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Methods for learning Greek

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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby calvinist » Wed Feb 23, 2011 10:21 pm

Exactly as rkday said. The terms are technical linguistic terms bases on the 'literal' meanings of the words analytic/synthetic, which are opposites meaning "break up/bring together". To 'analyze' is to break something into pieces to understand it; a 'synthesis' is a combination of pieces. The term "isolating" is also used for "analytic" languages, but I prefer "analytic" because it corresponds nicely with "synthetic".
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Re: What if all I want is Aristotle?

Postby gfross » Thu May 26, 2011 10:09 am

Scribo wrote:
It is vital to cover the grammar and build a working vocabulary but people need to practice reading alongside that


Agreed. Reading units of discourse of a size and difficulty that suit the level of the learner, always at least a paragraph in length, preferably longer. Using the grammar and the vocabulary that the student has already learned. The focus must be on developing the reading skill, not on learning grammar or vocabulary.

Scribo wrote: in an ideal world there would also be composition. Unfortunately this always gets pushed far down the list of priorities


No, no, no, no, no. NO composition in Greek. If our goal is to READ, that is. If we had the choice of spending an hour on composition in Greek or an hour of developing our reading skill by READING, which would we logically choose? Are we studying non-modern Greek in order to read it or to translate from English to Greek, which is what most Greek prose composition boils down to. Let's be logical and efficient about choosing how to spend our time. Do we follow the dictates of traditional pedagogy, now long outdated by the discoveries of modern linguistics, or do we incorporate the modern linguistically sound methods of developing reading skills in a foreign language, as exemplified so expansively in the field of ESL/EFL (English as a Second/Foreign Language) and with such paucity in the field of non-modern Greek? Take at look at the many materials used to help non-English speakers develop the skills needed to read well in English, and you'll begin to understand what is sorely needed in the field of classical Greek pedagogy.

Learning a "dead" language (and Homeric/Attic/Koine Greek is "dead"; no one communicates using only those grammatical patterns anymore) differs from learning a modern language in that the goal is to develop one set of skills, not four -- reading, not listening comprehension and speaking and writing as well. Translation from Greek to English is a fifth set of skills, and translation from English to Greek is a sixth set of skills. Learning to translate is most efficiently done after we have learned to read both languages. Again, how efficient do we want to be in our study of the language? The answer is obvious to me: if our goal is to read Greek, we must of necessity focus only on the methods needed to develop the skill of reading. Everything else is a misdirection of energy. Of course, we humans are notorious for choosing to misdirect our energy, aren't we? But, as they say, whatever turns you on. (grin)
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby Scribo » Thu May 26, 2011 5:42 pm

Interesting rant, I would agree totally with you if one's only goal was to be able to read texts as literature. However as a Classical Philologist, yes composition is immensely helpful with a vast range of things I shan't waste my time listing.
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby calvinist » Thu May 26, 2011 6:34 pm

I think that many learn Latin and Greek with the goal of being able to write in the language as well as read it. Or is that unacceptable? Also, modern linguistics doesn't support the idea that active and passive knowledge of a language are entirely separate spheres. Improving one's active knowledge of a language (writing) also improves one's passive knowledge (reading). The relationship is complex, but they do influence one another. I agree that translation from English to Greek is a different "skill" from a "pure" active knowledge of Greek, just as reading Greek is different from translating into English. However, it is a very effective tool for acquiring an active knowledge of an ancient, dead language since we do not have living populations to converse with.
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby refe » Thu May 26, 2011 8:32 pm

Also, learning to write in Greek greatly enhances your acquisition of the language. I don't think it's a waste of time at all, in fact I believe that it is one of the most valuable skills a student of Greek (or any 'dead' language) can engage in. I'm interesting in reading, yes, but reading with understanding. Forcing yourself to make decisions about vocabulary, word order, idioms to employ, etc. allows a much more complete understanding of those words and grammatical formulas. Besides, if I can't communicate even basic units of thought myself how can I suppose that I am adequately understanding what I read?
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby Markos » Sat May 28, 2011 4:51 am

gfross wrote
Take at look at the many materials used to help non-English speakers develop the skills needed to read well in English, and you'll begin to understand what is sorely needed in the field of classical Greek pedagogy.


Hi,

Could you describe what these resources might look like?

[ χαιρε. διηγου, παρακαλω, τοιαυτα. ]

(I'm writing in Greek because I hope it will improve my reading fluency.)
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: Methods for learning Greek

Postby calvinist » Sat May 28, 2011 7:11 am

I also don't understand the common idea that newer methods and pedagogies are better. Newer is not always better. During the middle ages and early Renaissance Latin (and to a lesser extent Greek) were taught so effectively as to be the common languages of exchange in Western Europe. This was being done even before the printing press was invented. I believe that modern linguistics is very helpful and insightful in the area of language acquisition, but the collective knowledge of mankind isn't a constant, steady forward progress. Sometimes we lose certain skills and knowledge only to be relearned hundreds of years later. Language pedagogy is no different. Some of the older pedagogical methods are very effective. Look up "ars memoriae" or "method of loci" for a perfect example of a set of skills that has been mostly forgotten and lost by the modern education system (actually it was lost hundreds of years ago because of accusations of sorcery and witchcraft). I stumbled upon this system accidentally and have used it very effectively for remembering lists of items. I've also made extensive use of the mnemonic major system for remembering numbers, another useful tool that I never heard mentioned in any formal school setting.
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby gfross » Sat May 28, 2011 8:52 am

Scribo wrote:Interesting rant, I would agree totally with you if one's only goal was to be able to read texts as literature. However as a Classical Philologist, yes composition is immensely helpful with a vast range of things I shan't waste my time listing.


