[B-Greek] The Lightman Paradox of Greek Audio Learning

Daniel, Robert S rob.daniel at hp.com
Mon Oct 26 11:54:17 EDT 2009

ML: " I can’t imagine that it will be
of much interest to anyone BUT me." 

It is of interest to me, so thanks for posting your observations on this. I'm not sure about what you say about the value of listening to Greek while reading English. I've tried that some and I'm not so sure that it has no value. It is interesting to me that usually I can keep track of where the reader is in the English even if I wouldn't be understanding a substantial amount if I were only listening to the Greek. If I then listen to the same passage without the English, I can often still understand it better than I did before listening while reading English.

I haven't tried the reverse of this, so thanks for the suggestion.

The thing that seems to work the best for me is to listen repeatedly to the Greek. After several initial listenings I can begin to recognize things like what episode is happening (from my previous acquaintance with the story in English). I can identify who is speaking and who they are speaking to, etc. Gradually more of the detail gets filled in. But the most value comes from focusing on a single chapter, printing a copy of the Greek text that I can mark up, reading it to myself and highlighting the words that I need to look up, then looking them up in BDAG and writing in the appropriate gloss, then going back and listening again several times and when necessary looking at my "cheat sheet". After multiple iterations of this I can eventually get to the point where I can listen to the Greek and understand the whole chapter. The best part of this procedure is that once I get to this point, it seems to be fixed permanently in my mind, that is, I can come back to the chapter later after not having listened to it for a long time, and I can still follow it.

I seem to get some value out of listening to the Greek while following the Greek text, too. It can help with understanding what is being said in places where I am mis-hearing or not breaking the spoken text into individual words correctly, etc. I think it might help with remembering spellings and helping to learn to read faster, also.

I wonder if anybody has ever done any kind of scientific study of these kinds of learning strategies? In any case, it seems valuable to me to share what individual people have found to work and not to work.

-----Original Message-----
From: b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Mark Lightman
Sent: Saturday, October 24, 2009 11:57 AM
To: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: [B-Greek] The Lightman Paradox of Greek Audio Learning

I am calling this the Lightman Paradox because (a)
I discovered it and (b) I can’t imagine that it will be
of much interest to anyone BUT me.
The Lightman Paradox of Greek Audio Learning has three parts.
ONE:  In order to be able to listen to and understand the Greek
New Testament, you have to listen to it over and over again and
you have to read it over and over again, but listening to it and
reading it at the same time has almost no value. 
You cannot really concentrate on the spoken Greek
text and read it at the same time.  It’s best to give your
full attention to listening to it.  But reading the Greek text
over and over again will make this much easier.  You will hear
phrases that you don’t recognize or understand.  You have
to look these up in the Greek text SEPARATELY,
master them, and then go back to listening WITHOUT
the Greek text in front of you.  A few months ago,
a product came out that read the Greek aloud while
a cursor went over the written Greek text.  This
detonated on the list an explosion of discussion
concerning  pronunciation but no one commented
on the value of the product itself.  If the makers of this
product knew about the Lightman Paradox, they would 
not have produced it.  It has almost no value.  TWO: 
Listening to the Greek text read aloud while reading
an ENGLISH translation does not have almost no
value, it has ABSOLUTELY no value.  Maybe I’m
the only guy dumb enough to have tried this, but it is
a complete waste of time.  While you can to a very
limited extent absorb SOME audio info and reading
info at the same time if it is all in Greek, all reading an
English translation does is shut off your ability to listen
to the Greek.  You simply cannot listen to Greek and
read English at the same time.  THREE:  But, on the other
hand, listening to an ENGLISH recitation of the text while
reading the GREEK text does have quite a bit of value.
Many of us know this from personal experience.  For
years, we have been taking our Greek New Testaments
to Church.  When Bible readings are read in English, 
we follow along in our Greek texts.  You CAN do both
at the same time, and it IS helpful in drilling rare vocabulary
to hear the word in English and read it in Greek at the same
time.  You can hear an English translation and it will give you
insights into the structure of the Greek right then and there,
just like reading an English translation (or, better yet,
many English translations like in the Precise Parallel New
Testament or in the NET Diglot notes) opposite a Greek
text will help you unpack the Greek.  Now, leave aside
for the moment the issue of Greek immersion.  Many
would say you should avoid English all together, but the
Lightman Paradox does not address that issue. 
All I’m saying is that you get absolutely nothing out 
of TWO, almost nothing out of ONE, but quite a lot out
THREE.  Maybe what you get out of THREE is bad
because you are reinforcing English glosses, but I think
 those of us who do this at Church know that it has helped
 our Greek, even if we remain incorrigible decoders.
The paradox of the Lightman Paradox is that it takes
much more mental energy to listen to Greek than to read 
Greek, but much LESS mental energy to listen to English
 than to read English.  This is because, I guess, adults
 lose the ability to learn how to listen but get better and 
better at learning how to read.   

Mark L


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