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A few comments on Athenaze, and on reading Greek

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A few comments on Athenaze, and on reading Greek

Postby jk0592 » Mon Jul 30, 2007 4:18 am

Well, I managed, solo, to finish Athenaze, book one. I started around November 1st, 2006, and finished a week ago, last Monday. Needless to say, I feel a great deal of pride in this. When I started, I thought that I could get along using both Pharr’s Homeric Greek, and Balme’s Athenaze. I was wrong, and studied only one book. Everyday, and I mean everyday, weekdays and weekends, workdays and vacation days, I read Athenaze. Sometimes as much as two hours, sometimes as little as twenty minutes, but always some amount of time. The family members here made fun of this new obsession, which took up all the free time that is normally used for my reading activities.

When I began, the easygoing first few chapters of Athenaze really caught me, and suited my purposes. I had the distinct impression of progressing. However, when I reached chapter 11 or so, the author tries to catch up lost time by accelerating the pace, and cramming more and more material in each of the remaining chapters. My learning pace really slowed down at that point.

In Athenaze book one, we are introduced to an interesting story developing around everyday life in a Greek rural family. Farming, fetching water, protecting livestock, recounting myths, going to festivities, seeing a doctor, taking a boat to nearby islands and the like. This is the real strength of the book, the way the story unfolds, and the increasing complexity of the language used from chapter to chapter. Then, somewhat artificially, we are exposed to a long expose of the nautical fight with the Persians. This is accompanied by a large amount of the vocabulary of warfare, not really related to the vocabulary of earlier chapters.

After having finished the book, I went through two full reviews in order to remind myself of some of the finer points and to some forms that I always seem to forget. And I forget very easily...

Now I am at a cross-road. I wonder what direction to take. I can go to book two of Athenaze, go to Homeric Greek, go to another grammar etc. However, I have tried reading some of the ancient Greek writers. I have downloaded the Cyropedia and the Anabasis by Xenophon, the History by Herodotus, theHistories by Thukydides, and a few other Greek texts. The Iliad still seems far too complex and out of reach at this point. Certainly I can read much more easily than say six months ago, but it is still not an easy process. Learning grammar makes reading easier, to a point. But when reading French or English texts,who uses a grammar? Is it an absolute necessity?

First things first, I acquired a rather large dictionary, the latest edition of the Grand Bailly (since I am french speaking). As a comment, years ago when first starting to read Charles Dickens, I used an English dictionary, giving meanings of English words with English words. If I read Victor Hugo in French, I use a French dictionary, explaining French words with French words. Why are ancient Greek dictionaries not written in ancient Greek? Is it that word to word translation is really a concern? I do not intend to translate (meaning I do not want to be a translator), I just want to understand what the author means.

In reading, I do not use electronic translation aids...I use paper, pen, dictionary, and a lot of patience. First, I always start by reading an entire paragraph a few times. This is followed by reading each sentence while trying to decipher it by concentrating on each word. I am not attempting auto-translating, but still want to know exactly what each sentence means. From letters to words, words to sentences, sentences to paragraph, paragraphs to chapters, chapters to books. It is very logical. Individual letters are not a problem, but words are still difficult. So, for each word that I dot not know (and that holds for most of them), I look up the dictionary.

Ah, the dictionary, so full of fascinating words that invariably it takes me off track so that I forget what it was that I was looking for while meandering through the pages. Why do I forget where is Theta? Then when I find a word that is a good candidate there is the matter of dialect (Ionic), contracts or no contracts, that is the question...Plus, I have to read all of three full columns in the dictionary page for the various meanings of the word in question, all written in 8 and 6 point fonts, only to find that it cannot be what I was looking for.

Now, is this verb at the aorist or at the imperfect ? What is this, an aorist stem or just the indicative present stem, or, most likely, an aorist generated from an unrelated stem? How do I find out? Is it really starting with alpha augmented to this eta, or an eta that was left unchanged (much different place in the dictionary)? Or perhaps it is starting with an epsilon with no change? It might be one of those irregular verbs ending in mi. Not all forms are in the dictionary. Maybe a duel case, not in Athenaze... Is this a 3rd declension noun or adjective, and as always, from one of those forms that I cannot seem to remember? I am prone to forget the meaning of those three letter prepositions, which can change meaning if followed by dative or genitive. And so it goes on and on. It is difficult to just read a sentence and know right away what it means.

