I have been spending some time in the last couple weeks reading through and learning from old Textkit topics I was unfamiliar with. "Greek reader reviews" I found especially interesting and beneficial. I have a suggestion for another reader to throw into the mix, which I will do in a second reply. Here, with apologies to those of you who must be thoroughly exhausted with this topic, I'd like to add my two obols worth to the preceding discussion.
Love Greek, and do as thou wilt.
βελτίστη σὴ σοφία, βελτίστε ἀνέρ! If one's goal is to read the unabridged texts of ancient authors (and maybe it isn't), it is abundantly clear there are many paths to get there and no 'one size fits all' solution. Among the population of those who have decided to learn ancient Greek, there's just too huge a difference in age (Bart: "I'm no schoolboy"; calvinist: "I'm teaching my 7-year old daughter"), motivation, temperament, profession, available time, previous L2 experience, etc. The best we who think we found our path can and should do is tell, humbly, what worked for us. Here I know I'm preaching to the choir.
Read lots of crap.
Why spend time on [fake Greek] when there's Homer to be read (and reread) and Plato, Herodotus, etcetera?
Take the plunge.
Joel, first, I'll go to my grave remembering that one! My own experience has kind of combined these sentiments. About seven years ago, in preparation for retirement, I decided to dust off my Greek and Latin and tenor saxophone of decades ago. The Greek and Latin went better than the tenor saxophone. My thought was, I'll spend one year patiently working through the best resources I could find in order to bone up on my grammar and vocabulary, without worrying yet about diving into an ancient author. And, having discovered there was a world beyond Crosby & Schaeffer, I also had the explicit goal of making Greek and Latin feel more natural to me than they had (especially in the case of Latin) in graduate school. So for almost exactly a year I did just that, primarily with Adler (Millner's recording), Ørberg, and Wheelock's Latin Reader
, for Latin, and Athenaze
and Reading Greek
for Greek. I stuck to my course, and I benefited from and loved all of these works. Especially satisfying was that, as measured by my internal naturalometer, the languages were feeling right to me. I also dabbled in other "crap." How much I really needed it I don't know, but I was hugely entertained, for example, by Thrasymachus
My personal likes and dislikes: I love the artfully constructed and graded fictional stories of masters like Ørberg, while I'm learning or re-learning the fundamentals. To stick with Greek, I don't find the stories in Athenaze
, Reading Greek
, Rouse, etc. "fake" Greek at all. They pass my Turing test. On the other hand, like Manuel in this thread, I have a particular aversion to adapted ancient text. At that point I feel like I should be reading the real thing. And I have almost zero interest in reading a Greek or Latin version of Harry Potter. That's just me. In any case, at year's end, I was anxious to take the plunge.
Joel also wrote:
One way to give up on fluency is to make the texts your goal instead of the language your goal.
I think there is an interesting question that we can ask about graded readers of Ancient Greek and Latin: Is it possible to design a series of graded readers that gradually increase the vocabulary, complexity of syntax, and idiom so that by the time one has finished the series they could jump into an ancient Greek author and read it with comprehension at the first pass without vocab/grammar helps and at normal reading speed? ... Of course historical background and context would still be needed for deep understanding ... It would be difficult, but not impossible.
Kató Lomb once wrote:
Language is present in a piece of work like the sea in a single drop. If you have the patience to turn the text up and down, inside out, break it into pieces and put it together again, shake it up and let it settle again, you can learn remarkably much from it.
Mary Beard wrote in a piece in the TLS called What does the Latin actually say?
People often imagine that if you 'know Latin' you can read more or less any bit of the language that is put in front of you (much like what you can do if you 'know French'). It isn't really like that at all. OK, there are some easy bits. A basic tombstone doesn't present much of a problem ... Why, I still wonder, are Latin and Greek so hard. I think it is partly that most of us, even if we have done our turn in trying to translate English into Latin, still learn ancient languages largely passively. It is both the plus and the minus of Latin that we never have to ask for a pizza, or the way to the swimming pool, in it. But more to the point is that most of the classics we have to read in Latin, or Greek, are so damn difficult.
To calvinist I would say, based on my experience at least, NO, NOT POSSIBLE. Not really even desirable. To Joel I would say, sounds nice ... but, upon reflection, no, actually, MY goal IS the texts. Let me emphasize and underline and underscore that I'm only conveying my own conclusions based on my own experience. They don't invalidate yours'.
In my experience, first, there's what I call one's "OCT moment." I don't care how you've learned the grammar, the minimally indispensable vocabulary, or whether you've worked your way through one or one thousand pieces of "crap." There is still an inevitable and unavoidable gap between that and what you are going to experience when you finally take the plunge and for the first time turn to page one of an Oxford Classical Text or Teubner, with nothing on the printed page to help you except a critical apparatus. With minor exceptions, ancient Latin and Greek are, as Mary Beard asserts, difficult! What did you expect? But you know what? So what! You set out to learn ancient Greek because you passionately want to read <fill in the blank> in the original. It's going to be difficult at first. If you're fortunate enough to be able to do intensive reading over a protracted period of time, of course it gets better. But I totally reject the comparison between modern and ancient literature. Ancient literature is always going to be difficult. Take the plunge. It's worth it. Language is present in a piece of work like the sea in a single drop.
On the subject of fluency. I think at some point we need to distinguish fluency from comprehension. They overlap but are not the same thing. I took two semesters of introductory Greek my junior year in college. At the same time, I took a lecture class on ancient Greek and Roman civilization and was absolutely astonished, as I still am today, at the "Greek miracle." From that time on, I wanted to learn and understand as much as I could about those civilizations, as much as possible by reading the ancient sources. Of course I wanted my Greek and Latin to be as "good" as possible, but my goal is the texts. More specifically, I wanted my Greek to be good enough to be able to tackle without fear anything in the gamut from Homer to a Byzantine Christian Apologist. Today, I would love to learn to speak and write Greek (and Latin). I would have fun doing it and undoubtedly it would improve my experience in reading (somehow I doubt reading lots of crap would). But, first of all, I just don't have the time or the time left to do that. And second, I don't think this inhibits my comprehension, maybe just my speed. And I'm not into measuring my words per minute or lines per hour, for the same reason I'm not interested in an Apple watch to measure my fitbits - I don't think I want to know!