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Teaching Greek (fork from Classical Languages for Todlers)

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Teaching Greek (fork from Classical Languages for Todlers)

Postby daivid » Sat Dec 14, 2013 3:08 am

I was beginning to think I was a bit too sweeping in my post before I read your reply:
Scribo wrote:
daivid wrote:
The people in control of Greek teaching.


No one is in "control", nor is there a conspiracy. Nor is there anything particularly monolithic about how Classicists teach. I've taught the same courses rather differently from some of my companions, and I'm sure if you talk in terms of nations (and continents) the divergences become even more notable - within certain parameters.

I didn't have in mind any kind of conspiracy nor any collective group though the way I worded things means it is no wonder you gained that impression. However, people who write textbooks and who are influential in the teaching of Greek will be those who have been the most successful with teaching methods as they stand. How else would it be? The problem is that the natural assumption is that the method of learning that is best is the one that has works best for oneself.



Scribo wrote:
daivid wrote:are the product of a very out dated and ineffective teaching system. Those who make it through such a filter are those for whom learning Greek was second nature and hence don't realize why there is anything wrong with current teaching methods. .


You would know that how?
.
The textbooks I have tried. A 2 week summer school. Conversations with people I have met at
the Hellenic Society AGM. Not a lot I admit. But if the drop out rate is a bad as the conventional wisdom states then there is a serious problem. If no one has done the research to discover what the drop out rate is why not?

Scribo wrote:
I'll answer since I came from a non Classical background and entered the academic system, I don't think I passed through any filters. There's nothing outdated about teaching methodologies and many places do indeed keep up with what second language acquisition research suggests.

You are clearly very able and find learning languages a lot easier than others.
I have heard it said that the majority of people who start learning ancient Greek give up.
I don't know whether that is based on any actual research or just an impression that people git but it is certainly my impression. Its that kind of filter I was talking about


Scribo wrote: But we're not talking about a natural spoken language, however much people would like to say otherwise.
The methods we do use are tried and tested, not ossified and antiquated. I think I should re-iterate what we do, do. We need to teach students to read Latin and Greek with rapid fluency on one hand, but able to sensitively recognise not only style but register, dialectical differences and so on as they read. In turn, they need to be able to go beyond the OCT/Tuebner, so they need to know the language well enough to pass into Papyrology, Textual Criticism, Palaeography and so on at the very least. Most places want their students able to explain morphological forms, categorise syntax, understand phonology and so Philology is often a requirement.

This is the base line and the current methodology is the only one that allows these skills to be passed on, especially within time constraints. Moreover it's a good method, I'm pretty sure I can read Hittite faster than most people can read Greek having messed about with all this modern fluff. If a better method comes along, I'm pretty sure everyone will want to adopt it. Not least because the current one is a massive sink in terms of cash and effort, which is probably why so many universities aren't producing capable students.

I think you have cause and effect the wrong way round.
You are sufficiently able that you don't need to bother with the " modern fluff". I'm looking around for other methods because the conventional textbooks are not enough. My impression is that teaching Greek is set up on the basis that people with my rather average abilities in language learning are going to give up so there is no point in catering for them.

Example:
John Taylor's vol 1 Greek to GCSE is excellent. It is a conventional treatment but he does it well.
His volume 2 skimps a bit but it is still useful.
His Greek Beyond GCSE however covers topics so briefly that it just doesn't work for me.
He covers μι verbs in a few pages and then provides a mere 15 sentences to reinforce the point. Taylor is quite capable of covering that topic well but just doesn't.
Sure μι verbs are less frequent but they, and things like them, are frequent to make any reading of original Greek a real struggle. And lack of frequency means they are harder to pick up because you encounter them less and so get less practice,
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Re: Teaching Greek (fork from Classical Languages for Todler

Postby Scribo » Sat Dec 14, 2013 10:59 am

That's an interesting point about the teaching material David, I think such shortcomings might be largely because the environment is meant to be one with a teacher? Its hard to anticipate where each student will have problems. I've seen students grasp inflection and memorise paradigms straight away but struggle endlessly with autos for some reason. The problem is you need to be able to point to textbooks with all that "modern fluff" that happen to delve into a lot of depth on these points and in most cases they're even worse e.g Saffire's "Ancient Greek Alive".

