue this case further myself; I’ve long since
>> retired from active teaching and I didn’t learn Greek myself by the
>> oral/aural method, but I know that if I could return to teaching, I
>> would certainly adopt it. But I think that those B-Greekers who are
>> interested might want to follow this little blip on the radar scans  
>> of
>> potential pedagogical climate change.

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