At what rate should I learn Greek?

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thesaurus
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At what rate should I learn Greek?

Post by thesaurus » Mon Oct 02, 2006 10:06 pm

I am currently studying Latin in college and I intend to learn Greek independently. I just ordered a copy of Anne Groton's "From Alpha to Omega".

At what speed should I be going through these lessons? Unfortunately, I am busy with Latin and other classes so I can't devote all my studies to Greek. I thought that if I did about one lesson per week I could finish the 50-lesson book within a year. This way I could read the chapter and review it a few times through the week before I moved on. Alternatively, if I had to, I could try to finish the course in ~8 months (by the end of the summer and in time to enroll in classes).

Should I be concerned about progressing too slowly? Will spending a year on the subject cause me to forget my earlier lessons, or do they build on each other? In contrast, I worked through the bulk of "Wheelock's Latin" in a 6-week class and have done reasonably well by it.

And how well should I 'know' Greek by the time I finish this book? Would I be able to transition smoothly into Plato or something? Has anyone made the transition from studying Greek independently to enrolling in intermediate University classes?

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Post by vir litterarum » Tue Oct 03, 2006 12:20 am

It all depends on how committed you are. I dabbled a bit this past winter and spring in Hansen and Quinn's Greek: an Intensive Course and then applied all of my attention to it this summer and finished. However, I skipped all of the exercises and merely assimilated the material. You will be surprised how easily it comes if you already have thoroughly learned Latin grammar and syntax. I feel I have a good grasp on the forms and syntax, but I can guarantee that you will find learning the vocabulary the most challenging aspect of the language. If you focused your studies solely on Greek, you could adequately assimilate its grammar and syntax within three months. The vocabulary, however, is much more extensive than that of Latin: There are six principal parts to a verb, and many times certain forms will be derived from different stems, so you will have to learn these individually. If you are studying it in coordination with Latin, I do not believe you will have any trouble learning the grammar and syntax within a year. The vocabulary will take years, however.

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Post by Carola » Tue Oct 03, 2006 12:54 am

I think this is one of those questions like "how long is a piece of string". Ideally a lesson per week sounds good, but it must be taken in context of how busy your life is. I have been trying to fit some Arabic lessons in around Greek, Latin, music commitments, work and about 3 months of family disasters. Slow progress? Glacial is more like it. But I just keep going over bits of it, knowing that some months down the track I will get time to do some real work. The main thing is to keep plodding along.
To really get into the literature etc you may need some extra help - try the Joint Assoc of Classical Teachers' "Reading Greek" series.
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Post by William » Tue Oct 03, 2006 1:10 am

Thesaurus - hello.

I am working on two languages very hard (Latin and German), but also Greek at a more leisurely pace of about a chapter a week using Bill Mounce's book.

I feel like I have learned a lot and it has been worth the time. I think you hit on an important point: review a lot. If you review the rules, paradigms and vocab, you should be able to sustain even a very slow pace. Retention is everything, and regular review in Latin has gotten me through some periods when I didn't have time for new material.

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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Tue Oct 03, 2006 1:34 am

You know your schedule and learning habits better than I do, so work at the pace that works for you. I do not know much about the book you are using, so I don't know how much Greek you will know after going through that book. The most important thing is to study some Greek everyday - even just 10 minutes a day - review time included, and even at 10 minutes a day you should make steady progress in Greek (especially since you already have some Latin under your belt).

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Post by vir litterarum » Tue Oct 03, 2006 5:35 am

Furthermore, after you have finished your textbook, don't be afraid to introduce actual Greek texts. There is no better way to reinforce knowledge of the language than to see it used in context.

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Post by thesaurus » Tue Oct 03, 2006 6:58 am

What would be a good basic text to work on after I finish my book, something equivalent to Caesar's Gallic Wars? Also, if I wanted to work on Homeric after Attic should I just work through a Homeric Greek textbook, or try my hand at Homer directly?

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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Tue Oct 03, 2006 4:13 pm

There is no default "wild" Greek text (to use annis' vocabulary) to read after a beginning textbook. In the Attic dialect, a common choice is the Anabasis by Xenophon, but not everybody agrees that that is a good choice.

As for Homer, rather than working through a Homeric Greek textbook (though it may not be a bad idea - it could reinforce a lot of concepts quite well), I think all you would need is a good commentary - I would recommend the Willcock editions of the Iliad, which is probably the most up-to-date commentary on Homer which is accessible to beginners, and it has the *unabridged* Iliad, but others would make a case for Benner, which I mainly unrecommend on the grounds that it only covers about 1/3 of the Iliad (and not the first third of the Iliad - it has excerpts from throughout the Iliad). I am of the opinion that the Iliad, as well as the Odyssey, is better read as a complete poem than in little pieces, and best read in chronological order if you can't read the whole thing at once.

