Reading Greek JACT Passages

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ThatLanguageGuy
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Reading Greek JACT Passages

Post by ThatLanguageGuy » Mon Sep 05, 2016 2:15 am

Should the exercises in Reading Greek by JACT be translated or just plainly read?

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Re: Reading Greek JACT Passages

Post by jeidsath » Mon Sep 05, 2016 1:30 pm

I imagine that both are important. Translating keeps you honest, but it's easy to pick up bad habits, especially if that's all you do.

The biggest bad habit that I've seen, is for people to stop at the beginning of every sentence they read and look ahead for the verb -- although maybe others don't have this experience. If you practice reading, eventually your brain starts to move things into and out of memory correctly until you don't need to do this.

My biggest bad habit, having come from the reading side of things instead of the translation side, has been not carefully parsing words as I come across them.
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Re: Reading Greek JACT Passages

Post by Markos » Mon Sep 05, 2016 7:10 pm

ThatLanguageGuy wrote:Should the exercises in Reading Greek by JACT be translated or just plainly read?
Think about it: If you continue to just plainly read Greek, you will at some point abandon the need for translation all together. But if you continue to translate, you will never just plainly read Greek.

But listen to what Joel says. He has made remarkable progress in reading fluency in a relatively short time.

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Re: Reading Greek JACT Passages

Post by LeslieD » Tue Sep 27, 2016 11:28 pm

I make several attempts at reading a passage, until I can do so relatively easily, and then I translate it.

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Re: Reading Greek JACT Passages

Post by Victor » Wed Sep 28, 2016 12:27 am

Markos wrote:
ThatLanguageGuy wrote:Should the exercises in Reading Greek by JACT be translated or just plainly read?
if you continue to translate, you will never just plainly read Greek.
I must confess I don't quite grasp your point there, Markos, but then I've never really seen in practice the clear dichotomy others say they see between translating on the one hand and reading (i.e. reading and understanding) on the other; in practice, most of the time, I think the distinction is academic.

I don't know any reader of Greek or Latin who slavishly articulates to himself (or would even think it worthwhile) complete extempore translations in his head as he goes along. Are there Textkit members who do this, page after page, and who, unless they do so, have no clear grasp of the sense of a passage?

On the other hand, is there any reader of Greek or Latin who doesn't regularly find native (to him) equivalents of Greek or Latin words or phrases suggesting themselves to him, sometimes spontaneously, sometimes with effort, as he works through a passage? And are people who experience things this way translators, or readers, or both? Is a definitive answer to the question possible, or even worth striving for?

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Re: Reading Greek JACT Passages

Post by LeslieD » Wed Sep 28, 2016 10:20 am

Victor wrote:
Markos wrote:
ThatLanguageGuy wrote:Should the exercises in Reading Greek by JACT be translated or just plainly read?
if you continue to translate, you will never just plainly read Greek.
I must confess I don't quite grasp your point there, Markos, but then I've never really seen in practice the clear dichotomy others say they see between translating on the one hand and reading (i.e. reading and understanding) on the other; in practice, most of the time, I think the distinction is academic.
I think the point he is making is that it is possible to read a foreign language as if it were English in code. You can find yourself thinking, "This word means this, and that word means that, so the whole sentence means this." You don't read English by mentally translating it word for word into another language, and, if you are going to avoid reading Greek that way, it will need lots of practice.

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Re: Reading Greek JACT Passages

Post by Victor » Wed Sep 28, 2016 12:21 pm

LeslieD wrote: I think the point he is making is that it is possible to read a foreign language as if it were English in code.
Thank you!

My point was that nobody actually does that in practice. I'm not sure why the suggestion was ever made that people do. It sounds suspiciously like it was invented as a way of justifying an approach to reading texts that does away with the need to have sufficient knowledge of grammar and syntax to understand fairly accurately how what is being said actually coheres; in other words it's an attempt to justify being unable, through imperfect comprehension, to translate what is being said.

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Re: Reading Greek JACT Passages

Post by LeslieD » Wed Sep 28, 2016 1:57 pm

Victor wrote:
LeslieD wrote: I think the point he is making is that it is possible to read a foreign language as if it were English in code.
Thank you!

My point was that nobody actually does that in practice. I'm not sure why the suggestion was ever made that people do.
You might not if you are already reasonably fluent in a language, but at the outset it might just as well be an encoded version of your own language, to which the grammar and vocabulary provide the key. Unless you wean yourself away from that, then even after ten years you will still be reading Greek as if it was English in code.

If you began learning a brand new language today, especially if its syntax was very different from anything you are used to, I would be surprised if you did not find yourself translating it into English in order to understand it.
Last edited by LeslieD on Wed Sep 28, 2016 4:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Reading Greek JACT Passages

Post by C. S. Bartholomew » Wed Sep 28, 2016 3:11 pm

jeidsath wrote: My biggest bad habit, having come from the reading side of things instead of the translation side, has been not carefully parsing words as I come across them.
Parsing is another habit you will eventually need to break. A native reader doesn't parse.

I have an old habit of doing mental syntax analysis on texts in languages I don't even attempt to read. I suppose this also is a detriment to reading but i don't worry about it too much.
C. Stirling Bartholomew

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Re: Reading Greek JACT Passages

Post by Victor » Wed Sep 28, 2016 5:18 pm

LeslieD wrote:
If you began learning a brand new language today, especially if its syntax was very different from anything you are used to, I would be surprised if you did not find yourself translating it into English in order to understand it.
Are you saying there is an alternative?

