Textkit Logo

Textbook versus authentic greek

Here's where you can discuss all things Ancient Greek. Use this board to ask questions about grammar, discuss learning strategies, get translation help and more!

Textbook versus authentic greek

Postby Lina » Wed Mar 04, 2009 6:21 am

Hi,

I just moved on to Athenaze, Chapter 21β. The chapter reading is Thucydides 1.140-46, Pericles' speech to the assembly.

Usually, I do fairly well with the readings as long as I have learned the vocabulary. Up until now, most readings have been concocted by the Athenaze authors, although some have been adapted from classical authors or have been from the New Testament.

The problem with this latest passage is that the things I have expected in sentences in order to obtain meaning are not always obvious or there. For instance, the first sentence had two infinitives, an aorist participle and no other verbs, leaving me with a sentence that does not grammatically make much sense to me. It is also not easy to figure out how words within the sentence relate to one another.

Unlike some here, I have never studied Latin, nor have I read translated versions of classical works. I suspect that if I had, I would have a better instinct for the meaning of what I'm trying to read.

So. Has anyone here encountered this sort of problem...perhaps someone who has done Athenaze?

I have, maybe, three choices:
1. Plow through this reading and hope that the rest of the readings are closer to my level. I don't want to make a habit of struggling through readings that are really too hard for me though.
2. Do some review of past lessons, though I don't think anything there will solve this problem.
3. Look for some supplementary material/teaching that will help me bridge this sudden gap that has developed in my comprehension.

Maybe there are other strategies I should consider. Can anyone advise me?
Lina
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 45
Joined: Sun Feb 08, 2009 10:11 pm

Re: Textbook versus authentic greek

Postby jk0592 » Wed Mar 04, 2009 2:02 pm

I also use Athenaze as my learning book. And when I reached the chapters you mention, such as the two Ecclesia, my reading when to almost a standstill. I blame Thucydides as being too complicated...The chapters further down, those based on Herodotus for example, are much better in the reading department. And I also find that the treatment of verbs in the optative, and perfect and pluperfect is not as good as it should.
It seems to me that Athenaze volume 1 was a very good book, but that volume 2 is not as good. But I try to keep up using it until finished. I try to read Greek authors, but reading them is still a very difficult proposition.
However, when I pick up other grammars, the reading exercises pose very little difficulties, so Athenaze must be doing something right.
Jean K.
jk0592
Textkit Member
 
Posts: 137
Joined: Sun Oct 08, 2006 3:20 am
Location: Montreal, Canada

Re: Textbook versus authentic greek

Postby NuclearWarhead » Wed Mar 04, 2009 4:01 pm

Thucydides is a notoriously difficult author. His style is in general very compact, and in his speeches, even more so. So as the first answer suggested, I will suggest too that you read something else than Thucydides.
Fiat iustitia et pereat mundus.
NuclearWarhead
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 29
Joined: Tue Jun 21, 2005 1:28 pm
Location: Aarhus University, Denmark

Re: Textbook versus authentic greek

Postby thesaurus » Wed Mar 04, 2009 5:46 pm

If you are getting bogged down in some sentences or tripped up on awkward constructions and word order, it might help to try to rephrase/reorder the sentence in Greek to match English or typical syntax. This way you aren't translating or using harmful crutches and you stay within the context of the language. I often find that if I do this and then understand the sentence, then I can reread it in the original with more comprehension. Especially helpful with poetry.
Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur nec quid sequatur sciri potest. Quod cuique temporis ad vivendum datur, eo debet esse contentus. --Cicero, De Senectute
thesaurus
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 988
Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2006 9:44 pm

Re: Textbook versus authentic greek

Postby vir litterarum » Thu Mar 05, 2009 6:05 am

The more you read classical texts, the more you'll come to realize just how important utilizing the context of a passage is to comprehending its meaning. I've been studying Latin for over five years now, and Greek for over three, and by this point (and I think everybody in this forum would concur with me) 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. The author writes x in the previous sentence and z in the following sentence, and so, using my preliminary understanding of the sentence, I think that he is saying roughly y in this sentence. Once you can reason out the outline of the sentence like this, the grammar will fall into place to complete your understanding. My biggest advice would be not to begin approaching the sentence in terms of grammatical schematics; don't start by saying, " all right, I have x,y, and z, so the author must be using this construction cited in Smyth ...." Start by first making sure you have a thorough grasp of the preceding context and a general concept of the thrust of the passage, then complement or readjust this based on your grammatical knowledge. Greek is replete with connecting particles which usually make clear the logical connection between thoughts, so make sure you pay attention to the signification of these in particular. The most important key to tranlsating fluently of course is exposure. You can only learn to anticipate frequent types of ellipsis, brachyology, and anacoluthon after you have seen them over and over again. Thucydides is not a good place to start because his style is sparse and compacted to the extreme. Rather it is best to start with the paradigmatic prose stylists such as Xenophon, Plato, or Herodotus and, after you're thoroughly familiar with their styles, then move on to departures therefrom. And never get discouraged. Even my professors still struggle with passages in Thucydides and Plato.

