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

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Fri May 29 14:01:03 EDT 2009

On May 29, 2009, at 8:07 AM, Carl Conrad wrote:

> 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://evepheso.wordpress.com/2009/05/28/daniel-streett-on-learning-greek/
> = 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

Correction: This is a second-semester first-year exam; certainly  
second-year students should be expected to be well beyond the level  
tested here. Any B-Greekers who do take a look at it will find they  
must read between the lines or guess at some of the classroom learning  
experiences that this class has shared.

> document showing how a Greek course centered on use of the language
> for real communication may be taught and tested for:
> http://jeltzz.blogspot.com/2009/05/conversational-dead-languages- 
> v.html
> = 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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