(blush) Yes, I was on my soapbox, wasn't I. Sorry about that. As I continue to think about AG pedagogy, I have come more and more to realize that some (many?) students of AG are not really interested in focusing on developing their reading skills. My reason for studying AG is to be able to read it as easily as possible, so that is why I am focused on the development of reading skills. My irritation arose from the fact that I had not been able to find a beginning AG grammar that placed reading as primary; so many were traditional grammar-translation in orientation. However, I have now found a very good text for me: Anne Mahoney's _First Greek Course_ and accompanying reader, _Rouse's Greek Boy_. It is evident that Mahoney has a good background in linguistics, as well as Greek, and she has put this knowledge to excellent pedagogical use in her texts.

Composition from English to Greek has always seemed to me the most unnecessary activity in a study of Greek -- maybe an intriguing and delightful one, but still unnecessary --, unless one is a student in an educational system that will eventually require him or her to write a composition as part of their examination procedure. Heh, this is your "pragmatic American" talking now. (grin)

Would you name one activity that composition of this kind has helped you with as a Classical philologist? I'm just curious. I have always thought that philologists were more interested in studying the cultural aspects of a particular language or language family than in composing essays, plays, stories, or poems in one of the languages in which they specialize.
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby gfross » Sat May 28, 2011 9:11 am

calvinist wrote:I also don't understand the common idea that newer methods and pedagogies are better. Newer is not always better. During the middle ages and early Renaissance Latin (and to a lesser extent Greek) were taught so effectively as to be the common languages of exchange in Western Europe. This was being done even before the printing press was invented. I believe that modern linguistics is very helpful and insightful in the area of language acquisition, but the collective knowledge of mankind isn't a constant, steady forward progress. Sometimes we lose certain skills and knowledge only to be relearned hundreds of years later. Language pedagogy is no different. Some of the older pedagogical methods are very effective. Look up "ars memoriae" or "method of loci" for a perfect example of a set of skills that has been mostly forgotten and lost by the modern education system (actually it was lost hundreds of years ago because of accusations of sorcery and witchcraft). I stumbled upon this system accidentally and have used it very effectively for remembering lists of items. I've also made extensive use of the mnemonic major system for remembering numbers, another useful tool that I never heard mentioned in any formal school setting.


No argument with you there. All I wanted was a first-year AG course that would focus on helping me to develop my reading skills. I had found a Latin one (Hans H. Ørberg's Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata), but not a Greek one. But now I am content. As I told Scribo, I am highly satisfied with Anne Mahoney's First Greek Course and accompanying reader, Rouse's Greek Boy. I'm not a particular fan of using the Direct Method in teaching a language that is no longer used primarily as a means of oral communication, but I'm not against it, either. However, Mahoney has revised Rouse's texts so as to include very helpful reading exercises based on modern applied linguistic principles, and since I am studying AG at home, I don't have to participate in the classroom activity of developing my oral communication skills in classical Greek -- lots of fun socially, no doubt, but all that extra work! And ten years later, who from that classroom is going to remember how to communicate orally in a "dead" language? Fond memories, nothing more. But one will have much more incentive to keep reading; that activity need never die.
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby gfross » Sat May 28, 2011 9:46 am

calvinist wrote:I think that many learn Latin and Greek with the goal of being able to write in the language as well as read it. Or is that unacceptable? Also, modern linguistics doesn't support the idea that active and passive knowledge of a language are entirely separate spheres. Improving one's active knowledge of a language (writing) also improves one's passive knowledge (reading). The relationship is complex, but they do influence one another. I agree that translation from English to Greek is a different "skill" from a "pure" active knowledge of Greek, just as reading Greek is different from translating into English. However, it is a very effective tool for acquiring an active knowledge of an ancient, dead language since we do not have living populations to converse with.


Interesting. Why would anyone want to spend time learning how to write in a language that is no longer used for written communication, except, of course, members of the Roman Catholic Church who produce official documents in Latin or members of the Greek Orthodox Church who have need to do so? Just for fun, I guess. To each his own. :) I certainly don't find it unacceptable to learn how write in a "dead" language. I'm just saying that for those who wish to focus on learning to read, learning how to write is an added burden -- by "write," I mean compose. Written fill-in and Cloze, etc. exercises are very helpful in learning the grammar; I welcome written exercises of this kind. That's why I love Ørberg's Exercitia workbook so much -- dozens and dozens of different kinds of written exercises to help one learn the grammar. No compositions to write, no translations to make. Everything in the workbook is designed to help one learn the grammar so as to be able to understand more easily the lengthy passages of delightful narrative discourse (including dialogs) in his main text and supplementary reader.


