Lina wrote:Also, thesaurus, would you elaborate on this comment you made: "This way you aren't translating or using harmful crutches and you stay within the context of the language."
I'm pretty sure that what I do would be considered translating (and lord knows, I'm probably using harmful crutches too), but I'm not sure what the other options are. Do you not think the english words as you go along? If not, what do you think?
I didn't mean to scare you too much with my alarmist rhetoric. As a general rule in language learning, you want to stay in the context of the target language as much as possible. That is, if you're learning Greek, you want to structure your learning in terms of the Greek language itself whenever possible. You could think of it as a kind of 'immersion'. This is why 'intuitive' learning approaches are often recommended here, because you learn the language a lot faster by working entirely within its context. Like any language, Greek has its own internal logic with which you have to familiarize yourself.
I'll second what Vir Litterarum wrote, "I have come to realize that grammatical knowledge is only half the battle in reading ancient texts. The other half is raw critical reasoning based on interpretation of the context." In other words, learning to read Greek requires understanding how the language works on its own terms. Practically, this means reading Greek while avoiding any possible reference to English to understand what the text is saying. This is very difficult initially, but if you make a concerted effort to do you, you'll progress faster. I call it a crutch because if you think of English words every time you see Greek words, then you're not so much reading the Greek as treating it as a code for English. When you read English, you don't see the words and then think of some other, prior language. Rather, you think of the idea the words represent. So when you read "tree" you think of an actual tree. If you read "dendron" in Greek and think of "tree" in English, then you've added an intermediary step that obstructs a complete understanding of the Greek. Ideally, you read "dendron" and have 'the idea of a tree' in your head.
To get around this, when you're learning vocabulary, try to think of the thing or idea that the Greek words represent instead of their English equivalents. When you're reading a Greek text, there are additional techniques you can do to break out of Greek-English translation. First, read through the text (out loud if possible) without stopping, all the way through. This will generally acquaint you with the structure, flow, and general ideas before you really know what is going on. Then, slowly work through the text as you're accustomed to, looking up words, parsing grammar, etc. At this point you're understanding the text on a grammatical, formal level, but you're reading it technically rather than naturally; it's still a puzzle/code that needs to be solved/broken. The trick is to then reread the whole passage several times (again, preferably out out) without stopping on individual words and constructions. After you've done this several times you'll hopefully move from analyzing the passage to simply reading it; you'll focus on the meaning
of each sentence rather than its formal/structural characteristics. Think of it as taking a step back so that you can appreciate what the text is trying to communicate rather than how it is grammatically structured. Eventually, with enough practice, you'll see a simple Greek sentence and understand what it means right away without any translation or use of English
. It's not magic, just the normal process of learning to read that humans use for all languages. Greek and Latin are just particularly vexed because of the detrimental, analytical method for teaching them today.
As Vir Literrarum suggested, this is often a mysterious gap in learning Greek and Latin that prevents most people from attaining fluency in reading. They may have studied the grammar extremely thoroughly and for many years, and can expertly analyze and break down the structure of any text. However, when it comes to read, they proceed slowly and unnaturally, decoding each sentence into English, and the reading the English to figure out the meaning itself. In Latin you often here people say, "first find the verb, then find the subject, then the object...." You can tell by the non-linear style of reading that this method cultivates that it does not resemble "reading" as we think of it in modern languages.
Sorry for that rant, but it's important to prioritize good reading habits while you're still learning Greek. It will be hard and take a long time to feel like you've gotten a hang of reading naturally and without English, but you'll soon progress much further in your comprehension and skills than someone who is stuck in transliterating. You'll notice this once you can read much better than those who have been studying the language for twice as long!