P.S. In reference to Thucydides, as the preeminent Classicist K.J Dover said, "Thucydides constantly tries, to say too much in too few words."
vir litterarum
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 721
Joined: Sat Sep 24, 2005 4:04 am
Location: Oberlin, Ohio

Re: Textbook versus authentic greek

Postby Lina » Fri Mar 06, 2009 4:52 am

Thanks, all, for your responses.

I'm relieved to hear that Thucydides is a hard author, and it's not just me. It doesn't take much adversity for my morale to suffer. I wonder what possessed the Athenaze authors to stick him in where they did?

Jean K., you must be nearly finished by now with Athenaze. May I ask out of curiousity how long you have spent getting through book 2? Have you been doing the workbook as well?

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?
Lina
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 45
Joined: Sun Feb 08, 2009 10:11 pm

Re: Textbook versus authentic greek

Postby thesaurus » Fri Mar 06, 2009 4:22 pm

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!
Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur nec quid sequatur sciri potest. Quod cuique temporis ad vivendum datur, eo debet esse contentus. --Cicero, De Senectute
thesaurus
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 988
Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2006 9:44 pm

Re: Textbook versus authentic greek

Postby vir litterarum » Fri Mar 06, 2009 10:04 pm

Thesaurus wrote
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.


This idea is perhaps the most important for facilitating the ability to read Greek texts instead of translating them. Don't go through a text rearranging everything into nice and tidy subject, verb, object English sentences. Let's say for example you had a completely hypothetical sentence like ἵππον μοι δίδωσιν ὁ ἄνθρωπος. Don't rearrange it in your head so that it becomes ὁ ἄνθρωπος δίδωσιν τὸ βιβλίον μοι; rather, interpret the cases and words as they come, i.e. once you see ἵππον, you know that is almost certainly going to be the object, then μοι is going to be the indirect receiver of the action of the sentence, δίδωσιν is going to be the action of the sentence and indicates that some third-person subject is doing it in the present, and lastly ὁ ἄνθρωπος indicates who the subject is. And so, conceptually, don't go through the sentence and denature the expression into "the person gives a horse to me"; instead, conceive of it in terms of how the meaning is expressed as "Direct Object, Indirect Object, action, subject" in that order without rearranging the information imparted by the endings. This is extremely challenging at first, especially when you come to complex sentences, but don't shy away from immersing yourself in the text as thesaurus said; otherwise you'll end up with a bunch of inutile grammar floating around in your head, always completely dependent upon some 18th or 19th century commentary.

I would recommend recording yourself reading the text, then, after you have read through them and understood the grammar, listening to them and trying to understand them just by listening to them.
vir litterarum
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 721
Joined: Sat Sep 24, 2005 4:04 am
Location: Oberlin, Ohio

Re: Textbook versus authentic greek

Postby Lina » Sun Mar 08, 2009 7:02 am

Thanks for your further comments. I will incorporate your suggestions into my study routine. I appreciate the helpfulness of people on this forum!

Thesaurus wrote
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.


vir litterarum:
This idea is perhaps the most important for facilitating the ability to read Greek texts instead of translating them. Don't go through a text rearranging everything into nice and tidy subject, verb, object English sentences


I'll bet a child's brain is much more flexible in terms of adapting to this non-linear language structure versus my over-the-hill brain. No wonder they used to teach latin and greek to pre-adolescents, rather than waiting for college or beyond.
Lina
Textkit Neophyte
 
Posts: 45
Joined: Sun Feb 08, 2009 10:11 pm

Re: Textbook versus authentic greek

Postby modus.irrealis » Sun Mar 08, 2009 7:37 pm

Lina wrote:I'll bet a child's brain is much more flexible in terms of adapting to this non-linear language structure versus my over-the-hill brain. No wonder they used to teach latin and greek to pre-adolescents, rather than waiting for college or beyond.

I wouldn't over-emphasize the difference between Greek and English here. Just think about how English can say "a man stood in the rain" vs. "there stood a man in the rain" or "the dog attacked the children" vs. "the children were attacked by the dog" or "I know this" vs. "this I know" or even "yesterday I went to the store" vs. "I went yesterday to the store" vs. "I went to the store yesterday". English also has ways to present the same information in a different order (for various purposes), it just has to rely a lot on different constructions whereas Greek and Latin, because of case inflection, can just rearrange the same words. I'm not sure if that helps any, but the best help anyway is exposure, especially, as was said, exposure to connected passages, because word order and ellipsis and all sorts of other things you see in real Greek only make sense in a broader context.

I don't think anybody's mentioned this but one thing that I've found helpful is to take a passage that's at your reading level and record yourself saying it and then a while later play it back and make sure you can understand it as you hear it. To me that's the natural goal in trying to understand a language, that you can understand it as it's spoken.