Yes, I agree that improving the ability to produce written discourse does help one, indirectly, improve the ability to comprehend written discourse, but there is no real need to do so. Which is more efficient in helping one to read: spending time on improving one's recognition skills of written discourse or spending time on improving one's production skills of written discourse? I'm talking about efficiency here, not pleasure, although I hope that learning to read is a pleasurable activity. I'm suggesting that one should go directly to one's goal (by developing reading skills) instead of indirectly (by developing writing skills so as to improve one's reading skills).

Yes, translation can be helpful in learning to read. It is even necessary at times -- using an English-Greek dictionary or the glossary in one's textbook. But translating long passages is not the most helpful way of learning to read. Notice I said "most" helpful. Therefore, why spend the time and effort doing it if one wishes solely to learn to read?

Hmm, "acquiring an active knowledge of an ancient, dead language" -- I won't argue with you there. I suppose by "active knowledge" you mean developing all four skills plus the two kinds of translation. That's fine with me. Great! Go ahead! Have fun! But my goal is simply to read well, so I will try to learn how to do that as efficiently as possible -- and have fun doing it, too. :)

Thanks for your comments!
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby gfross » Sat May 28, 2011 10:43 am

refe wrote:Also, learning to write in Greek greatly enhances your acquisition of the language. I don't think it's a waste of time at all, in fact I believe that it is one of the most valuable skills a student of Greek (or any 'dead' language) can engage in. I'm interesting in reading, yes, but reading with understanding. Forcing yourself to make decisions about vocabulary, word order, idioms to employ, etc. allows a much more complete understanding of those words and grammatical formulas. Besides, if I can't communicate even basic units of thought myself how can I suppose that I am adequately understanding what I read?


By "reading," I mean "reading with understanding." That goes without saying. How much understanding is another question, of course. One can always improve one's understanding of the discourse of an author, whether ancient or modern.

"Forcing yourself to make decisions" -- But you make your decisions about what "vocabulary, word order, idioms to employ" based on your (or some authority's) previously developed reading ability. By writing in Greek, you are improving your ability to produce language, which is very different from developing your ability to recognize language. If you want to write, I suggest that you copy the grammar and style of a particular Greek author. In order to do the copying, you will have to do "intensive" reading, which means paying close attention to every detail of what you are copying. That is, the reading precedes the copying. And it is the intensive reading that helps you understand better the nature of the language. The copying simply reinforces the intensity of the reading. I assume that you are talking about intensive reading, not extensive reading. The latter means the ability to read lengthy units of discourse quickly and with ease.

If, however, you are talking about composing from your own imagination, I believe that you will be able to do so well only if you have already mastered the "vocabulary, word order, idioms, etc. to employ", and how do you achieve that mastery? By intensive reading of a particular author and by copying his sentences until you believe you have mastered his style. You can break this study down, of course. Read and copy all his uses of the subjunctive or indirect speech, or particular idioms, or whatever category you wish. And then try to imitate them. Then you set aside that author's book and try to imitate that author's style on a particular subject about which he was writing. And when you are satisfied that you can imitate that author's style, you move on and do intensive reading and copying of another author, and then when you believe that you have mastered that author's style, you try to imitate it. And so on and so on. And to make things easier for yourself, you will probably want to limit yourself to a particular period and genre. After doing this for a number of years, you should be able to write in the Greek of that period and genre pretty well.

All of this activity is based on intensive reading. So the ability to read must come first, before the ability to write or compose.

If you want "complete understanding of words," go to Perseus or a large dictionary, and read the unit of discourse in which each author uses the particular word or phrase you are trying to understand. Then copy the words into a notebook and review them from time to time. I believe that doing that will help you achieve your goal of a "complete understanding" much more efficiently than composing. Once again, reading precedes writing.

If you cannot "communicate," i.e., write down, "basic units of thought," then you have not yet done enough intensive reading of the author whose "basic units of thought" you are trying to imitate. You are showing yourself that you need to do more intensive reading, not more writing, so as to familiarize yourself enough with those basic units of thought to be able to produce them in writing with ease. That means, reading, copying, and imitating, reading, copying, and imitating.

One way I use to see whether I "adequately understand[...] what I read" is to have a published translation or two or three or four or more nearby that I can consult. That tells me fast enough.

Of course, all this may sound very tedious, much less interesting perhaps than the delight of the intellectual activity you are now engaged in. I agree, having fun is essential. I'm just offering some suggestions based on my years of experience teaching students to read and write in EFL/ESL. No need to accept them, of course. So if you prefer your current method, stick to it. Whatever works best for you, and you know best what that is. I wish you lots of success and pleasure in your studies!
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby gfross » Sat May 28, 2011 11:12 am

Markos wrote:gfross wrote
Take at look at the many materials used to help non-English speakers develop the skills needed to read well in English, and you'll begin to understand what is sorely needed in the field of classical Greek pedagogy.


