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Advice, please

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Advice, please

Postby Jats » Tue Apr 13, 2010 10:56 pm

The main reason I signed up now, as opposed to when I've actually started, is to get feedback on by basic plan for learning Ancient Greek. I would like to read the New Testament in the original, but I would also like to read the Greek philosophers, dramatists, and poets I've only read in translation (Sophocles's Antigone and Homer's epics are what I'm thinking about in particular).

By reading material on various sources (mostly on general language learning) I came up with one plan. Over the next three months I would study Attic, but also do readings from the New Testament. Any Attic readings would probably be in a textbook that has vocabulary lists, but I would look up unfamiliar words in the Koine alone. After roughly three months, my goal would be to read through and understand one of the easier chapters of the New Testament without external help.

There are three problems I saw with that plan. One, I didn't know how ambitious a goal it was-I've never studied a language like Ancient Greek. Second, after reading and re-reading Textkit forum posts and articles, I wonder if I should start with Homeric and move to Attic and Koine, perhaps over a much larger time span. Finally, I'm wondering if mixing dialects like that is a good idea. It seems the general suggestion is to focus on the earliest dialect you'd want to learn, only reading other dialects occasionally, and change the focus to the next dialect after having built up a solid foundation.

The next plan I came up with is to follow the path in the introduction to Pharr's "Homeric Greek: a book for beginners." Basically, I'd start with Homeric and move on to the more modern dialects. I haven't thought this plan over, but since it comes from a Ph.D. in the field, I imagine it's very sound. The thing remaining is that I would have to come up with a new three-month goal to motivate me. I'm uncertain about going that route, though. It seems like I would be mostly constrained to the Homeric dialect for a long time, but maybe that's not such a bad thing. If I studied Homeric Greek, would I be able to understand Koine easily or would I have to get used to the differences between the dialects?

Perhaps you're wondering why three months and not a longer period? The summertime will probably be my chance to get a good start; that's why I'm focusing on the three-month time span. I will continue studying after the semester begins in September, but not as intensively. I'd like to have achieved some sort of milestone by the end of the summer.

Since I have about a while before the summer starts and I plan to start studying, I am trying to become familiar with the alphabet. The alphabet is mostly unchanged between dialects, right? Also, I'm planning to use Anki to help learn Greek-it should be interesting to see how it helps when starting a language from scratch.

I welcome any advice on my plans, what textbooks I should use (whether it is on Textkit or not), what kind of progress I should expect/aim for, and any other tips or advice.
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Re: Advice, please

Postby modus.irrealis » Mon Apr 19, 2010 9:40 pm

For me, three months would have been too ambitious and it took me much longer to read actual Greek texts, even the simpler ones. The main problem is just how many inflectional forms you have to learn before you're able to comfortably recognize words. I had a bit of an advantage because I knew some Modern Greek but there was still a lot of memorization work. I think this is one of the things that gives Greek its reputation as a hard language, that there's a whole bunch of memorization work to do at the very start before you can actually get into reading Greek sentences. Then there may be new grammatical concepts you have to get used to and that can take time as well.

I did the standard thing and started out with Attic. That made the most sense for me -- most of what I wanted to read was in Attic, and even for later periods, literary Koine works are not all that different (and many authors have Atticizing tendencies). The New Testament and the Septuagint are more different but it's easier in my opinion to go from Attic instead of to Attic, and the same for Homeric Greek. I feel that Attic has more syntactic constructions that you have to learn and that the language of Attic authors is generally more difficult. Although, maybe that's a reason to not start with Attic especially if you want to start reading as quickly as possible. But all these dialects belong on the same branch of Ancient Greek dialects so the differences are not that extreme.

I used Mastronarde's book which I like but I did have to go through it twice before I felt that I had gotten everything I could out of it. I think then it's probably better to start reading with a reader of some kind. I've had lots of success with some of the stuff from a century ago that was aimed at school kids, and I believe you can find lots of these on archive.org or google books and sites like that. They edit the text to get rid of the more difficult constructions so they end up being a really good to way to learn the inflections.

The alphabet shouldn't pose a problem since it is the same (unless you get interested in deciphering inscriptions). And once you pick a pronunciation scheme, you'll probably want to use it for all periods of Greek, so that'll be fine.

