daivid wrote:To consciously apply rules when reading is exactly what was being taught during the summer school I attended. It is also the only way I can get to understand any of the extant texts. If Krashen is right, I will not ever acquire Greek reading the extant texts - because I am always focused on the form and not the meaning. When I finally prized the meaning through applying the rules I may well have learned something new about the language but I have not acquired it.
Poor daivid, you’ve questioned this forum so often about methodology that when you’re right they don’t take you seriously enough. But you’re right, Krashen is right, the whole grammatical approach is wrong (as I’ve been trying to tell everybody here
So.... once again I'll jump in on this debate risking (unintentionally) stepping on some toes or perhaps slighting some sensibilities.
First, I agree with everyone here that there's something amiss in the whole of daivid’s learning process and I also recommend him more drilling through real Greek (maybe not now but in the near future) BUT that is all irrelevant to the present discussion.
I firmly believe that (his personal learning experience aside) daivid is totally right in several points and I stand by him.
1) There is definitely a gap between the very bests graded readers and real Greek, it’s a problem that should be acknowledged and solved. More comprehensible input will lead to a better and faster learning of ANY language.
2) The whole natural method defended by Krashen is right and the whole grammatical approach is totally wrong and should be disposed of, at least in the first years of learning a new language.
3) The very nature of the material left to us by Ancient Greeks and Romans (fragmentary, mostly highly complex in form and content and of exquisite literary taste and much intertextuality and background knowledge that’s partially if not completely lost to us) leaves no choice but to decode or simply guess and ponder and desperate from time to time. For this reason (and to provide the lost historical or literary context of a specific text) is what commentaries a mainly for.
My solution is to teach the language using only (or at least 90% of the time) the natural method until the student is able to fluently read and understand everything but the most complex and difficult of Greek Literature or those corrupted or fragmentary passages that leave no room but for guess and decoding. If the whole Athenaze or LLPSI experiment shows us anything it's that's perfectly possible to teach a language so effectively so as to allow the pupil to read actual texts with a minimum of difficulty.
Before further elaborating with examples out of my own personal experience in learning and teaching I want to make some clarifications and a couple of, let's say, complains.
I agree with most of what Krashen
say's BUT (unless I missed something) both he and Tracy Terrell
present themselves as innovators or "developers" of something called the "natural approach". That is at least partially false. If you push me I'd say that the humanist tradition of dialogues in Greek and Latin were the great innovators of the natural method, but for the sake of the argument I'll stick to the modern world. It was Arthur Marinus Jensen
who first published in 1939 the first edition of his English by the Nature Method
. He founded the Naturmetodens Sproginstitut
in Copenhagen. Mr. Jensen
and his institute were very active in the following decades, in 1954 appeared his Le Français par la «Méthode Nature»
, in 1955 a brilliant coworker of the Naturmetodens Sproginstitut
named Hans Henning Ørberg
published the first version of the Lingua Latina secundum naturae rationem explicata
(nowadays known as the Lingua Latīna per sē illūstrāta. Pars I Familia Rōmāna
). In 1962 Jensen
published his L'Italiano secondo il «Metodo Natura»
, the following decades the Naturmetodens Sproginstitut
published additional material to those methods until it suddenly and unexpectedly disappeared without a trace. Almost everything published by the Naturmetodens Sproginstitut
is freely available in the Vivarium Novum webpage
Though there are predecessors to Jensen
, most notably W. H. D. Rouse
, I believe that the real innovator here is Jensen
. Thus I think that Prof. Terrell
are either completely unaware of those great predecessors or incurring in a very serious act of omission if not academic dishonesty.
Now to my complains.
Two times in January (here
) I mentioned both Mr. Jensen
and Ørberg's Familia Rōmāna
, on both occasions I provided several links to the Vivarium Novum Academy
in Rome (the single most successful project of implementation of the nature method). And yet it was only in May that (in this case) daivid took notice of something that I had mentioned MONTHS before.
I have just read the first couple of pages which are available in preview. I have not so much as opened a Latin book for 50 years yet I understood/guessed every word. Those words that I had to guess are quickly repeated so I could read then without guessing the next time. It is brilliant!!!!!!
Why has no one ever done this for Ancient Greek?
Yes, some attempts have been made, the Italian edition of Athenaze is until now the best result. Am I writing to a wall here? Or am I not taken seriously? If I’m wasting my (and everybody’s) time please tell me and I’ll go bother someone else.
So, I have to ask. daivid have you read the ITALIAN version
of Athenaze or the supplementary material
that’s been available for years in the Vivarium Novum webpage?
My second complain is somehow related to the first one, not only here, but practically everywhere in the world I’ve encountered this subtle (and I believe honestly unconscious) bias from native English speakers, they systematically ignore or forget everything that’s not written in English. We are dealing with a lack of teaching and learning material in our beloved Classics and in the Humanities in general and the last thing we need is this nitpicking. We have too little material at our disposal to allow ourselves the luxury of ignoring other valuable contributions from our non-English speaking colleagues.
