Advice on Learning Classical Languages

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Advice on Learning Classical Languages

Post by G » Sun Mar 28, 2004 8:47 pm

Hi, I just joined this forum and have a question about learning Greek. I have read before, though not on this site, that it would be best to learn Latin before learning Greek if you speak only English. However I would rather learn Greek first because my main goal in learning classical languages is to read the New Testament in its original language. Is it really necessary to learn Latin before learning Greek? I appreciate any thoughts on this matter.


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Post by Ulpianus » Sun Mar 28, 2004 9:10 pm

No doubt the Greek experts (which I am not) can chime in. But as a Latinist who has only occasionally dipped his toe into Greek, I can see no good reason why one should need to learn Latin first. I guess if one was an English speaker hell-bent on learning both there might conceivably be arguments for starting with Latin, because it will teach one a heavily inflected language without the initial bar of a strange alphabet and with a rather simpler verbal system. (But it is a moot point whether, in the long run, Latin or Greek is "harder".) But if you want to learn Koine Greek in order to read the NT there seems to me to be no point at all in struggling through Latin first. Even if the Greek were slightly easier (which may be doubtful), the combination of Latin + Greek would be much harder, and the effort would be pointless if you were not really interested in the Latin for its own sake at all.

(By the same token, as I understand it, those who are only interested in Koine Greek normally dive straight into that, without learning the slightly different and considerably more complex earlier dialects.)

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Post by Lex » Sun Mar 28, 2004 9:51 pm

The main benefit of learning Latin before Greek is that old Greek textbooks assumed that you had already studied Latin, because, old chap, that was simply how it was done. If you use a Greek textbook that does not assume too much prior knowledge on your part, there is no reason why you need to study Latin first. They are two completely different languages, after all.
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Post by klewlis » Mon Mar 29, 2004 12:44 am

There is no real need to do latin first. If you want to do both, then it may be easier to start with latin, but if you simply want to learn greek then latin is not necessary. I learned koine before latin. :)

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Re: Advice on Learning Classical Languages

Post by annis » Mon Mar 29, 2004 3:44 pm

G wrote:Is it really necessary to learn Latin before learning Greek?

Start in on Koine right away if that's what you want to read. At the very highest levels of Greek scholarship books are still sometimes published with notes in Latin, where Latin is acting in its old role as International Language of Scholarship, but if you plan to use the standard NA Koine so easily available, even that isn't going to be a problem. (The "Reader's Greek NT" from Zondervan currently advertised at the margins of the forum looks pretty cool, too, and is in English).

The Latin-before-Greek sequence reflects 18th and 19th century school curricula.
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Post by chad » Wed Mar 31, 2004 1:01 am

hi g, i agree with everyone else here, jump straight into koine: you'll soon be reading some really nice greek from the nt, and that will motivate you to keep going.

i haven't studied the nt myself, but i've read that bit about "god is love, and god is within people who love god", which is really beautiful, and it's simple enough that you can start reading it soon(ish).

if you choose a koine book which assumes you know a lot of grammar, you can go out and read any of the new "learn classical greek" books: any dialect: which explain the basic concepts about cases and verb tenses and moods (since they know that our generation grew up without really knowing what "preposition", "verb" &c actually mean :) ). the explanations in peter jones' "learn greek" are good for beginners: i found them useful when i started. cheers, chad. :)

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Post by Kopio » Fri Apr 02, 2004 6:14 pm

I'd just jump right into Koine if I were you. I have virtually no knowledge of Latin, and it hasn't really hindered me at all in my N.T. studies. Start with a good introductory Grammar and go for it (I used Lyle Story's Greek to Me).

Some people recommend learning Classical Greek before starting on Koine. It might be helpful, but I have gone the other way, Koine to Classical without too many problems, a good grammar is a must for this approach (I use Smyth for Classical).

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