Any tips for self study?

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cb
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Re: Any tips for self study?

Post by cb » Sun Jul 28, 2013 7:44 pm

hi, i think almost any of these activities would be great as long as they keep you engaged and learning. i say that because how i would spend an hour doing classics keeps changing. nowadays i will either pick up my joshua barnes iliad and just read , or write grk scholia and illustrations to grk texts or latin scholia and illustrations to latin texts, or memorise latin poetry the way i used to memorise grk poetry, or just grab e.g. cicero or quintilian off the shelf and start reading. in the past however i spent my time very differently, i had phases where i did grk iambic comp for hours a day and scoured through every metrical text i could find, at other times i read books on verb formation and accenting and studied patterns in concordances and read dictionaries (not all the way through but decent chunks) etc etc...

as long as you are learning then there's no perfect balance of reading vs grammar etc. the way that people dispute the best ratios of protein to carbs for exercise -- in classics it's good to see as much as possible i think, i remember spending hours in libraries opening and flicking through hundreds of books and literally discovering whole new fields in classics to learn about... this variety may itself help with your plateau.

when it comes to composition/conversational however, i personally think it's better to ground the exercise itself in real ancient texts rather than just freeform, where you might not know how far you are swerving from the path. for vocab acquisition, i write interlinear scholia in real texts rather than just freeform and looking new words up as i go. for syntax, when i used to spend time on this, i thought the best thing to do was find very literal translations of texts and then translate those translations back into the original language, and then check my version against the original and think about the differences.

if you want to do freeform however then i personally think verse comp is better than prose comp -- verse comp has many rules to restrict you to a pattern resembling that used by the ancient poets, the smaller space you are left to work in means you have less risk of deviating from the model texts, and the exercise certainly makes reading verse much easier.

but there's no single road to improving your classics skills and i'm sure later on i will have changed my mind again and be doing things differently. cheers, chad

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Paul Derouda
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Re: Any tips for self study?

Post by Paul Derouda » Sun Jul 28, 2013 8:36 pm

I'm skeptical about the utility of listening to spoken Greek. Reconstructed pronunciation is a fascinating subject in itself, but few or none of the recordings I've come across are really satisfying. If reconstructed pronunciation interests you, go for it, but I don't think it will help you much to understand Greek. This is different from living languages, where we know exactly what it should sound like, and where oral skills are usually essential.

My advice? Read, read, read!

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Re: Any tips for self study?

Post by pster » Sun Jul 28, 2013 11:30 pm

I would like to clarify something, and of course run my mouth some more. :lol: I think that the goal for all of us, OP included, is to be able to eventually read the Greek with ease. So the question that I was addressing was how to get to that stage as quickly as possible with a one hour per day restriction. So my view is to memorize a large chunck of text (I think the standard is actually more like 500 pages). This gives the student a huge number of paradigmatic examples ready to hand. (They say classicists would claim to find errors in Schliemann's prose, but he could immediately cite a passage with such a usage.) So, while the "read, read, read" camp sounds like they are having all the fun, don't forget that the tortise beats the hare, and so we Schliemannites claim that we will be able to do more reading, reading, reading in the long run! :lol:

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Re: Any tips for self study?

Post by Qimmik » Mon Jul 29, 2013 2:27 am

I don't know about anyone else, but I would never have been able to memorize 500 pages of prose, even before senility set in. Some people may be gifted with the kind of memory that would allow them to achieve such a feat, but I certainly am not.

One activity that might be less time-consuming and more productive than memorizing a lot of text would be to spend time preparing a careful written translation of a substantial amount of text. You might even set as your goal your own translation of the entire NT.

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Re: Any tips for self study?

Post by Scribo » Mon Jul 29, 2013 8:42 am

Memorisation: Depends on memory, I have an exceptional one and in the beginning I used to memorise not whole passages but examples of usage from grammars, this could be a happy medium. However the exact same thing can be achieved by paying attention to what you read.

Grammar translation: I'm not sure how this is failing, its doing what it means to do rather well: Produce philologists with a firm grasp of the particulars of said language. OBVIOUSLY it needs to be supplemented by reading, if people go to class but then fail to read in their own time and therefore learn nothing that's their problem. But anyway this is not the place for this.

Anyway I would suggest the following: Grammatical review, make sure you know all the salient points. Find someway to practice producing the syntax: either in a composition book or going back over a textbook or whatever. Then, here is the main thing, read. Yes make use of a translation if and when you must. Read extensively, you need to do this in order to prepare yourself for any deep reading. It will speed up rapidly.
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cb
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Re: Any tips for self study?

Post by cb » Mon Jul 29, 2013 9:24 am

hi, i think it's clear to all of us that pster has already a great command of grammatical and syntactical points, given the threads that pster has started and contributed to, and so i would say go for it re memorising. it has definitely helped me (there are some rare words whose meaning i would never be able to remember without having memorised the slab of text in which i found them) and i'm sure it won't stop pster working on the other aspects of classics.

on translation, i have what is i'm sure a very minority view. i don't think translating into a modern language is doing classics, for me it's doing modern languages. just as e.g. drawing a human body is not studying anatomy but is drawing, or depicting sounds of nature with the violin is not a study of natural science but an exercise in music. of course you need to understand so much of what you are drawing to be able to draw it, and similarly with translating grk or latin into modern language, but that doesn't mean that it's an exercise in anatomy rather than drawing. the benefits of learning about anatomy through drawing could be obtained by studying anatomy itself, and the downside may be -- i say may be because i don't know, but it's definitely possible that these downsides exist -- that you are missing parts in the original that cannot come across into the modern language and limiting your understanding of what is there into what can be depicted in the modern language. translation is useful i'm sure for people who study classics in a school or uni and need to be graded, but for someone like me on the outside who's never been inside a classics schoolroom or lecture hall as student or teacher, i've always avoided translation, thinking that i can get the benefits from other studies and avoid any possible downsides (of which there may or may not be some, but in doubt i have opted for the more cautious approach.) when i think e.g. of how the spacing of the 2 elements of a compound verb can be used to set colometry length (see eg habinek on the colometry of latin style pgs 159 and 164: http://books.google.fr/books?id=48nDcNS2OycC&pg=PA159 ) or how the effect of metre is lost in translation, and 1,000 other aspects of the ancient language which fail to carry across into the modern, this does not prove that translation is worthless but it certainly pushes me to continue exercises on the language itself, rather than trying to depict its shadow in the form of a modern language. cheers, chad

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Re: Any tips for self study?