Back to business:
I partially disagree with Krashen’s dismissal of writing and speaking (especially in the case of dead languages), though I do agree that one does really learn more by just hearing and reading. For example I learned English by playing two video games:
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords
The videogame is basically 80% dialogue in which one has to choose what one wants to say out of a relatively limited set of options, depending on what you say (aka what you decide) you form your character’s personality, influence your companions and ultimately shape the whole story of the videogame. The story and side stories are very interesting and the whole game is super entertaining. In less than six months I went form being only able to say "hello, goodbye" and basic questions to being able to read entire books, newspapers, writing essays and even speaking with relative fluency (But in all honesty I have to admit that I dedicated an excessive amount of time to the game, at least 8 hours a day all week long). I perfectioned my English with more extensive reading of Star Wars fanfictions and books and eventually the continuous reading of Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft, eventually they took me to Hemingway and such until I reached Byron and Shakespeare in about a year and a half.
In 2011 I passed the CAE with an almost perfect score, my punctuation was so high that I was awarded a C2 in all tested areas: speaking, writing, reading and listening instead of the normal C1 that's awarded for the CAE.
But here’s the thing, not only did I took no preparatory course for the test, I didn't even study for it. Yet I always struggled and still struggle with grammar and syntax questions. Even now if you ask me anything grammar related I'm simply blank, I honestly do not know. I do not know what the Future Perfect Progressive is or how it differentiates from the Future Perfect Simple or the Future Progressive. And don't get me started on Word order and Syntax (I actually failed a University test about it some months ago because it focused only on grammatical analysis). And yet I can still perfectly understand and write and speak English using all of those grammatical contraptions without a single mistake because I acquired them unconsciously through contact and repetition.
On a more recent example, I was reading with a German friend (who studies to become an English teacher) some translations of the Bible, specifically the King James, I was not consciously aware at all that in Modern English only the 3rd Person Inflection remains "he/she bears". Yet I understood perfectly when I read the Bible "Thou bearest record of thyself" (The 2nd person inflection). My friend was astounded, he asked me how I knew that, he had to look into a Grammar of Early Modern English because he had not seen that inflection form in his life, only what was in his Modern English Grammar. He asked me if I did not mix up the verb forms when speaking, which of course I don't, but I can imitate to some degree all of the Early and even Archaic English that I have read even if I ignore the rules behind it.
On the same note. I never had a good Spanish teacher until High School, so I spent the first 15 to 16 years of my life not knowing what a verb was, I couldn’t for the life of me identify an article or and adverb, much less tell you what the hell that was or how it worked. Yet because of my continuous reading I could imitate the best of Cervantes' Spanish and even write sonnets and other forms of poetry based on just sound and imitation alone. But even to this day when my foreign friends ask me about Spanish grammar I sometimes have to confess that I have no idea what they’re talking about.
In summary Krashen is not entirely wrong in his emphasis of reading and listening but I'm very convinced that the active (or productive) aspect is equally important. I'm convinced that this methodology only worked for me because I was still taking an active role in the communication of the videogame. I was the one who chose the answers. My experience as a classics student and teacher has convinced me that an active (or productive) role is necessary for the total attainment of a language.
With Greek and Latin, speaking and writing (composition) become all the more important because that's where you are confronted to the real cultural clash. How do I express something that perhaps had no value for the Greeks or Romans? A friend once composed a couple of hexameters about giving his heart to a girl, and it immediately struck me that no Roman would have expressed such sentiment the way my friend said it. My friend was writing for a modern girl with modern sensibilities that have been shaped by the idea of love that originates in the middle Ages and the Romantic period, the whole production (speaking and writing) is basic in familiarizing yourself with the real usage of the language.
Now I also have some doubts about the way Krashen explains why this nature method works the way it works, though I have not bothered to read ALL of Krashen's publications so I maybe misinterpreting him. Whatever the case I must agree with his critics that this "nature" approach can be very subjective, its effectiveness can vary form person to person and it's hard to measure (I also believe that the most staunch critics of this approach do so because of the lack of a "precise" way of measurement).
Dante wrote:step one: work through a basic textbook to learn the grammar and morphology.
step two: read & study texts using good commentaries.
step three: repeat step two. The more you do, and the longer you do it, the better your acquision will be.
I entirely disagree with the underlined statements of Dante and mwh. I honestly believe that this grammar-translation approach is the reason that Classics as a subject is dying, nobody learns Greek and Latin anymore because it's presented is such a way as to make it a torture to learn.
mhw wrote:"But what’s needed is “comprehensible input,” you say. Well, yes and no. Of course it needs to become comprehensible. But the distinction between (subconsciously) acquiring a language and (consciously) learning a language is a rather contrived and artificial one, and necessarily breaks down when it comes to a dead language like ancient Greek. As does your objection to “decoding.” Language is a code, and any act of reading is an act of decoding, conscious or not. The more we read (and the better our learnt and/or acquired knowledge of the language), the less conscious the decoding becomes."
This distinction is real, if my living experience is not proof enough, how can you explain that a child learns his mother tongue without ever (consciously) learning any grammar or syntax at all?
Now for some suggestions. Instead of torturing the poor daivid with this translation nonsense. Why don't we paraphrase into more simple Attic the parts that he doesn't understand of a given text? Out of that paraphrase we could work out some small dialogues with the vocabulary and mix it with the original. Ideally someone could draw pictures of the realia. (On that point one of the greatest desiderata of Greek scholarship is the equivalent to the In usum delphini
series for Latin authors).
And for the sceptics, why don't you pick any of Jensen
's methods for a modern language and give it a try? I'm sure that with just a couple of hours a day you can become fluent in six to twelve months (even less if you combine it with intensive reading and a lot of contact with the language via radio, youtube, movies, etc.)