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Post by vir litterarum » Tue Oct 03, 2006 9:56 pm

I have begun translating Aeschylus' Eumenides with relatively few difficulties. Of course there will be usages not found in a beginning Greek textbook, but this is easily remedied if you have Smyth's grammar nearby.

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Post by bellum paxque » Wed Oct 04, 2006 4:18 am

This question is of some interest to me, since I am tentatively planning to begin postbaccalaureate study of classics next fall. My current knowledge of Latin has adequately prepared me for those classes, but I have yet to learn any Greek.

My question is this. How much could I learn in the two months between the time I return from Korea and the time the fall program begins? If I start from scratch and dedicate 50+ hours every week to Greek (8 x 50 = 400 hours), could I adequately prepare myself for an intermediate Greek course? (And I am prepared to devote that much time to the study, if need be.)

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David
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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Wed Oct 04, 2006 5:21 am

If you can really sustain 50+ hrs/wk Greek study (and I'm skeptical, because I can't handle over 20 hrs/wk Greek study, and only that pace under ideal conditions), you could seriously eat a handful of Greek textbooks in those two months.

If you're going to go the *intensive* route, probably the best choice is for you, bellum, is Hansen & Quinn's "Greek : An *Intensive* Course". It assumes zero prior knowledge of Greek, has twenty lessons, is DESIGNED for the pupil to go through 1 lesson a day. Now you may think that one lesson a day is not very much ... until you read the preface which says that each lesson is meant to take four or more hours to complete. There is no book of answers, but there are self-correcting quizes interspersed throughout the book, and since this is one of the more popular textbooks there are a lot of people on Textkit who can review your answers if you are unsure. Towards the end of the book, you even get unaltered wild Greek which is more than one paragraph long! I have looked at this book quite closely, and if you go through it thouroughly, it will give you a strong foundation in Attic Greek. I dislike translating Greek text into English, so if I were you I would just read the Greek sentences for translation over and over until I understood them thorougly in Greek rather than translate into English, but maybe you feel differently about this.

Now as for what other Greek you should study during this crash-summer-auto-didact course if Hansen & Quinn does not suffice, I would recommend either a) working on composition (Sidgwick's First Greek Writer via Textkit is my recommendation) and/or b) something which seriously expands your vocabulary, since this will be your weak point upon completing Hansen & Quinn. Sidgwick's book is fairly good at vocabulary expansion for a beginning composition book, but you might also want to invest in flashcards if you like flashcards, and you might want to read a good quantity of wild Greek which interests you which will also stretch your vocabulary.

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Post by vir litterarum » Wed Oct 04, 2006 10:57 pm

I studied Hansen and Quinn's course, and, after spreading the first five units out over about a six-month period because I was busy with school, I was able to learn the last fifteen in two months with no problems. Since you already are well versed in Latin, I can almost guarantee that nothing in the language will be difficult for you to assimilate. If you do use this book, I would suggest skipping most of the exercises and using actual literature to reinforce your knowledge at the end. Again I think the only aspect of the language you will not have time to adequately learn is the vocabulary because it comprises so many more words than that of Latin and because each verb has six principal parts which, unlike Latin, cannot be memorized easily by recognizing conjugational patterns. To augment your vocabulary, however, I would suggest jumping into some Attic prose or tragedy and creating a vocabulary list (assuming that is the dialect you will be studying in college). I would suggest Aeschylus because you'll find when you begin using Liddell and Scott's intermediate lexicon--which is a must if you are going to study Greek-- cites his usages of words particularly thoroughly.

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Post by bellum paxque » Thu Oct 05, 2006 1:15 am

My sincere thanks to you, GGG and VL, for your advice concerning Greek.

It occurred to me sometime yesterday after asking about 2 months of Greek that there's really no reason why I should wait until the summer. I've got a lot of free time here in Korea - certainly not as much as I'll have when I return home, but enough to at least get started on Greek. And, since the vocabulary seems particularly daunting (not to mention 6 principal parts!), allowing myself enough time to absorb it all seems like a better option.

So, it looks like I'll have from now until June (9 months) of regular study, and then July and August (2 months) of intensive study.

I'll be ordering Hansen and Quinn today.

Also, how useful are the textbooks offered here, such as White's Greek or the Homer book? Would they be good supplements, or should I just stick with one textbook at a time? Furthermore, I've read mixed reviews of the Athenaze immersive Greek series. Any thoughts? If it's anything like Lingua Latina, I'm already sold.

I strongly suspect you'll see me in the Greek forums more in the next few months, a learner once again (=life).

Regards,

-David
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Post by Hu » Thu Oct 05, 2006 1:39 am

bellum paxque wrote:Also, how useful are the textbooks offered here, such as White's Greek or the Homer book? Would they be good supplements, or should I just stick with one textbook at a time? Furthermore, I've read mixed reviews of the Athenaze immersive Greek series. Any thoughts? If it's anything like Lingua Latina, I'm already sold.
Pharr does make a useful supplement, and I'd recommend it as the way to learn Greek (except you're already set on Hansen and Quinn). Still, it makes a useful Homeric reference grammar, particularly because Homer uses many forms that differ from Attic (e.g. present mediopassive imperative in -eo instead of -ou). The size and diversity of the vocabulary is also helpful if you're going onto read anything besides Attic, especially the lyric poets.