Hi,

Could you describe what these resources might look like?

[ χαιρε. διηγου, παρακαλω, τοιαυτα. ]

(I'm writing in Greek because I hope it will improve my reading fluency.)


LOL (at your "writing in Greek" comment)

Oh, gawd. I don't know if I can. I had easy access to them because publishers' sales representatives would hold book fairs at which we teachers could examine the newest materials, and reps would often try to call on me in my office to show me what new books had just been published. If you lived in London, you could go to Foyle's and browse through their EFL/ESL section, which is the largest I have ever seen in any bookstore.

I'm not sure what you mean by "might look like." How detailed a description do you want?

One kind of resource I would definitely like more of in AG is supplementary readers written for students at different reading skill levels. There are LOTS of these for ESL/EFL students. Longman publishes many of these. Some are in comic book format. Some are abridged versions of popular novels. I used to do contract work for the U.S. government, rewriting non-fiction works for overseas readers, adapting them to a particular reading level, simplifying the grammar and limiting the vocabulary (to 1,000 words or 1,500 words, etc.) depending on the level of the student. There is so much that could be done to move the reader of AG gradually from level to level. I really like Rouse's idea of not caring about what period the vocabulary in his Rouse's Greek Boy reader was from so that he had enough verbal freedom to compose a lengthy narrative (104 pages) in Attic Greek (grammar anyway) for beginning students, moving us gently from chapter to chapter, introducing new grammar in each successive chapter, eventually defining new words only in Greek (in a glossary in the back), in the Greek that the reader had already learned. The reader is designed to accompany Rouse's prescriptive grammar, recently thoroughly revised by Anne Mahoney using her knowledge of applied linguistics: First Greek Course. I love these two books; they are so well designed!

The point is to become so familiar with the grammar and sentence patterns used by a particular author, or the authors of a particular period, that it is only unfamiliar vocabulary that causes problems. Having dozens, even hundreds, of simplified readers to choose from is a great aid in ESL/EFL. I don't know how much of this kind of "authoring" activity can be done for AG. Not enough interest. Learning to read English is big these days; learning to read AG isn't. So publishers go where the interest is -- and the money to be made, of course.

Just some thoughts. Thanks for asking.
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby calvinist » Sat May 28, 2011 5:40 pm

At the end of the day, the most effective method for learning anything is that method which best keeps the interest and motivation of the learner high. The sheer force of discipline is usually not enough to sustain one throughout the long hours required to learn a foreign language.
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby Scribo » Sat May 28, 2011 7:31 pm

gfross wrote:
Scribo wrote:Interesting rant, I would agree totally with you if one's only goal was to be able to read texts as literature. However as a Classical Philologist, yes composition is immensely helpful with a vast range of things I shan't waste my time listing.


(blush) Yes, I was on my soapbox, wasn't I. Sorry about that. As I continue to think about AG pedagogy, I have come more and more to realize that some (many?) students of AG are not really interested in focusing on developing their reading skills. My reason for studying AG is to be able to read it as easily as possible, so that is why I am focused on the development of reading skills. My irritation arose from the fact that I had not been able to find a beginning AG grammar that placed reading as primary; so many were traditional grammar-translation in orientation. However, I have now found a very good text for me: Anne Mahoney's _First Greek Course_ and accompanying reader, _Rouse's Greek Boy_. It is evident that Mahoney has a good background in linguistics, as well as Greek, and she has put this knowledge to excellent pedagogical use in her texts.

Composition from English to Greek has always seemed to me the most unnecessary activity in a study of Greek -- maybe an intriguing and delightful one, but still unnecessary --, unless one is a student in an educational system that will eventually require him or her to write a composition as part of their examination procedure. Heh, this is your "pragmatic American" talking now. (grin)

Would you name one activity that composition of this kind has helped you with as a Classical philologist? I'm just curious. I have always thought that philologists were more interested in studying the cultural aspects of a particular language or language family than in composing essays, plays, stories, or poems in one of the languages in which they specialize.


No need to blush, though I myself feel somewhat sheepish replying right now since you appear somewhat swamped by responses.

It's interesting that you find the new "Greek Boy" so useful, I was flicking through the review of it a few days ago and it seemed interesting: http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2011/2011-02-54.html

In general most of the modern Greek books are pretty bad, so this seems like a step in the right direction at least. I'm suprised that you think that not many people are interested in developing reading skills :S from what I've came across most people, providing they can reasonably well enough to pass an exam are happy. The thing is, when one is presented with an exam paper which one half are gobbets of literary/stylistic, historical and linguistic accuracy and the other on widing ranging essay topics you pretty much need to be able to ready fast from the get go just to get through enough material for exam prep, no one is asked to translate, it's a given that if you can't read fairly fluently and if you're not well read you're going to fail. Clearly we're looking at this from opposite ends in that we have different goals here.