Post by Scribo » Mon Jul 29, 2013 10:04 am

Pster isn't the OP though.

You do make an in interesting point with translation in a sense, we're not trained to translate as in the olden days where people could produce wonderful English, French and what have you and I definitely can compose in either language better than translate out of it. But translating back and forth is a good way to check if you have the salient points down, forcing you to really think about it. I also remember a while back having trouble with Virgil. I could read it, parse it, understand it, but there wasn't something I felt I didn't quite *get*. I translated bks 3-6 and by the end of it I felt I had a much better grasp of his style and clearer mental processes from which I could utilise commentaries. Tedious? sort of and no one would ever pay to read my translation but I found it helped.

I do agree outside of a class room the hyper traditional methods aren't going to necessarily work, from lack of time, materials and mentorship. Yet I think even those wanting more modern approaches ought to occasionally borrow from these methods since they are still useful. Also, believe it or not, there has been an updating of methodology in the last few decades.

The biggest problem here, for me, is that the OP is concerned strictly with the NT so I worry any advice I might give might be OTT for such a limited corpus. The only thing I've ever picked up from Biblical scholars teaching Greek is read Acts and Luke a lot in the beginning. But then I'm not a Christian, so...

ALSO JACT do a reader for the NT, its blue and about 200 pages and well made. Try that? Less dictionary time.
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pster
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Re: Any tips for self study?

Post by pster » Mon Jul 29, 2013 10:34 am

@ Qimmik: You have probably memorized 500 songs or poems. You can try memorizing the audio CDs that go with Agamemnon. I still have some verses rattling around in my head from the two weeks I spent on that.

@ Chad: It's rare that I don't deserve praise, but this is such an instance. :lol: My command of Attic grammar and syntax is poor. I can focus on an issue, but keeping all of it in view is another matter. And the vocabulary and the forms give me endless trouble. It is precisely because of this very deep rut that I am in that I am transitioning to the Schliemann method. I never would have started Greek if I had known how unrewarding it would all be. In fact, I may just declare victory and satisfy myself with the ability to decipher whatever random sentences of Greek I encounter.

@ All: N.B., professional translators translate into their native language. That seems to indicate something, but I just woke up, so I'll leave it to you to draw conclusions.

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Re: Any tips for self study?

Post by Whitefort » Mon Jul 29, 2013 11:00 am

I'm in my mid-50's and have been 'doing' Koine since I studied NT Greek at University. I THOUGHT I was pretty good at it.

Then a couple of years ago, just as a hobby, I thought I'd try to learn Attic Greek. Quite simply, it turned my (Greek) world upside down. I suddenly realised that:

a) I wasn't nearly as good at Greek as I thought, and
b) when I thought I was reading NT Koine, I was REALLY just using it as an aide-mémoire, because I already knew the English text pretty well.

I started seeing all kinds of deeper meanings to the NT words, and the text came alive in a totally new way.

I'm currently paddling on the shorelines of Herodotus and Homer, and enjoying it, but my first love is still Koine. If you don't want to mess about with Attic, Homeric, etc, I'd still recommend digging out a few of the Hellenistic novels and working though them. It can be a real blast to find those familiar 'religious' NT words used in their earthy, day-to-day settings.

There's some good stuff (and fun reading) in the Oxyrhinchus letters too.

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Re: Any tips for self study?

Post by daivid » Mon Jul 29, 2013 11:18 am

I am at the same stage as you. The basic stuff, the article, common declensions is easy because every bit of Greek you read keeps reminding you of them. The hard stuff optative etc is not really hard its just you meet examples rarely so you tend to forget them in between times.

The big disadvantage of reading original Greek is that it throws at you a lot of new words and idioms and mixed in is the stuff you sort of half know but and individual form will only occur now and then. As you will be reading slowly it will be a time you encounter again a a bit you want to learn a second time. Hence it will probably help to go over again an again the sections you read rather than trying to read thru something.

Well designed textbooks should emphasize some target form in each section. Hence if you have completed one textbook it is worth while trying another as a slightly fresh approach will help consolidation. I find when going back to old exercises in a text book I have completed some while ago I have forgotten them so the exercises are almost as fresh as the first time.

On text books I can't resist a plug for Polis Christophe Rico, It's not perfect. A complete beginner would find it very hard (but you're not). He emphasizes different things - hence the aorist imperative is covered in the second chapter. It is lively enough that it is easy to repeat the lessons. It is also in Koine.

Translation back into Greek forces you to really get to grips with the language. It is all too easy to wing it and get the gist without truly coming to grips with the Greek you are reading.

Remember the plateau is regarded as an illusion. Though on the surface you appear not to be progressing you are still consolidating what you do sort of know.

Little and often is better than a lot only occasionally. Hence, it is better to do something you enjoy than to try something that in theory is a good idea and risks you failing to keep up with your one hour a day.
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