You might also want to consider Athenaze which I understand is a more reading oriented textbook. I've never used it but there are a lot of posts about it. It might be more appealing to you.
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Re: Advice, please

Postby Markos » Mon Apr 19, 2010 10:16 pm

It's good to be ambitious, but I think to read an unmarked Greek NT you will need to spend two years, averaging an hour per day. If you can spend
eight hours a day, maybe you can do it in three months.

I would start with Homer, skip Attic, and then go to the NT. Pharr's text is wonderful, and there are two other Homeric text books which
are also great, Beetham and Shoder and Horrigan. Work through all three. Then read all of Homer. Then you will find the transition to the
Greek NT very easy.

What you are doing is hard, but you will not regret a single moment.
I am writing in Ancient Greek not because I know Greek well, but because I hope that it will improve my fluency in reading. I got the idea for this from Adrianus over on the Latin forum here at Textkit.
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Re: Advice, please

Postby thesaurus » Wed Apr 21, 2010 3:39 pm

I'm a big fan of ambitious summer study plans. Your three month plan will depend on how much time you spend studying per day. However, it might be best to set incremental goals. I'd say pick a textbook, and then focus on working through all of it as fast as you can. This doesn't mean you should skim it: rather, read the chapters, do the exercises, and spend as much time as you can cramming/memorizing grammar. Let's say you get through a chapter or so a day. If you were doing Mastronarde's "Introduction to Attic Greek" (42 chapters) you'd be looking at about a month and a half. More realistically, give yourself two months to read and review the material. I can't comment much on Pharr, or starting with other dialects. I tried to learn Greek with Pharr, as has been suggested here, but I found the going slow and frustrating--the textbooks are geared for a 19th century audience, and I prefer a modern presentation (plus, I wanted to read more than Homer).

You could then spend the next month trying to get through as much reading as you can. You could use a simple reader, or pick a (well annotated) text of your choice and have at it, focusing on absorbing syntax, forms, and vocabulary. If you work through Mastronarde and are on the Attic route, you could pick up a copy of Plato's Apology, edited by Helm. This is an excellent edition/commentary, and I think you could make reasonable progress with it. Another option is the four volume series, "A Greek Prose Reading Course for Post Beginners" by Malcolm Campbell. Like Helm's edition, they are well annotated (also cheap!). I've sometimes used Freeman and Lowe's "A Greek Reader for Schools," which provides a great variety of short, relatively simple texts, lightly adapted from classical authors so as to make things easier for tyros; it's appropriate for someone just having finished a textbook, but the commentary is fairly sparse, especially in comparison with the previously mentioned editions (which are written for the modern student; Freeman's is a turn-of-the-century text).

When I was teaching myself Greek two summers ago, I worked through the first volume, "On the Murder of Eratosthenes," in addition to Helm's Apology. Before that, for my textbooks, I completed both volumes of the Italian edition of the Athenaze series (which contains a very different presentation and lots more readings--an intuitive approach--than the English version) and then quickly read through Mastronarde. Admittedly, I worked through the Athenaze books more slowly during the Spring (let's hear it for long bus commutes and the lunch hour!), so I was primed to spend my summer with primary readings. I'd break your days down into reading new material, doing practice questions, and then revising revising revising this and everything previous. Get used to writing out massive lists of conjugations. I had a legal notepad that I'd use to fill up page after page--it can become somewhat pleasant after a while if you are in a coffee shop or library or something. Once you are doing readings, I'd even recommend copying out the whole text by hand after having read and studied it (I did this with the Murder of Eratosthenes, and it was slow but useful). It's important to always be transcribing and even vocalizing the Greek as you learn your grammar, etc., rather than just reading it silently.

Writing this reminds me of how I've lost most of the progress I had made on Greek and other "summer" language studies... I'm dedicating this summer to reviving these old ones rather than embarking on a new one. Although it feels like the second I start working on one, the others start to slip...
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
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Re: Advice, please

Postby Jats » Fri Apr 23, 2010 2:54 am

Thank you for all of your helpful advice!
First, the book recommendations. I looked at all the books on Amazon and Beginning Greek With Homer by F. J. Beetham seems to be the best volume for me because 1) It is self-contained (no need for an extra answer key) 2) well-written (at least as far as I could gather from the "Look Inside" feature) and 3) inexpensive. Technically Pharr's is least expensive (as it accessible for free online), but I would like to have a hard copy.