As for Philology in general one finds his command of the language much heightened, in particular it helps with vocabularly retention, stylistic nuances and even sensitivity to register. I can't completely explain it, but for example...with Greek, having been taught Attic and doing most of my reading in Homer (as well as speaking Modern) I often find that, since composition, I'm somewhat more sensitive to various subtelties....especially the way in which the language is changing.

I think that anyway, regardless of your goals, a tiny bit of composition shan't hurt anyone.
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby Markos » Sat May 28, 2011 8:04 pm

Hi gfross.

Thanks for these thoughts. I agree that Mahoney's reprint of Rouse is helpful. You are right that we need more readers like this, and that they have to be easier than the ones presently out there. A Greek comic book would be great! You should write one!



[ χαιρε gfross

ευχαριστω σοι υπερ των γνωμων σου. συμφημι οτι το Ελληνικος Παις Οικει του Ρουσε ωφελιμον εστιν. συ λεγεις ορθως λεγων οτι χρεαν εχομεν πλειων τοιουτων βιβλιων. δει ταυτα τα βιβλια ευκοπα ειναι. το Ελληνικον "comic book" καλον αν γενοιτο. ποίει, παρακαλω ]

Calvinist wrote

At the end of the day, the most effective method for learning anything is that method which best keeps the interest and motivation of the learner high.


I agree!

[ το αυτο εγω λεγω. ]

(I'm writing in Greek because I hope it will improve my reading fluency. I got the idea from Adrianus over on the Latin forum.)
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: Methods for learning Greek

Postby Scribo » Sat May 28, 2011 8:09 pm

Markos wrote:Hi gfross.

Thanks for these thoughts. I agree that Mahoney's reprint of Rouse is helpful. You are right that we need more readers like this, and that they have to be easier than the ones presently out there. A Greek comic book would be great! You should write one!



[ χαιρε gfross

ευχαριστω σοι υπερ των γνωμων σου. συμφημι οτι το Ελληνικος Παις Οικει του Ρουσε ωφελιμον εστιν. συ λεγεις ορθως λεγων οτι χρεαν εχομεν πλειων τοιουτων βιβλιων. δει ταυτα τα βιβλια ευκοπα ειναι. το Ελληνικον "comic book" καλον αν γενοιτο. ποίει, παρακαλω ]

Calvinist wrote

At the end of the day, the most effective method for learning anything is that method which best keeps the interest and motivation of the learner high.


I agree!

[ το αυτο εγω λεγω. ]

(I'm writing in Greek because I hope it will improve my reading fluency. I got the idea from Adrianus over on the Latin forum.)


For I agree, I think "συνφωνω" might be better
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby calvinist » Sat May 28, 2011 11:21 pm

Scribo, your point gets into what I've said before: words don't have meanings, rather meanings have words. Your suggestion of συνφωνω may be more "literal", but Markos' might be more idiomatic while expressing the same meaning.
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby gfross » Sun May 29, 2011 8:58 am

Thanks, all, for your replies and comments! And thanks, Scribo, for the link to the review of Rouse's Greek Boy! The more I read in Mahoney's First Greek Course, the more enchanted I am. She has really produced a magnificent first-year textbook. Very high initial learning curve. Not a text to breeze through at all. But very clearly worded and designed.
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby gfross » Sun May 29, 2011 9:58 am

by pster » Tue May 24, 2011 8:34 am

Gordon, I don't know whether you are right or wrong, but I absolutely love your conviction. Hehe. We had a meaty discussion a few months back:

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=11778

It would be fascinating if you could peruse that thread and give us your take on it. Many methods are discussed. I, in particular, would like to know what you think about Schliemann's method. If you do comment, please put your comments in that thread. Thanks.
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Thanks for your reply, pster. Schliemann really had a Type A personality, didn't he. (chuckle) I would never choose to learn a language using his method. I hate memorization. (I hate using flashcards.) I do like grammar, learning about the structure of a language, so I don't mind studying that. I will usually get hold of a copy of the "essential" grammar of __________ (fill in name of language here) and go through it quickly in order to get an overview of its structure. Did that recently for modern Greek (Essential Modern Greek Grammar by Douglas Q. Adams) because I wanted to have a brief overview of the most important grammatical features that differed from those of classical Greek. I enjoy doing plenty of grammatical exercises. I do not enjoy writing translations from English into a foreign language, an activity I was required to do again and again in high school and college. Nor do I enjoy writing down a translation from a foreign language to English; I much prefer reading those translation passages in the foreign language, with English equivalents coming to mind whenever and however they come. When I have learned the basic grammar of a language and have a tolerably sized recognition vocabulary, I like to read an original work with a translation or two into English at hand to refer to whenever I come across a word whose meaning I don't know. I LOVE Kindle and having both an iPhone and an iPad Touch: I download the original to one and a translation into English on the other. Then I don't have to carry books around. I prefer reading imaginative prose (novels, short stories, and plays) to anything else.