Sometimes ten, fifteen or even thirty minutes elapse for a single word search... Then, after all the words are known, I still have to make sense of the sentence. Why is every clause of this particular sentence at accusative ? I speculate, maybe there is a weird grammatical rule I do not know yet (let us study Athenaze book two) ? Or maybe there is an implicit repetition of the logoi that say something at the accusative in the previous sentence, and which might (obviously?) continue here. I wonder, I wonder...

So, when someone asks me what I have done of my whole afternoon, I can proudly say that I have, really, read one full sentence in Herodotus. Three to five lines overall...At this rate, I will finish in more than five years. My interlocutors tell me that I should stick with French or English litterature.

They really do not understand the joys this ancient Greek language brings to the reader...So direct yet so subtle it is quite incredible.
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Postby spiphany » Mon Jul 30, 2007 1:49 pm

The experience you're describing is not unusual (either the frustrations of trying to read Greek texts, or the spell that the Greek language casts over one).

I think you're doing the right things. The transition to reading unadapted texts in any language is quite difficult. Greek is even more so because of the problem of figuring out what word you're supposed to be looking up. It does get faster as you start being able to recognize vocabulary, although sometimes you will feel like you're starting over each time you begin a new author.

I don't know how much grammar Athenaze covers in each volume, so I can't say whether you would find it helpful to read the second volume. If you haven't covered advanced syntax, it probably would be useful for something like Herodotus.

I do have a couple of suggestions, however, if you want to continue just reading. First, see if you can find a text which has been edited for beginning students; if it's any good it will provide help with confusing constructions. Second, you can try the morphological analysis tool at Perseus, which can be useful for those times when you absolutely cannot figure out what a word is.
IPHIGENIE: Kann uns zum Vaterland die Fremde werden?
ARKAS: Und dir ist fremd das Vaterland geworden.
IPHIGENIE: Das ist's, warum mein blutend Herz nicht heilt.
(Goethe, Iphigenie auf Tauris)
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Postby Helma » Mon Jul 30, 2007 2:38 pm

Another way to move forward is to alternate slow, close reading with faster, cursory reading. For instance, in other foreign languages, you probably have skimmed newspapers to get the gist of a story. One way you can practise this is to force yourself to read a full paragraph out loud slowly, and figure out what the gist of that paragraph is. Don't allow yourself to get hung up on a few words you don't know, since you wouldn't let that happen in these other languages either. Then, move back to the start, and figure out how things really fit together, word for word, clause for clause.
Dedicated verb exercises and vocab memorization *will* help you gain reading speed as well - text books are written (or should be) to help you get a grip on the most frequent words and morphology first. They are a shortcut to naturally acquiring them, as if you were five or ten years old and the fortunate owner of a time machine.. For such verb drills, like Mastronarde's web drills, it also helps to try to take them slow and fast. Slow = carefully analyzing each form, making sure how it relates to paradigms you have learnt and principal parts of this verb; fast = trust your budding intuitions about Greek morphology. You'll see that you'll guess right surprisingly often, if only you are confident enough to guess. This guessing does not constitute cheating, it is merely a way of finding how much you truly have internalized already. So for instance, I bet that if you now read λόγους, it already looks/smells/feels like an accusative plural to you. You don't have to go through an entire paradigm to decide that. This is progress! It's like pianists who have their scales down, or in sports, hitting a forehand without thinking about it. Slowly but surely, the territory you feel confident about will grow and grow, but it will only do so if you push yourself for speed once in a while. Compare again the pianist, who in practice sessions will perform something at ultra-high or ultra-slow speed, so as to build extra confidence for performing at regular speed. Or athletes doing bench presses and other conditioning in order to improve, rather than only practice game after practice game after practice game. Verb drills and vocab memorization are your bench presses and wind sprints.
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Re: A few comments on Athenaze, and on reading Greek

Postby Gonzalo » Tue Dec 25, 2007 5:30 pm

jk0592 wrote:Well, I managed, solo, to finish Athenaze, book one. I started around November 1st, 2006, and finished a week ago, last Monday. Needless to say, I feel a great deal of pride in this. When I started, I thought that I could get along using both Pharr’s Homeric Greek, and Balme’s Athenaze. I was wrong, and studied only one book. Everyday, and I mean everyday, weekdays and weekends, workdays and vacation days, I read Athenaze. Sometimes as much as two hours, sometimes as little as twenty minutes, but always some amount of time. The family members here made fun of this new obsession, which took up all the free time that is normally used for my reading activities.