I'm fairly certain I'll start with Homer, but I think I will adapt thesaurus' plan to whatever Homeric books/readers I decide to use. If I did start with Homeric, would I be able to read through simple (or even simplified) Koine texts, without any Koine-specific study? (Forgive me if I sound greedy because I want to read Koine without studying it specifically :D ) I wouldn't be reading much Koine, but apparently it can be a nice break from Homeric.

modus.irrealis, thank you for answering my question on the alphabet. I've already learned most of the alphabet using a NT Greek course. I've heard there are two letters in Homeric Greek that aren't part of later dialects, but should be learned anyway because they are used occasionally in Homeric. Can anyone clarify or tell their own experiences with this part of the dialect?

Honestly, I am confused by this statement,"For me, three months would have been too ambitious and it took me much longer to read actual Greek texts, even the simpler ones," because it conflicts with things I've read elsewhere. The Attic book, "Teach Yourself Ancient Greek," I borrowed from the library says it starts with real Greek texts after lesson 9, which seems to indicate that it's possible to read actual (albeit simple) texts in three months. Also, I read a summary of Athenaze and it seems that it starts off with genuine Greek early on. Or perhaps it would take over three months to get that far in those books? I'm almost willing to be overambitious if it allows me to set a truly motivating goal (here, reading real Greek sentences).

One final question: is "Homeric" preferred over "Epic"? Or can they be used interchangeably?

Again, thank you for your advice and patience.
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Re: Advice, please

Postby modus.irrealis » Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:24 pm

Jats wrote:modus.irrealis, thank you for answering my question on the alphabet. I've already learned most of the alphabet using a NT Greek course. I've heard there are two letters in Homeric Greek that aren't part of later dialects, but should be learned anyway because they are used occasionally in Homeric. Can anyone clarify or tell their own experiences with this part of the dialect?

You won't find any different letters in a standard edition of Homer. I'm guessing what you heard has to do with digamma (I can't think of what the second letter would be) but there are indications that the [w] sound represented by digamma may have still been pronounced when the poems were composed, but the letter itself is not used.

Honestly, I am confused by this statement,"For me, three months would have been too ambitious and it took me much longer to read actual Greek texts, even the simpler ones," because it conflicts with things I've read elsewhere. The Attic book, "Teach Yourself Ancient Greek," I borrowed from the library says it starts with real Greek texts after lesson 9, which seems to indicate that it's possible to read actual (albeit simple) texts in three months. Also, I read a summary of Athenaze and it seems that it starts off with genuine Greek early on. Or perhaps it would take over three months to get that far in those books? I'm almost willing to be overambitious if it allows me to set a truly motivating goal (here, reading real Greek sentences).

I think I misunderstood you then -- of course none of the Greek in the textbooks is not real, but I was thinking of picking up a Greek text and reading it on its own, without external help like you said. My experience was that it was difficult to go from textbook Greek to Greek texts and there was a lengthy period where I had to look a lot of things up, and I found it was much easier to rely on those external helps at first before I got more comfortable with things, and that whole process took me longer than three months. That's what I was thinking of when I said "actual Greek".
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Re: Advice, please

Postby Markos » Thu Apr 29, 2010 12:59 am

JATS wrote:

<If I did start with Homeric, would I be able to read through simple (or even simplified) Koine texts, without any Koine-specific study? (Forgive me if I sound greedy because I want to read Koine without studying it specifically :D ) I wouldn't be reading much Koine, but apparently it can be a nice break from Homeric.>

Beetham gives you most of the Attic/Koine equivalents of the Homeric forms. There are some grammatical constructions in Koine that you don't find in Homer, but not enough to prevent you from reading some easy or annotated Koine. So, yes, learn Homer and you can make the transition right to Koine.
I am writing in Ancient Greek not because I know Greek well, but because I hope that it will improve my fluency in reading. I got the idea for this from Adrianus over on the Latin forum here at Textkit.
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Re: Advice, please

Postby typesofambiguity » Fri Apr 30, 2010 10:09 pm

Are the italian editions of Athenaze pretty well impossible to find...I navigated the Italian over at the Vivarium Novum site and looked at the sample pages...but I can't find the book anywhere online. I looked through all the used Oxford Press ones on Amazon hoping someone would have lumped one in there but I can't tell...any ideas?
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Re: Advice, please

Postby Hampie » Mon May 03, 2010 2:45 pm

typesofambiguity wrote:Are the italian editions of Athenaze pretty well impossible to find...I navigated the Italian over at the Vivarium Novum site and looked at the sample pages...but I can't find the book anywhere online. I looked through all the used Oxford Press ones on Amazon hoping someone would have lumped one in there but I can't tell...any ideas?

