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vocabulary acquisition and simple greek texts

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vocabulary acquisition and simple greek texts

Postby daivid » Tue Aug 06, 2013 9:56 pm

Markos wrote:I can't prove it, but I feel in my bones that my Greek would not be as good as it is if I had never read (or written!) any adapted (or conversational) Greek and did nothing but read "real" Greek using the traditional methods of grammar-translation. For Greek learners at any level--and much more so for beginners--at least SOME of one's reading and listening should be what Stephen Krashen calls "comprehensible input."


The "I can't prove it," prompted me to check to see if there wasn't anything on my bookshelf that could prove our point that at least some of a learners reading should be specially written texts rather than plowing through original Greek text, looking up every other word.

The most promising was The nature of vocabulary acquisition" Eds M McKeown and M Curtis.
However, while for me it was a clear that the whole thrust of the articles was in support of our point of view, it was trying to answer a different question so never actually explicitly said we are right.

However, there was one aspect that might interest you as a writer of simple Greek as much as myself who has aspirations in that direction even though as yet I make too many mistakes to be useful for others.

I have in mind the chapter "Most Vocabulary is Learned from context".
As well as putting that case the writer, a Robert Sternberg, goes into the importance of there being varied cues to help the reader guess the unknown word. That is to say if the unknown word is used twice it will not help if both times simply hint that it is something valuable but if second time the cue is that the unknown is big then that is extra help.

Stuff like that.

When writing we have both thought about vocabulary in negative terms. That is to say restricting the amount of uncommon words. Sternberg definitely backs that up as useful. Learning from context breaks down if the reader is overwhelmed by too many unknown words. However there is a positive side. That is in writing for beginners there is need to ensure there plenty of cues to help them guess the more difficult words.
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Re: vocabulary acquisition and simple greek texts

Postby cb » Wed Aug 07, 2013 9:31 am

hi, this is v useful thank you, and i would appreciate it if you could please continue this line of thought and perhaps i will be convinced to change what i do. for the moment i still need further persuading because you say that spending all your time reading original grk and having to look up the words laboriously may not be the best approach (agreed), and therefore you should spend some time reading adapted texts not requiring dictionary lookup.

but the therefore doesn't follow necessarily. if the interest to be addressed is eliminating dictionary lookup, you could read original texts with vocabulary assistance on the same page, either in your native language or (as i prefer and do, and reflecting a practice going back to alexandrian times at least) in the same language as the original text.

this approach addresses the concern that people have with adapted text, that it may instill incorrect models of syntax and idiom.

the interests of eliminating dictionary lookup on one side, and avoiding the possible negative effects of non-authentic syntax and idiom on the other, do not at all need to need to conflict.

however, i am still willing to be convinced that adapted texts may on the whole be useful. this would not be through eliminating dictionary lookup (because as i said above, that could be addressed in another way), but by focusing on whatever is the intrinsic advantage of adapted texts which could not be addressed to an equal level in another way.

i don't know what the intrinsic advantage is of adapted texts, but this is what i would like to hear, e.g. if someone said you can read adapted texts faster than original texts even containing vocab assistance (plausible), and reading very fast has been shown to improve X, or activate parts of the brain or learning faculties etc etc, then that would be a good reason for me to read adapted texts. maybe there is research on this from speed reading courses, i don't know...

i don't know the answer to any of this but i would like to hear the views of those reading this thread, thanks!

same goes for speaking in conversational ancient languages, if there is research that producing in the language, even if not perfect, activates parts of the brain etc and so is useful for language learning then i would love to hear about it.

cheers, chad
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Re: vocabulary acquisition and simple greek texts

Postby daivid » Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:05 pm

cb wrote:hi, this is v useful thank you, and i would appreciate it if you could please continue this line of thought and perhaps i will be convinced to change what i do. for the moment i still need further persuading because you say that spending all your time reading original grk and having to look up the words laboriously may not be the best approach (agreed), and therefore you should spend some time reading adapted texts not requiring dictionary lookup.


I don't claim to have conclusive proof. There must be research relevant this debate and intend to look for it. What I posted from was the result of me reading a book that happened to be on my bookshelf.
The reason I think that adapted texts are good is because it is the nearest equivalent to my successful strategy in learning Serbo-Croat. I basically read books for children between 8 and 12. It is not hard to find adapted Greek that is a lot more difficult than those books. But of course though easy they were written by native speakers. I suspect that I will find research suggesting that that easy readers targeted to learners of English. Easy readers, however, even though restricted in the gramar and vocab they use are again written by native speakers.
cb wrote:
but the therefore doesn't follow necessarily. if the interest to be addressed is eliminating dictionary lookup, you could read original texts with vocabulary assistance on the same page, either in your native language or (as i prefer and do, and reflecting a practice going back to alexandrian times at least) in the same language as the original text.

That would be an interesting approach. However, if done badly it could end up just giving the beginner some easy Greek to read that was rather unispiring.


cb wrote:this approach addresses the concern that people have with adapted text, that it may instill incorrect models of syntax and idiom.