When I began, the easygoing first few chapters of Athenaze really caught me, and suited my purposes. I had the distinct impression of progressing. However, when I reached chapter 11 or so, the author tries to catch up lost time by accelerating the pace, and cramming more and more material in each of the remaining chapters. My learning pace really slowed down at that point.

In Athenaze book one, we are introduced to an interesting story developing around everyday life in a Greek rural family. Farming, fetching water, protecting livestock, recounting myths, going to festivities, seeing a doctor, taking a boat to nearby islands and the like. This is the real strength of the book, the way the story unfolds, and the increasing complexity of the language used from chapter to chapter. Then, somewhat artificially, we are exposed to a long expose of the nautical fight with the Persians. This is accompanied by a large amount of the vocabulary of warfare, not really related to the vocabulary of earlier chapters.

After having finished the book, I went through two full reviews in order to remind myself of some of the finer points and to some forms that I always seem to forget. And I forget very easily...

Now I am at a cross-road. I wonder what direction to take. I can go to book two of Athenaze, go to Homeric Greek, go to another grammar etc. However, I have tried reading some of the ancient Greek writers. I have downloaded the Cyropedia and the Anabasis by Xenophon, the History by Herodotus, theHistories by Thukydides, and a few other Greek texts. The Iliad still seems far too complex and out of reach at this point. Certainly I can read much more easily than say six months ago, but it is still not an easy process. Learning grammar makes reading easier, to a point. But when reading French or English texts,who uses a grammar? Is it an absolute necessity?

First things first, I acquired a rather large dictionary, the latest edition of the Grand Bailly (since I am french speaking). As a comment, years ago when first starting to read Charles Dickens, I used an English dictionary, giving meanings of English words with English words. If I read Victor Hugo in French, I use a French dictionary, explaining French words with French words. Why are ancient Greek dictionaries not written in ancient Greek? Is it that word to word translation is really a concern? I do not intend to translate (meaning I do not want to be a translator), I just want to understand what the author means.

In reading, I do not use electronic translation aids...I use paper, pen, dictionary, and a lot of patience. First, I always start by reading an entire paragraph a few times. This is followed by reading each sentence while trying to decipher it by concentrating on each word. I am not attempting auto-translating, but still want to know exactly what each sentence means. From letters to words, words to sentences, sentences to paragraph, paragraphs to chapters, chapters to books. It is very logical. Individual letters are not a problem, but words are still difficult. So, for each word that I dot not know (and that holds for most of them), I look up the dictionary.

Ah, the dictionary, so full of fascinating words that invariably it takes me off track so that I forget what it was that I was looking for while meandering through the pages. Why do I forget where is Theta? Then when I find a word that is a good candidate there is the matter of dialect (Ionic), contracts or no contracts, that is the question...Plus, I have to read all of three full columns in the dictionary page for the various meanings of the word in question, all written in 8 and 6 point fonts, only to find that it cannot be what I was looking for.

Now, is this verb at the aorist or at the imperfect ? What is this, an aorist stem or just the indicative present stem, or, most likely, an aorist generated from an unrelated stem? How do I find out? Is it really starting with alpha augmented to this eta, or an eta that was left unchanged (much different place in the dictionary)? Or perhaps it is starting with an epsilon with no change? It might be one of those irregular verbs ending in mi. Not all forms are in the dictionary. Maybe a duel case, not in Athenaze... Is this a 3rd declension noun or adjective, and as always, from one of those forms that I cannot seem to remember? I am prone to forget the meaning of those three letter prepositions, which can change meaning if followed by dative or genitive. And so it goes on and on. It is difficult to just read a sentence and know right away what it means.

Sometimes ten, fifteen or even thirty minutes elapse for a single word search... Then, after all the words are known, I still have to make sense of the sentence. Why is every clause of this particular sentence at accusative ? I speculate, maybe there is a weird grammatical rule I do not know yet (let us study Athenaze book two) ? Or maybe there is an implicit repetition of the logoi that say something at the accusative in the previous sentence, and which might (obviously?) continue here. I wonder, I wonder...

So, when someone asks me what I have done of my whole afternoon, I can proudly say that I have, really, read one full sentence in Herodotus. Three to five lines overall...At this rate, I will finish in more than five years. My interlocutors tell me that I should stick with French or English litterature.

They really do not understand the joys this ancient Greek language brings to the reader...So direct yet so subtle it is quite incredible.


