[B-Greek] Narkinsky on obtaining fluency (was Decker on why to learn Greek)

Patrick Narkinsky patrick at narkinsky.com
Sat Apr 10 10:34:22 EDT 2010

On Sat, Apr 10, 2010 at 9:32 AM, Mark Lightman <lightmanmark at yahoo.com> wrote:

> #8.  Marry a Greek Professor who does not speak any English.

Do you know one who's in the market?  I happen to be looking. :)

> #1.   Just spend 10 minutes a day on your Greek.  Wait, I
> forgot two zero's there.  (1000 minutes a day would be about
> 17 hours per day, which would just about do it.)

Aye, there's the rub.  You want me to actually spend  *time* on this?
Surely there's an easier way?  Maybe I could aim my
evil-scientist-mind-ray at that Greek Professor who doesn't speak
English, assuming of course she won't marry me and raise my four kids.

> <First, focusing on the New Testament to the exclusion
>  of the larger world of Koine doesn't work for me. I think
>  that to develop fluency you've got to develop a feel for
>  the contextual meaning of words, and the New Testament
>  just isn't big enough for that to happen, especially when
>  so many of the most significant words are of less frequency.>

> One of Carl's Ad Nauseams indeed this is.  Top Five things
> you should read outside the Greek NT. 1.  Apostolic Fathers
> 2. Homer (not because it will help your NT Greek but because
> he is the greatest writer in human history. 3. Plato (see #2 above.)
> 4. The Greek Old Testament. 5  After  #4, all bets are off.  There
> are dozens, maybe hundreds of works that could make #5.
> My vote as of today would be Chariton's Callirhoe.  The Greek
> is nothing special and it won't teach you anything important about
> life.  But what I like about it, is that it is pure Koine in the good
> sense of that word.  The syntax is super-simplified.  There are
> very few particles.  Word order seems to be more natural
> and less for effect.  There is lots of conversational stuff.
> Chariton's Greek strikes me as very similar to John's on a good day.

One question I've had, persistently... as an undergrad I was a
philosophy major, so I'd certainly like to read Homer and Plato in the
original.  However... I've been a bit leary of them because I don't
want to confuse myself with different "Greeks".  How different are
they *really*?  How much benefit will I obtain from undertaking a
study of, say, Homeric Greek?  My kids are after me to do Homer with
them, but I've temporized because I didn't want to confuse things.

Perhaps I should clarify that right now I'm in a spot where I've
forgotten a *lot*.  I'm working on reviewing basic morphology and
grammar, and reading 10 minutes a day in the NT, but I know that the
"last time around" (several years of intense study before and during
seminary) I never "broke through" to actually being able to read
without constantly stopping to get help with vocabulary or verb forms.
 That is, I'm not kidding when I say I'm a "little Greek."  I wonder
whether I'm ready to corrupt myself with Attic and Homeric Greek?


> You, Patrick, have made a distinction between "Analysis"
> and "Fluency."  I think you are on to something here.
> "Fluency Precedes Analysis" may be one of Carl's
> Ad Nauseams, but I'm not sure.  One of my Ad Nauseams
> is: "Analysis should not Precede Fluency but It May
> Have To."  If you chart Textbooks on an Analysis-Fluency
> scale, with Machen being on one end and Buth being on
> the other, where would you place Mounce?  Somewhere in
> the middle, I think, but closer to Analysis.  Mounce does
> have stuff on his website that inches the other way.

My impressions of Mounce (several years old in any case) may be
corrupted by the course in which it was used, but it seems like the
goal is really to let you "use" Greek rather than "read" Greek.  It
kind of seems like there's no expectation that you will ever be able
to pick up a Greek text and read it.


>  Schole and Dialogos are designed to put an end to this sort of stuff  by giving you
> the chance to write real Greek to real people.  The reason why
> Louis S. has developed some fluency is that he converts Rock
> songs into Koine.  This is not just reverse translating, but takes
> creativity.  It is fun, so he does a lot of it.  That's another one
> of my Ad Nauseams: Since we really don't know which methods
> help you learn Greek, just do the ones that are fun. The problem
> I have, is that I find almost all of it fun.

I just found Schole the other day (based on a post here).  I've
hesitated a bit, since I frankly don't know that I have enough Greek
at this point (vs. 5 years ago or so) to be able to write a competent
sentence.  It's depressing how quickly one loses it.

> <Further deponent sayeth naught,  since I've never gotten the courage to try it>
> Okay, there is a joke here, but I don't get it.
> Explain, please.  One of Carl's Ad Nauseam's
> is "If the term "deponent" did not exist, it would
> NOT be necessary to invent it."

Deponent is a legal term which means "one who makes a deposition".
Traditionally, depositions ended with the phrase "further deponent
sayeth naught", meaning "I've got no more to say."  Not sure what
Carl's Ad Nauseam might refer to, but that's how I was using it.  (For
the record, I'm not an attorney so I may have mangled that.)

> <Sixth, I'm just going to say that ever since I learned the modern
> pronunciation, I can't abide the Erasmian pronunciation.
> It seems to me to destroy euphony. If the goal is fluency,
> why would you use a pronunciation that is designed for analysis?>
> You were doing so well, here, Patrick.  One of my Ad Nauseams is that
> Pronunciation is to Fluency what a potato is to Cleveland.  One
> has zero effect on the other.
> I think I understand your question and your premise,
> that Erasmianism is closer to the left end of the Analysis-Fluency
> Spectrum than Modern.  But before I respond to your question,
> expand a little bit on what you mean by this.  If anyone else
> understands, agrees with or disagrees with what Patrick
> is saying here about Erasmus=Analysis, feel free to jump in.

As I understand it, the main argument for the Erasmian pronunciation
is that every letter has a distinct sound, correct?  In every other
area... euphony, authenticity, "scanability", etc., the modern
pronunciation wins.  If we wanted something really authentic, we'd use
the reconstructed pronunciation.  So... it seems to me that the
Erasmian pronunciation is designed for speaking S-L-O-W-L-Y A-N-D
D-I-S-T-I-N-T-L-Y, the way people do when they're trying to speak
English to someone who doesn't know English.  (Go to a DMV and listen
to the Anglo clerk speak to a Hispanic sometime for what I mean.)  In
other words... it's not "fluent", or "natural."  It's a "reading
pronunciation", or that's how it feels to me.  The poetry of the
language fails.

<one final snip, but thanks for the comments>


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