I don't believe it is impossible to produce good ancient greek that are free or at least almost free of interferance from the author's native language. It is also obvious that it is very easy to write bad adaptions/easy Greek. It is hard for a beginner to tell when they are reading bad Greek.
It seems to me logical that is helpful to use at least some textbooks written by author whose native language is not your own. For instance Christophe Rico's Polis, Rico being French.

cb wrote:the interests of eliminating dictionary lookup on one side, and avoiding the possible negative effects of non-authentic syntax and idiom on the other, do not at all need to need to conflict.

however, i am still willing to be convinced that adapted texts may on the whole be useful. this would not be through eliminating dictionary lookup (because as i said above, that could be addressed in another way), but by focusing on whatever is the intrinsic advantage of adapted texts which could not be addressed to an equal level in another way.


The main advantage of easy Greek to me is not eliminating dictionary lookup. Perseus allows you get words at the click of a mouse - it can't get easier than that. The advantage of easy Greek that you can read rather than decode it and when you are really reading the words and structures are internalized and become second nature.


cb wrote:i don't know what the intrinsic advantage is of adapted texts, but this is what i would like to hear, e.g. if someone said you can read adapted texts faster than original texts even containing vocab assistance (plausible), and reading very fast has been shown to improve X, or activate parts of the brain or learning faculties etc etc, then that would be a good reason for me to read adapted texts. maybe there is research on this from speed reading courses, i don't know...

i don't know the answer to any of this but i would like to hear the views of those reading this thread, thanks!

same goes for speaking in conversational ancient languages, if there is research that producing in the language, even if not perfect, activates parts of the brain etc and so is useful for language learning then i would love to hear about it.

cheers, chad

The research must be out there. We just have to look for it.

*edit Got my quotes in a muddle - sorry**
Last edited by daivid on Wed Aug 07, 2013 6:58 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: vocabulary acquisition and simple greek texts

Postby uberdwayne » Wed Aug 07, 2013 2:58 pm

I remember hearing somewhere, I can't remember where, that the human brain requires something to come full-circle in order for it to be internalized. What I mean by this is this: There are often equal and opposite factors to consider in learning something, if we use a math formula such as 1+1=2 we must also learn that 2 is the same as 1+1! It is possible to learn without the second part, but it becomes much more engrained in your mind if you recognize both. It may not seem very significant, but let me show how this could apply to vocabulary acquisition.

If we consider a word such as προβατον. We recognize in english that this is a sheep. Likewise, if we recognize that sheep in Koine is προβατον then we do better! This word, although it seems 1 to 1, is in fact not, as προβατον is also used to represent a group of people following someone, especially Jesus in the NT. This would be akin to the math example of 1+3=4 also means 4=1+3 or 4 =2+2. I hope you understand what it is that I'm trying to say.

All this to say my point. If we compose greek, it forces us to learn the inverse of reading, and because we have "full circle" knowledge of our vocabulary, we come close to internalization. Its the importance of increasing your Active vocabulary, rather than leaving in your brain a large pool of passive vocabulary.
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Re: vocabulary acquisition and simple greek texts

Postby daivid » Wed Aug 07, 2013 6:56 pm

uberdwayne wrote:I remember hearing somewhere, I can't remember where, that the human brain requires something to come full-circle in order for it to be internalized. What I mean by this is this: There are often equal and opposite factors to consider in learning something, if we use a math formula such as 1+1=2 we must also learn that 2 is the same as 1+1! It is possible to learn without the second part, but it becomes much more engrained in your mind if you recognize both.

After reading your post I read another chapter of the book I mentioned. It is concerned with teaching vocabulary to native speaking children rather than second language students like us but none the less seems relevant.On page 2 of that chapter "The effects and uses of Diverse Vocabulary Instructional Techniques", they do a quick survey in the link between vocabulary and reading comprehension. They state that while all experiments in which vocabulary is taught helps increase the vocabulary of the children in only some of the cases does that lead to increased reading comprehension, They basically make the same point as you do that when learning new words a rich understanding of the new word is important.

They also stress the need for frequent encounters with new words. They tried exposing the children to 10-18 exposures and 24-40, Though they found that while 24-40 exposures was more effective than 10-18 they concluded the extra gain probably didn't warrant the extra class time. They were quite firm that the 10-18 frequency was necessary compared with the more usual 3 or 4.
"Rich instruction" intended to extent the children's understanding was as might anticipate more effective than traditional methods.

Of course if you have got up to the level that allows you to breeze through Xenophon it will be possible to encounter many new words 10+ times in a short space of time. I am not one of those.

uberdwayne wrote:
It may not seem very significant, but let me show how this could apply to vocabulary acquisition.

If we consider a word such as προβατον. We recognize in english that this is a sheep. Likewise, if we recognize that sheep in Koine is προβατον then we do better! This word, although it seems 1 to 1, is in fact not, as προβατον is also used to represent a group of people following someone, especially Jesus in the NT. This would be akin to the math example of 1+3=4 also means 4=1+3 or 4 =2+2. I hope you understand what it is that I'm trying to say.

All this to say my point. If we compose greek, it forces us to learn the inverse of reading, and because we have "full circle" knowledge of our vocabulary, we come close to internalization. Its the importance of increasing your Active vocabulary, rather than leaving in your brain a large pool of passive vocabulary.


Given the influence of the bible that metaphorical meaning is not alien to English speakers. κερας, horn is probably a better example which I have just encountered reading Athenaze's chapter on the battle of Salamis where they talk of the right the wing of the Greek fleet.
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