Hello,

A couple of weeks ago, I've started to read and work with Oerberg's Latin course having already studied several Latin courses and I have to say that Oerberg's Lingua Latina is amazing. I'm at this time up to the chapter XVII of Familia Romana and I need to admit that I've learned a lot of Latin with Familia Romana. I am particularly able to understand and write Latin properly without translation at this moment. It's fantastic.

Well, I've read opinions which have been shared concerning to Athenaze and I've decided to order a copy of the Italian edition of Athenaze(http://vivariumnovum.it/athenaze.htm). I've also found a little bit of confusion. Well, at least, I know there are an English edition by Oxford (also available in translation at Spanish libraries) and another Italian by Vivarium Novum.
Is there any other edition/version? Have you employed Athenaze (Vivarium Novum) in your Greek studies? Is the methodology of this one comparable to Oerberg's Lingua Latina series? If someone studies with Vivarium Novum Athenaze, he/she will be able to understand Greek as Latin if it were learned by means of the oerbergian method (direct method)?

Many thanks in advance.
Last edited by Gonzalo on Tue Dec 25, 2007 8:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Lucus Eques » Tue Dec 25, 2007 6:49 pm

I appreciate your sentiments! I too am reading Athenaze, and in fact I intend to write out the entire book in the next week in order finally to acquire its Greek. (I did the same for Lingua Latina, and the method worked beautifully.)

spiphany wrote:I do have a couple of suggestions, however, if you want to continue just reading. First, see if you can find a text which has been edited for beginning students; if it's any good it will provide help with confusing constructions. Second, you can try the morphological analysis tool at Perseus, which can be useful for those times when you absolutely cannot figure out what a word is.


How do I use this morphology tool?
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Postby Gonzalo » Tue Dec 25, 2007 7:55 pm

Lucus Eques wrote:I appreciate your sentiments! I too am reading Athenaze, and in fact I intend to write out the entire book in the next week in order finally to acquire its Greek. (I did the same for Lingua Latina, and the method worked beautifully.)

spiphany wrote:I do have a couple of suggestions, however, if you want to continue just reading. First, see if you can find a text which has been edited for beginning students; if it's any good it will provide help with confusing constructions. Second, you can try the morphological analysis tool at Perseus, which can be useful for those times when you absolutely cannot figure out what a word is.


How do I use this morphology tool?

Hi,
I've said I found some confusion because of, ex.gr., a thread in which are discussed the existent editions of Athenaze. Which one do you have? Do you have also the work-book(Meletèmata)?
Regards,
Gonzalo
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Postby πετÏ￾ης » Tue Dec 25, 2007 8:03 pm

Lucus Eques wrote:...I intend to write out the entire book in the next week in order finally to acquire its Greek. (I did the same for Lingua Latina, and the method worked beautifully.)


You mean copying all of the Greek in the book, not just the exercises, but the reading matter as well? Does this help one compose and understand how to write in a language? I ask because if this is so I will try it.

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Postby Lucus Eques » Tue Dec 25, 2007 9:43 pm

I have the Italian version, but no workbook.

And I mean typing out all the text of the story of Athenaze — I've already done most of the exercises in the book. When I applied the same method to Lingua Latina, I typed out the text of a chapter, then did the exercises by hand. I found this was the best of both worlds, since I'm a faster typer. I had not yet done this for Athenaze, which is why I believe my Greek retension had been suffering.

I believe to write out something (reading the sentence ALOUD and memorizing it before typing, ideally) is extremely helpful in utilizing the kinesthetic aspects of memory in language acquisition. Typing should also be more effective than writing by hand, since both hands are used. In my method I employ reading, writing, speaking, hearing, and kinesthesis as well all simultaneously, which covers most of the learning centres of the brain. It worked great for Latin, and it's working now for Athenaze.
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Postby Lucus Eques » Tue Dec 25, 2007 9:44 pm

And yes, writing out these model sentences helps me to write my own Greek sentences, I feel. One can be tempted to parse while only reading, but writing forces the true syntax.
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Postby Interaxus » Wed Dec 26, 2007 3:08 am

Lots of Athenaze audio (and other) materials here:

http://leserables.tripod.com/indexold.html

and here:

http://www.cornellcollege.edu/classical_studies/ariadne/chapters/ch1.shtml

As reinforcement, perhaps?

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Postby πετÏ￾ης » Wed Dec 26, 2007 3:30 am

Lucus Eques wrote:And yes, writing out these model sentences helps me to write my own Greek sentences, I feel. One can be tempted to parse while only reading, but writing forces the true syntax.