Became interested in dramatic literature around 1970 when I went back to school to study for a Ph.D. in French and comparative literature (French and English). Was required to choose a 150-year period in both literatures to study, so I chose 1530 to 1680 and a particular genre (I chose drama). Was interested in learning classical Greek in order to read the plays of that period in the original, since they influenced French and English drama and criticism so greatly. Took a course in reading Xenophon, Ἀνάβασις, (was the only student) and one in reading a few of Plato's dialogues. Then I ventured into drama on my own. Well, I have to say, I was shocked by the complexity of Aeschylus -- almost as complex as Sanskrit, I thought. So after struggling through the opening lines of one of his plays -- I forget which one -- I stopped my self-study of Aeschylus (no professor at Catholic University of America was teaching drama at the time), vowing to take it up later when my reading ability in Greek was much, much improved. That never happened, though. Had to leave school before I finished the Ph.D., so there ended a tale. I did, however, eventually read all of the Greek plays in translation.

Have babbled on enough and varied from the topic, so I'll stop here.
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby pster » Sun May 29, 2011 6:33 pm

It is funny how there are so many people who like to talk about how much they love to write Greek and how great it is, but so few of whom have signed up for June Composition Month! :D
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby gfross » Mon May 30, 2011 12:37 am

pster wrote:It is funny how there are so many people who like to talk about how much they love to write Greek and how great it is, but so few of whom have signed up for June Composition Month! :D


:D
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby Aluarus » Sun Oct 16, 2011 2:58 pm

I have been learning Latin for the last 3 years, and I have finally achieved a nice range of fluency that allowed me even to compose some poetry. However, I didn't start greek until almost 7 months ago, unfortunately, and I have frequently questioned myself about the best way or method to learn these languages.

In my opinion, the main problem on greek learning is the lack of graduated books covering everyday life vocabulary. People tend to focus too much on grammar, I mean, learning declension tables, trying to learn verbs memoriter and so on. For me that's not the point. One should never start learning greek by reading classical authors, perhaps that would have been for me like trying to learn english reading, say, Shakespeare. Those were not books intended for language learning, but wise treatises on philosophy, history, whatever, to be read mainly by people who: (1) Could speak greek fluently because it was their mother tongue (2) They had learnt greek also by speaking with real greeks (for instance: cultivated romans) (3) Were cultivated people on those areas, that usually studied under rhetoricians, philosophers, etc.

So, I wouldn't encourage people to start reading classical authors until they have achieved a certain fluency on grammar, and that can only be done by reading graduated texts which can cover different morphological and sintactical areas separately. For instance, one can know english grammar quite well (present infinitive 3rd person adds ''s'' or ''es'' to the root of the verb... let's say) but if one doesn't know vocabulary, all effort is worthless. One can know the uses of english verbs, but if you don't know how to say ''Help. Please'' even that, you can be in trouble.

Now, I found about a month and a half ago a text which has been a tour de force for my language learning:
John Stuart Blackie, On Self-Culture, 4th ed. (Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1874), pp. 32-36:

(1.) If possible always start with a good teacher. He will save you much time by clearing away difficulties that might otherwise discourage you, and preventing the formation of bad habits of enunciation, which must afterwards be unlearned.

(2.) The next step is to name aloud, in the language to be learned, every object which meets your eye, carefully excluding the intervention of the English: in other words, think and speak of the objects about you in the language you are learning from the very first hour of your teaching; and remember that the language belongs to the first place to your ear and to your tongue, not in your book merely and to your brain.

(3.) Commit to memory the simplest and most normal forms of the declension of nouns, such as the us and a declension in Latin, and the A declension in Sanscrit.

(4.) The moment you have learned the nominative and accusative cases of these nouns take the first person of the present indicative of any common verb, and pronounce aloud some short sentence according to the rules of syntax belonging to active verbs, as—ὁρῶ τὸν Ἥλιον, I see the sun.

(5.) Enlarge this practice by adding some epithet to the substantive, declined according to the same noun, as—ὁρῶ τὸν λαμπρὸν Ἥλιον, I see the bright sun.

(6.) Go on in this manner progressively, committing to memory the whole present indicative, past and future indicative, of simple verbs, always making short sentences with them, and some appropriate nouns, and always thinking directly in the foreign language, excluding the intrusion of the English. In this essential element of every rational system of linguistic training there is no real, but only an imaginary difficulty to contend with, and, in too many cases, the pertinacity of a perverse practice.

(7.) When the ear and tongue have acquired a fluent mastery of the simpler forms of nouns, verbs, and sentences, then, but not till then, should the scholar be led, by a graduated process, to the more difficult and complex forms.

(8.) Let nothing be learned from rules that is not immediately illustrated by practice; or rather, let the rules be educed from the practice of ear and tongue, and let them be as few and as comprehensive as possible.

(9.) Irregularities of various kinds are best learned by practice as they occur; but some anomalies, as in the conjugation of a few irregular verbs, are of such frequent occurrence, and are so necessary for progress, that they had better be learned specially by heart as soon as possible. Of this the verb to be, in almost all languages, is a familiar example.