I really don't know what would count as a good, general, textbook. Without the need to prepare students for critical work a lot of complex things can be avoided but it may well sound dogmatic. Something like JACT's "Reading Greek" is great but I don't think it provides a firm enough grasp of the grammar and I honestly think some of the composition exercises might be a bit difficult based on what they've shown so far. I suspect Athenaze is the closest to fitting the bill, being in two volumes.

I don't think modern fluff is the way forward, I don't think getting students to sit around and be like xaire, ti pratteis? ax ton trexonta geitona eidas? and so on will help in the long run. It's not so much the language that is hard either, but the texts. English students don't jump into Paradise Lost or the Beowulf. Greek students are thrust into the Iliad.

I would suggest keeping the traditional textbooks until someone can feasibly replace them, and supplementing with a lot of these graded readers like Steadman's.

P.S I'm not particularly gifted at languages, I'm poorly motivated. German took me longer than Latin and Greek combined because each day opening the textbook was boring torture and it took me three months what ought to take three weeks because of it.
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Re: Teaching Greek (fork from Classical Languages for Todler

Postby daivid » Sun Dec 15, 2013 2:40 am

Scribo wrote:That's an interesting point about the teaching material David, I think such shortcomings might be largely because the environment is meant to be one with a teacher? Its hard to anticipate where each student will have problems. I've seen students grasp inflection and memorise paradigms straight away but struggle endlessly with autos for some reason. The problem is you need to be able to point to textbooks with all that "modern fluff" that happen to delve into a lot of depth on these points and in most cases they're even worse e.g Saffire's "Ancient Greek Alive".


I can see why when you are are teaching a class the fact that some are at different levels is a big problem but why is a problem a text book to give extra practice for those who need it? Those who get it quicker can always skip stuff and move on.

Scribo wrote:I really don't know what would count as a good, general, textbook. Without the need to prepare students for critical work a lot of complex things can be avoided but it may well sound dogmatic. Something like JACT's "Reading Greek" is great but I don't think it provides a firm enough grasp of the grammar and I honestly think some of the composition exercises might be a bit difficult based on what they've shown so far. I suspect Athenaze is the closest to fitting the bill, being in two volumes.

I don't think modern fluff is the way forward, I don't think getting students to sit around and be like xaire, ti pratteis? ax ton trexonta geitona eidas? and so on will help in the long run.

I get the feeling you associate communicative teaching methods with the kind of extreme inductive method which avoids explicit grammar teaching and expects students to pick it up by osmosis. When I did a five week TEFL course we were taught to focus our lessons on a single point of grammar. We would start by presenting it and then illustrate it. Then the students would drill it. For the communicative bit we would split them up into up into pairs to practice with each other.

Reading an explanation of grammar on its own is not enough. Unless there is repetition (and for me that means lots of repetition) it doesn't sink in. Rote learning has repetition but because it is a little tedious there is not much engagement and we quickly forget what we are not engaged with. Communicative methods combine engagement with repetition.

At the summer school I had two teachers. One was hopeless but they allowed me to quickly transfer. The second teacher was really dedicated and knew how to explain the grammar well. Much of the time we read a Greek text together and it did feel that we were translating it together. However when I went back to the text again a few days after the course it had gone back to being as opaque as before.

Without repetition most of what I learnt didn't stick

The big advantage of having a class is that you have other people to communicate with. It seems a waste not to use that and instead do the kind of stuff that can be done on ones own.

Scribo wrote:It's not so much the language that is hard either, but the texts. English students don't jump into Paradise Lost or the Beowulf. Greek students are thrust into the Iliad.


There is a real lack of simple accessible Greek. The best is the story contained in Athenaze. I wish there was more like it.