Thanks for your help and clarification.

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Postby Lucus Eques » Wed Dec 26, 2007 2:51 pm

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Postby Chris Weimer » Wed Dec 26, 2007 8:16 pm

There is still grammar to be learned in book II of Athenaze, so in my opinion, it's best to stick with it to finish out the grammar, especially the subjunctives and the -mi verbs. Like Lucus Eques, I too wrote out the entire book, followed by a full translation. It's definitely helpful. I'm not fond of the particular grouping of the paradigms, so I wrote out my own as well, fully parsing several different types of verbs, regardless of the repetition. That too helps.
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Postby jk0592 » Wed Dec 26, 2007 9:47 pm

There is still grammar to be learned in book II of Athenaze, so in my opinion, it's best to stick with it to finish out the grammar, especially the subjunctives and the -mi verbs.


Indeed this is so. There is a lot a grammar in book II. And I find there is a lot of memorizing to do, much more than in book I. But the rewards are higher, since we get texts from Herodotus and Thucydides.
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Postby Interaxus » Thu Dec 27, 2007 2:38 am

Luce:

Any chance of getting to listen to YOUR Athenaze recordings? If they're anywhere near as good as your Latin Trimalchio, they must be very good indeed. Incidentally, I don't suppose you have any plans to record a chapter or two of Thrasymachus...???. :(

Gonzago:

I bought TWO copies of the Italian Athenaze (Book 1) by accident. These things happen as one gets older. If you haven't already ordered it, I can let you have my extra copy for free. (Just let me have your address).

Or if you've already ordered it, maybe someone else is interested?

Cheers,
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Postby Lucus Eques » Thu Dec 27, 2007 2:42 am

A generous offer, Interaxe! I hope someone takes you up on it.

And as for making a Greek recording, I'd love to. I feel I need to learn some more about the language — ask me again in a week, before New Year's; I'd like to give it a shot. After, of course, the next installment of Cena Trimalchionis. :)
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Postby Gonzalo » Thu Dec 27, 2007 8:44 am

Interaxus wrote:Luce:

Any chance of getting to listen to YOUR Athenaze recordings? If they're anywhere near as good as your Latin Trimalchio, they must be very good indeed. Incidentally, I don't suppose you have any plans to record a chapter or two of Thrasymachus...???. :(

Gonzago:

I bought TWO copies of the Italian Athenaze (Book 1) by accident. These things happen as one gets older. If you haven't already ordered it, I can let you have my extra copy for free. (Just let me have your address).

Or if you've already ordered it, maybe someone else is interested?

Cheers,
Int


Interaxe, I've ordered the vol. I and vol. II from my bookseller two days ago and she ordered it from Italy. My copies will have arrived in three or four days. I hadn't seen your kind gesture because I wasn't able to read Textkit during these days so I'm really sorry and you're very generous. Sincerely, thanks.
Regards,
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Postby Gonzalo » Thu Jan 17, 2008 3:17 pm

Hello,
My copies of Athenaze (vols. I & II) have arrived yesterday and I am going to carry them from the book-shop tomorrow.
I have a little question. I've noticed the existence of the work-book written to be used as a companion of the text-book (Meletèmata) and my book-seller told me that they have copies of them which are available. Since I have not used any work-book in reading and working through Familia Romana and I have read aloud, written again the texts and I've also done aloud and written in paper all exercises given, I don't know how the Meletèmata may work. Does anyone have this workbook which I refer to? Do you recommend these work-books?
http://vivariumnovum.it/athenaze.htm

Regards,
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Quin age, si quid habes (P. Vergilii Maronis Ecloga III:52)
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Re: A few comments on Athenaze, and on reading Greek

Postby antonyclassicallatin » Wed Nov 21, 2012 10:24 pm

χαῖρε,

Just wanted to comment on what jk0592 » Sun Jul 29, 2007 11:18 pm said,

" I commend you. I am going through the same experience. It is wonderful to see others doing the same. Yes, a whole afternoon translating on sentence of Homer sometimes. Yes, I know. Perseus has helped though and I go much faster now. Having commentaries also helps if they exist. Sometimes they are from the 1800's or early 1900's. But they help. Also, there are audio files available for the first 5 chapters of Athenaze and teacher's manual on Amazon for books I and II."

Good luck,

vale,

Paul
Washington DC Area.
Knowledgable in Ancient Greek and Latin.
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