(10.) Let some easy narrative be read, in the first place, or better, some familiar dialogue, as, in Greek, Xenophon's Anabasis and Memorabilia, Cebetis Tabula, and Lucian's Dialogues; but reading must never be allowed, as is so generally the case, to be practised as a substitute for thinking and speaking. To counteract this tendency, the best way is to take objects of natural history, or representations of interesting objects, and describe their parts aloud in simple sentences, without the intervention of the mother tongue.

(11.) Let all exercises of reading and describing be repeated again, and again, and again. No book fit to be read in the early stages of language-learning should be read only once.

(12.) Let your reading, if possible, be always in sympathy with your intellectual appetite. Let the matter of the work be interesting, and you will make double progress. To know some thing of the subject beforehand will be an immense help. For this reason, with Christians who know the Scriptures, as we do in Scotland, a translation of the Bible is always one of the best books to use in the acquisition of a foreign tongue.

(13.) As you read, note carefully the difference between the idioms of the strange language and those of the mother tongue; underscore these distinctly with pen or pencil, in some thoroughly idiomatic translation, and after a few days translate back into the original tongue what you have before you in the English form.

(14.) To methodise, and, if necessary, correct your observations, consult some systematic grammar so long as you may find it profitable. But the grammar should, as much as possible, follow the practice, not precede it.

(15.) Be not content with that mere methodical generalisation of the practice which you find in many grammars, but endeavour always to find the principle of the rule, whether belonging to universal or special grammar.

(16.) Study the theory of language, the organism of speech, and what is called comparative philology or Glossology. The principles there revealed will enable you to prosecute with a reasoning intelligence a study which would otherwise be in a great measure a laborious exercise of arbitrary memory.

(17.) Still, practice is the main thing; language must, in the first plaoe, be familiar; and this familiarity can be attained only by constant reading and constant conversation. Where a man has no person to speak to he may declaim to himself; but the ear and the tongue must be trained, not the eye merely and the understanding. In reading, a man must not confine himself to standard works. He must devour everything greedily that he can lay his hands on. He must not merely get up a book with accurate precision; that is all very well as a special task; but he must learn to live largely in the general element of the language; and minute accuracy in details is not to be sought before a fluent practical command of the general currency of the language has been attained. Shakspeare, for instance, ought to be read twenty times before a man begins to occupy himself with the various readings of the Shaksperian text, or the ingenious conjectures of his critics.

(18.) Composition, properly so called, is the culmination of the exercises of speaking and reading, translation and re-translation, which we have sketched. In this exercise the essential thing is to write from a model, not from dictionaries or phrase-books. Choose an author who is a pattern of a particular style—say Plato in philosophical dialogue, or Lucian in playful colloquy—steal his phrases, and do something of the same kind yourself, directly, without the intervention of the English. After you have acquired fluency in this way you may venture to put more of yourself into the style, and learn to write the foreign tongue as gracefully as Latin was written by Erasmus, Wyttenbach, or Ruhnken. Translation from English classics may also be practised, but not in the first place; the ear must be tuned by direct imitation of tbe foreign tongue, before the more difficult art of transference from the mother tongue can be attempted with success.


As I have said, people try to learn too much at once by reading those grammar books. They think composition is the goal when learning Greek or Latin. I think it's actually the way.

In my opinion one of the best ways to learn is, based on the text supra:

1. Find some graduated books and use at least two of them at once (Assimil, Athenaze, A Greek Boy at Home...)

2. Read a little time everyday.

3. Use flashcards (I have 2 separated groups, one for greek verbs, one for nouns, and so on) instead of vocabulary lists, once a day or once every two days...

4. Write easy sentences like: I see the sun. I have no children (Οὐκ ἔχω τέκνα), I have a book...

5.When you master the main morphology points (number, gender, easy active present verbs, and contract verbs), keep going through the graduated series of texts, and make changes in your sentences whenever you find new grammar points (future, aorists, relative pronouns...) and changing the words of the sentences using new vocabulary. For example you can have writen: I have a book, [Βιβλίον ἔχω] and change it to: I will have a book [Βιβλίον ἕχω]. Or “I have a book which is on the table” [Ἔχω βιβλίον ὃ ἐπὶ τραπέζᾳ ἐστιν.] Then change the vocabulary mantaining the structure, suppose you now have some clothes... on a stool... or you HAD some books on a chair, and some below the chair...and so on.

6. Translate from your book some sentences covering important aspects of grammar. After some time, get back to your translation, and turn it into greek.

7. Also learn vocabulary of everyday life so you can have a journal or a scrapbook, and describe things...

Well, I'm running out of time, I hope someone can understand what I wrote in English.

Valete. Χαίρετε.
“Captivæ Graeciæ lingua in paucorum Eruditorum memoria hodie vivit; laborandum est, ne omnino intereat linguarum pulcherrima” Balbinus, Verisimilia Humaniorum Disciplinarum, XII, 3.