There's a nice article "The Art of Reading Latin" at http://www.bu.edu/mahoa/hale_art.html -- unfortunately it's about Latin but it might make a good read. And
Unlike some here, I have never studied Latin, nor have I read translated versions of classical works. I suspect that if I had, I would have a better instinct for the meaning of what I'm trying to read.

Fortunately, that works both ways -- if you go on to Latin, what you've gained in Greek will help a lot.
modus.irrealis
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1093
Joined: Mon Apr 10, 2006 6:08 am
Location: Toronto

Re: Textbook versus authentic greek

Postby 1%homeless » Mon Mar 09, 2009 10:18 am

I'll bet a child's brain is much more flexible in terms of adapting to this non-linear language structure versus my over-the-hill brain


You're right to assume this. And this gets to the matter of the debate of the natural method of language learning. I must differ with the previous opinions about language learning, especially Ancient Greek. There are some problems in learning languages the way a child does. As an adult the facilities of "Sprachgefuhl" is hindered. You can't pick up the nuances of words and sentences like a child. As an adult, it is easier and quicker to take a lexicographer's approach for learning the shades of meaning. Try to find as many possible meanings of a word when learning vocabulary to get a "feeling" for the word. Whether you have a monolingual background or not is another factor in language learning. The natural method isn't always best for a monolingual person. You can't start rewiring your brain from the ground up and avoid English translation. Yes, skipping mental translation is a worthy goal, but it will slow you down to a crawl. It's even worse for ancient languages. I see nothing wrong using the translation "crutch" when starting out. Although I am comfortable with many different orders of subject,verb, adjectives, and object, I still use English equivalents in the order of the target language when I start a new language. I think it is possible to subconsciously drop the translation when you arrive at an advanced level. My mother has never taken an English class, yet she still sometimes count in English. Usually, mathematical thinking is the last thing to be "naturalized" in a foreign language. I remember taking French and being "immersed" with confusion because the teacher thought I would soak up French even though I didn't understand much of what he said most of the time... If I was going to learn language that way, I might was well watch foreign language movies without subtitles. Native speakers are usually the worst language teachers. For beginning classes, I usually prefer non-native language teachers. They understand what it is like to learn the language as an adult. Also, I lost my two native languages from my childhood. Re-learning them really provided further insight to language learning. I witnessed how "Sprachgefuhl" was working in my brain and I understood that sometimes my brain would work as an adult and sometimes it would work as a child. Even then, I still think the natural method of teaching my native languages to me isn't appropriate at certain times. (Really, I consider English as part of my native language since I have been exposed to it since 3 or 4 years old)

In conclusion, I think it really is up to the person to decide and experiment on themselves for what is the best approach to learning a language. So I recommend some linguistics books on language learning to learn about the pros and cons of each method.

Oh yes, I think it is best to obtain books with commentary/annotation when reading authentic Greek. They help to develop context comprehension immensely. I think live language educators can learn a thing or two about ancient language education. I really like the Cambridge green and yellows. I think they used to be orange...
Last edited by 1%homeless on Mon Mar 09, 2009 10:51 am, edited 3 times in total.
User avatar
1%homeless
Textkit Enthusiast
 
Posts: 440
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2003 6:21 am
Location: East Hollywood

Re: Textbook versus authentic greek

Postby Lex » Mon Mar 09, 2009 10:39 am

1%homeless wrote:I see nothing wrong using the translation "crutch" when starting out.


I think it's pretty much inevitable that you are going to translate at first, anyway, right or wrong. When you first start out, you aren't fluent enough to think in the foreign language. So you have no choice but to think in your native language; it's all you've got.

1%homeless wrote:I remember taking French and being "immersed" with confusion because the teacher thought I would soak up French even though I didn't understand much of what he said most of the time... If I was going to learn language that way, I might was well watch foreign language movies without subtitles.


Hehehe.... I think the natural or immersion system, at least for a raw beginner, is akin to picking yourself up by your bootstraps. And even if you're further along, books that explain Latin grammar in Latin, for instance, don't make much sense to me. What if you don't understand an explanation of a grammatical point because your Latin is not good enough to understand the explanation? Then you try to look up the grammatical point that is giving you problems in the explanation, and don't understand that! Again, it's a bootstrap problem.

1%homeless wrote:....Also, I lost my two native languages from my childhood. Re-learning them really provided further insight to language learning. I witnessed how "Sprachgefuhl" was working in my brain and I understood that sometimes my brain would work as an adult and sometimes it would work as a child. ...


A friend of mine from high school (father American, mother Mexican) was raised speaking Spanish until the age of 5, then was sent to school and had to learn English via the immersion method. When he tried to learn Spanish in high school, he couldn't do it. His brain blocked out Spanish completely.
I, Lex Llama, super genius, will one day rule this planet! And then you'll rue the day you messed with me, you damned dirty apes!
User avatar
Lex
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 732
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2003 6:34 pm
Location: A top-secret underground llama lair.


Return to Learning Greek

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: jeidsath, Paul Derouda, Qimmik, Shenoute and 42 guests