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Post by thesaurus » Thu Oct 05, 2006 1:40 am

bellum paxque,
We're in the same situation. Groton's "From Alpha to Omega" gets here tomorrow, and I just checked out Hansen & Quinn from the library. My Latin instructor told me he considers Groton to be like a Greek Wheelock's, if that helps you. I'm going to study primarily from Groton and read through H&Q to solidify it.

I am also going to give it ~8 months of general study and a few of focused study. Let's learn us some Greek!

That reminds me: does anyone find it useful to use more than one textbook? The second book would be to get another explanation of the issues if I needed it.

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Post by annis » Thu Oct 05, 2006 2:31 am

thesaurus wrote:That reminds me: does anyone find it useful to use more than one textbook?
Avoid that! Get a solid foundation from one book to start.
The second book would be to get another explanation of the issues if I needed it.
That's what we're for. :)

I promise you, from bitter personal experience, working with several books at the start is a bad idea.
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τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;

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Post by GlottalGreekGeek » Thu Oct 05, 2006 3:05 am

I discourage mixing dialects, at least as a beginner (after you've read your first substantial unaltered text in Greek, then I would say you are ready to handle multiple dialects). Therefore, you should pick between Pharr and the Attic textbooks. Chances are your post-bac program will focus on Attic Greek, so but I don't know whether you want to study the same dialect that you will pick up in your post-bac program anyway. Supposedly it's easier to go from Homeric to Attic than Attic to Homeric, but I haven't had both experiences so I can't compare.

That said, I think it is okay to supplement a textbook with a supplement book, such as a composition book or a vocabulary book (not that I find the latter very useful). Actually, the more I think about the H&Q/First Greek Writer combo, the more I like the idea. But as for books which are designed to be primary sources of Greek learning, you really should go through textbooks in sequence, and not concurently, because two textbooks which are NOT coordinated will throw you off if you go through them at the same time.

As for what you should read upon finishing a textbook, the most important thing is that you find the material interesting. If you find it interesting, you won't mind reading it 10 times, or until you fully understand it. Even if a more boring text is technically easier, it will be a more painful experience if you don't really care about what's being said, because as a beginner fresh from the textbook you will read very slowly.
Last edited by GlottalGreekGeek on Thu Oct 05, 2006 3:10 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Bert » Thu Oct 05, 2006 3:07 am

annis wrote:
thesaurus wrote:That reminds me: does anyone find it useful to use more than one textbook?
Avoid that! Get a solid foundation from one book to start.
It may not be necessary to "amen" a post but I am going to do it anyway.
If you want to use more than one textbook, finish one first THEN do the second one.
After you have gained some proficiency you will likely cross-reference one book with another but then your "textbook" will probably be some real Greek (like the Anabasis or the Iliad) and the Grammars will be reference books.

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Post by vir litterarum » Thu Oct 05, 2006 4:06 am

I would suggest only using H&Q and then, once you have finished it, begin translating some literature with Smyth's grammar at your side. You will learn the more esoteric usages as you translate, which, in my opinion, is preferable to studying them out of context. Furthermore, once you begin studying Greek, you will realize how much you already know by knowing Latin. It is not like starting from scratch. In a few areas the differences between the two will be confusing, but, on the whole, it will be highly beneficial.

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Post by bellum paxque » Thu Oct 05, 2006 9:29 am

Bert said:
If you want to use more than one textbook, finish one first THEN do the second one.
Annis said:
I promise you, from bitter personal experience, working with several books at the start is a bad idea.
GGG said:
That said, I think it is okay to supplement a textbook with a supplement book, such as a composition book or a vocabulary book (not that I find the latter very useful).
Hu said:
Pharr does make a useful supplement, and I'd recommend it as the way to learn Greek (except you're already set on Hansen and Quinn).
Thank you everyone for your useful advice! I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by the help that the generous people at this forum provide, but I wasn't expecting so many recommendations. I'm going to stick with H&Q for now. After that, maybe another textbook for review, as well as primary texts.

thesaurus said:
I am also going to give it ~8 months of general study and a few of focused study. Let's learn us some Greek!
Yes, we do seem to be in nearly the same situation! It'll be fun to see how much we can learn in this time. Don't expect me to make TOO much progress, though. I'm still working with Korean, and of course reading more Latin. (And, of course, working!)

Regards,

David
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Post by bellum paxque » Sat Oct 07, 2006 9:53 am

PS - H&Q is ordered and, presuming there are no transcontinental interruptions, on its way to Korea and to my Greek-greedy hands!
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