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

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Sun May 31 16:59:15 EDT 2009


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)

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

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