I think you have to order it form Italy, maybe you know someone who speaks Italian who can help you order (and find it)?
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Re: Advice, please

Postby thesaurus » Mon May 03, 2010 6:01 pm

Hampie wrote:I think you have to order it form Italy, maybe you know someone who speaks Italian who can help you order (and find it)?


I had to order mine from Italy. It's expensive and shipping takes a while, but it can be done. A kind European member here hooked me up with a copy of the second volume--otherwise I would have ordered that, too. I've seen volumes available on Abebooks, too.

Try unilibro.com
http://www.unilibro.com/find_buy/produc ... 47&idaff=0
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Re: Advice, please

Postby Scribo » Tue May 04, 2010 9:24 am

JACT Reading Greek? It's Attic (largely - contains Herodotos and Homer at the end...) and gets you reading rather quickly. Supplement this with a more concise study of Grammar though.
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Re: Advice, please

Postby Jats » Wed May 05, 2010 2:56 am

Thank you for clarifying, modus, I think I understand what you meant.
I've decided to start with Beginning Greek With Homer by F. J. Beetham and unless there's a reason to have multiple textbooks right from the start, I think I'll stick with that until I finish it or get tired of it (hopefully the former :) ). I am wondering if I really need a lexicon, since textbooks have a vocabulary and there are online lexicons. Finally, I'm wondering whether I should get a copy of the Odyssey or some other work early on or whether I should wait to have completed a course or two.
On the subject of books, has anyone had luck getting Greek lexicons/texts/textbooks at used bookstores or library book sales? I've been to a few lately, and they are a great way to get books inexpensively. However, I haven't found anything in ancient Greek (although a local used bookstore has Spanish, German, Korean, and Chinese learning materials and/or native texts).
Thank you for all your advice and encouragement!
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Re: Advice, please

Postby Scribo » Fri May 07, 2010 5:12 pm

I'm a student in my second year of Greek...I don't own a lexicon and I have no real use for one, the lists in most textbooks and glosses in reading texts (with the odd reference to Perseus...) are more than enough for reading. Admittedly it's vital for me to get a handle of LSJ for exams, but I try to rely on building up an extensive vocabulary first, just like you would in any other tongue.
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Re: Advice, please

Postby modus.irrealis » Sun May 09, 2010 2:57 am

Jats wrote:On the subject of books, has anyone had luck getting Greek lexicons/texts/textbooks at used bookstores or library book sales? I've been to a few lately, and they are a great way to get books inexpensively. However, I haven't found anything in ancient Greek (although a local used bookstore has Spanish, German, Korean, and Chinese learning materials and/or native texts).

I'd say that used books are the greatest thing for learning languages and I have a couple boxes full of Ancient Greek and Latin stuff. Are there any universities around where you are? The University of Toronto has a slew of used book sales every fall and they've always got lots of stuff for Classics: school editions of texts from a century ago that were perfect for me when I was starting out because they're fairly heavily annotated, Loeb editions, dictionaries, etc.
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Re: Advice, please

Postby Jats » Wed May 19, 2010 10:08 pm

dacoda wrote:I think Greek characters is very difficult to learn, i think it will take a year to learn to read.

Have you studied it yourself? If so, how long did it take you? If not, on what are you basing your statement? Sorry if I'm being critical, but with the number of informed opinions here I'm not really interested in uninformed ones.
I've already mostly learned the alphabet, and I think learning the declensions/conjugations will end up being much harder than the characters.
Anyway, thank you for all your advice! I hope to buy the Beetham book and get started in the next couple weeks.
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Re: Advice, please

Postby spiphany » Thu May 20, 2010 7:52 pm

Jats wrote:
dacoda wrote:I think Greek characters is very difficult to learn, i think it will take a year to learn to read.

Have you studied it yourself? If so, how long did it take you? If not, on what are you basing your statement? Sorry if I'm being critical, but with the number of informed opinions here I'm not really interested in uninformed ones.

er, I think dacoda is a spammer...
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