Scribo wrote:
I would suggest keeping the traditional textbooks until someone can feasibly replace them, and supplementing with a lot of these graded readers like Steadman's.

Steadman's readers are excellent. They provide just the kind of guidance that an intermediate student needs when reading the Greek. My problem is that the text is still too difficult for me even with the help of Steadman's excellent pointers.

Scribo wrote:P.S I'm not particularly gifted at languages, I'm poorly motivated. German took me longer than Latin and Greek combined because each day opening the textbook was boring torture and it took me three months what ought to take three weeks because of it.


I already know you know Latin Greek and even Hittite. Now in an effort to tell us how you are not gifted with languages you let slip that you know yet another language! Gambit failed! :wink:
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Re: Teaching Greek (fork from Classical Languages for Todler

Postby Σαῦλος » Mon Dec 16, 2013 6:20 pm

I appreciate all the thoughts expressed here. Daivid's experience matches mine. But I'm happy to see that both Scribo and Daivid find the same deficiency in Greek books that I have. Early learners need simple texts. Even Rouse's "A Greek Boy at Home" is too hard. Thrasymachus is wonderful, but even harder. Hale is the simplest, but is just not very well done.

What is needed is a series of stories. Something like 100 short stories would be nice. They need not be a serial story. The ABSOLUTE KEY to this little book is that the vocabulary of the stories should be clamped down. We don't need stories for the purpose of teaching vocabulary. Vocabulary is easy to add from reading once structure is confidently learned. In order to keep the vocabulary down, there should be one or two "venues" where the story takes place (field and home?) and just a few characters. In the whole book, I'd say 600 words is the maximum. The stories will progressively add vocabulary, though again, the purpose is not to learn vocabulary. But we'll progressively need more vocabulary to keep advancing with the structures and create new and different stories.

With this written, people can go in a dozen ways. I would like to see oral / aural drills with TPRS style questions one the stories. I would like to see embedded readings building UP from the basic stories, and effectually making this a spirally organized textbook (go through 100 stories at level 1, the the same at level 2, then the same at level 3). With some creative and diligent use of a book like this, the learner could reach up to level of the many intermediate readers that are out there (Thrasymachus, simplified Xenophon).
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Re: Teaching Greek (fork from Classical Languages for Todler

Postby daivid » Tue Dec 17, 2013 1:02 am

Σαῦλος wrote:
What is needed is a series of stories. Something like 100 short stories would be nice. They need not be a serial story. The ABSOLUTE KEY to this little book is that the vocabulary of the stories should be clamped down. We don't need stories for the purpose of teaching vocabulary. Vocabulary is easy to add from reading once structure is confidently learned. In order to keep the vocabulary down, there should be one or two "venues" where the story takes place (field and home?) and just a few characters. In the whole book, I'd say 600 words is the maximum. The stories will progressively add vocabulary, though again, the purpose is not to learn vocabulary. But we'll progressively need more vocabulary to keep advancing with the structures and create new and different stories.
.


Penguin books for English as a second Language aim at 300 headwords for beginners rising to 3000 for advanced.http://www.penguinreaders.com/pr/teachers/index.html

I think headwords is the core vocabulary that authors must restrict themselves to (apart from a few words specific to the story which through repetition will quickly be learnt). I take it that your 600 is the total words actually used and that sounds right. Even though it is easy enough to look up a word, every word that is unfamiliar (even if you've just looked it up) will make the sentence a bit harder. And for me it does seem to go up exponentially - two unfamiliar words are more than twice as hard as one on their own.

They do have some examples and was interesting that in Edgar Allan Poe story the author was a bit more careful to keep everything in a chronological sequence and spell things out a bit more.
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Re: Teaching Greek (fork from Classical Languages for Todler

Postby Σαῦλος » Tue Dec 31, 2013 1:10 pm

Thank you very much for that tip, David. The sample stories that are shown are just the sort of resource that is needed for learning Greek.
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