“In omni disciplina infirma est artis præceptio sine summa adsiduitate exercitations” R. ad Herennium, III, 40.
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby LCN » Sun Oct 16, 2011 6:40 pm

What I did was spend about two months reading a Greek grammar book, then immediately start reading Plato and Aristotle using Perseus as a dictionary. (There's a great Iphone app).

If your interest is in reading Greek texts I would spend zero time on composition or memorizing vocabulary lists. That kind of thing might just burn you out and in any case is unnecessary.

I would also start with Aristotle rather than Plato for a number of reasons, unless you are not interested in either.

I don't understand why people beat around the bush so much instead of just diving into the texts. That is assuming you have a genuine desire to read them. If you don't you might get discouraged by the constant interruptions to look up vocabulary (which will be a lot faster with the Iphone app at hand).
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby Sinister Petrus » Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:59 am

Aluarus wrote:1. Find some graduated books and use at least two of them at once (Assimil, Athenaze, A Greek Boy at Home...)

2. Read a little time everyday.


Ok, I did get myself up to speed over the summer. I did take AG in college 15 years ago, so I had forgotten almost everything. I had taken a few not-so-serious runs at it in the past. So, I got serious this time. All I did was 1 and 2.

I cannot tell you that number 1 has a key point. *At least two at once.* I used books that favored connected reading to exposition on grammar. I did zero exercises. I read, and read, and read, and read. I had JACT's Reading Greek, Athenaze and Safire's Ancient Greek Alive. I made it about halfway through the first and very nearly all the way through the other two. Each book took a slightly different approach. When I felt I was nearing speed, I peeked into Roberts' and Major's Plato Transitional. Didn't like it and dropped it (the material, not the approach). I'd guess I read north of 200 pages of connected Greek.

I got a copy of Steadman's Herodotus Histories Book A and devoured it. It took a few dips into the book to find where I could pick up reading Herodotus. I was still reading my graded readers while I was trying to find my entry point to Herodotus. Once Herodotus clicked (Book 1, Chapter 86 if it makes any difference), I switched over to Herodotus. It took me a bit short of two months to pull the trick, but I did read book 1 of the Histories. I could *not* have done it without the vocabulary and notes on-page. Steadman probably gives a bit too much help, but this is probably better than suffering through endless graded readers. In any case, if you know what's going on, skip the notes and vocab. In the early stages, I would check a translation to make sure I was on track and re-read portions.

As for point 2, I'd say I averaged over an hour a day at this. Every day. No breaks. I completely dropped the graded readers once I had the hang of Herodotus. I've since been fiddling with Plato's Symposium. It's ok, but not as compelling as Herodotus to my mind. I'll finish it anyway. There are some grammar points I'm fuzzy on. There are some vocabulary items I should be better at. I figure they'll come as long as I work at it.

LCN wrote:If your interest is in reading Greek texts I would spend zero time on composition or memorizing vocabulary lists. That kind of thing might just burn you out and in any case is unnecessary.


I'd agree on composition. It has its place, but basic reading skills isn't it.

LCN wrote:I don't understand why people beat around the bush so much instead of just diving into the texts. That is assuming you have a genuine desire to read them. If you don't you might get discouraged by the constant interruptions to look up vocabulary (which will be a lot faster with the Iphone app at hand).


Can I get an amen? And if you don't like the dictionary (which I don't for 99% of my purposes), find a text that has the vocabulary on page. Nothing teaches reading AG like reading AG. I won't say that my method is the only way at it, but it worked for me. I'm not the expert of experts, but I can do what I set out to do.
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby stephenesherman » Wed Jul 25, 2012 3:19 pm

I want to thank cb (Chad?) for his detailed, thoughtful post. It is the most helpful thing I have run across in my five years of independent Greek study.

Whether one uses his ten categories or some other system is somewhat irrelevant. The key thing is to focus on why one encounters a "stall." What is the general rule, principle, word-building concept, or whatever that is causing the stall? That is the issue and that is what to focus on. It bears repeating that complete mastery of Chad's ten categories is hypothetical or aspirational.

I bought almost all the linked resources. (There was one dead link.) I found Tiarks' verb book and Adams preposition book to be especially useful. (Adams is a delightful, easy read, bedtime reading, if you will.) Sidgwick also looks good, but will require careful attention. Dover's word order book was beyond me. Another Greek student recommended F.W. Farrar's A Brief Greek Syntax and Hints on Greek Accidence, another typically Victorian, judgmental approach. I love it.

I have more thoughts, but as a newbie, I better let it go at that, for now.
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Re: Methods for learning Greek

Postby rustymason » Fri Aug 03, 2012 3:00 pm

In addition to flashcards, I memorize short stories from easy readers. I am building up a vocabulary while seeing all the words in context, and can recall unusual usages from simple sentences more easily. It's the only way I can learn how to use prepositions properly -- the dictionary definitions just don't stick. Being able to recite a Greek story from memory is a cool dinner trick, too.
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