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Re: Reading Greek JACT Passages

Post by daivid » Wed Sep 28, 2016 7:28 pm

C. S. Bartholomew wrote:
Parsing is another habit you will eventually need to break. A native reader doesn't parse.

I have an old habit of doing mental syntax analysis on texts in languages I don't even attempt to read. I suppose this also is a detriment to reading but i don't worry about it too much.
I think this is seeing things the wrong way round. If you are reading something which is difficult for you then you must parse or you won't understand anything. If you read something that for you is easy then you will read without parsing. Hence if you want to get used to reading without parsing you need to find writing that is easy enough for you to read without parsing.

There will be texts that are a of moderate difficulty that you may attempt to read but go astray because you are not parsing but you will be quickly be warned when things stop making sense. Then you know you must slow down and parse.

This won't work if it is exercise of sentences without context - this is why a connected story has a big advantage over exercises because the next sentence must fit the context of what you have read so far. With an exercise you have to parse even if the sentences are easy for you as that is the only way to check you have not misunderstood.
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Re: Reading Greek JACT Passages

Post by LeslieD » Thu Sep 29, 2016 12:27 am

Victor wrote:
LeslieD wrote:
If you began learning a brand new language today, especially if its syntax was very different from anything you are used to, I would be surprised if you did not find yourself translating it into English in order to understand it.
Are you saying there is an alternative?
No I am not saying there is an alternative. The point is that you have got to get past that stage, and start reading, as you would read English, and stop translating.

Having said that, and just to contradict myself, for Latin learners there is one alternative - Hans Orberg's Lingua Latina. If you haven't come across it, on the very first page you are presented with Latin text, without any English to be seen at all. He relies upon the fact that English borrows a lot of its vocabulary from Latin. So he has you reading very simple sentences, where you can guess the meaning of the words, and then very gradually builds upon that slim foundation.

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Re: Reading Greek JACT Passages

Post by Victor » Thu Sep 29, 2016 11:26 am

LeslieD wrote:where you can guess the meaning of the words,
You see, this is where the translation/reading dichotomy becomes nebulous and incomprehensible. When we're talking about a foreign language, what can be meant by "guess the meaning of the words" other than guess their meaning in a language that is known to you, in other words translate them? Surely you're not saying that Orberg's approach enables students to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words not by translating them but by defining or paraphrasing them to themselves in Latin?

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Re: Reading Greek JACT Passages

Post by daivid » Thu Sep 29, 2016 1:12 pm

LeslieD wrote: No I am not saying there is an alternative. The point is that you have got to get past that stage, and start reading, as you would read English, and stop translating.

Having said that, and just to contradict myself, for Latin learners there is one alternative - Hans Orberg's Lingua Latina. If you haven't come across it, on the very first page you are presented with Latin text, without any English to be seen at all. He relies upon the fact that English borrows a lot of its vocabulary from Latin. So he has you reading very simple sentences, where you can guess the meaning of the words, and then very gradually builds upon that slim foundation.
Then you would like Rico's Polis. It also uses no English from the introduction. I would say that part of the reason I can handle the explanations in Greek is that I have already read explanations in other textbooks
The stories are great however. I especially like how he has taken sections from the New Testament and lifted out the grammatical constructions and vocabulary and then worked them into a completely different story. Hence it is impossible to slip into using the Greek as an aide memoir for a well known story. (The danger of using the Greek as merely an aide memoir is also a big disadvantage of adapted texts).

However learning by reading text that you can understand without translating requires a great quantity easy texts and those are very rare. Many Ancient Greek textbooks have no easy readings at all.

So can we persuade those who are able to write good easy texts that it is worth their time to write them?
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Re: Reading Greek JACT Passages

Post by C. S. Bartholomew » Thu Sep 29, 2016 5:08 pm

daivid wrote:
C. S. Bartholomew wrote:
Parsing is another habit you will eventually need to break. A native reader doesn't parse.

I have an old habit of doing mental syntax analysis on texts in languages I don't even attempt to read. I suppose this also is a detriment to reading but i don't worry about it too much.
I think this is seeing things the wrong way round. If you are reading something which is difficult for you then you must parse or you won't understand anything. If you read something that for you is easy then you will read without parsing. Hence if you want to get used to reading without parsing you need to find writing that is easy enough for you to read without parsing.

There will be texts that are a of moderate difficulty that you may attempt to read but go astray because you are not parsing but you will be quickly be warned when things stop making sense. Then you know you must slow down and parse.

This won't work if it is exercise of sentences without context - this is why a connected story has a big advantage over exercises because the next sentence must fit the context of what you have read so far. With an exercise you have to parse even if the sentences are easy for you as that is the only way to check you have not misunderstood.
David,

I don't have a problem with anything you said here. I am not promoting anything radical. Markos is promoting what appears to me as a radical form of what Randall Buth is doing. I have been listening to Buth for almost 20 years. The show stopper for me is the lack of a language community where you can live in the language culture. Without that the rest is just a parlor game for Sunday afternoons.

I am fully aware that parsing is a stage of language learning for non-native users. Eventually was the key word. Making memorization of paradigms the first stage of Greek has been a killer for a untold number of would be NT Greek students. I was warned by my mentor to avoid Greek and Hebrew in seminary and I followed this warning by choosing a theology (systematic) track instead of NT or OT exegesis. While the exegesis students were sweating brass bullets over A. T. Robertson[1] I was reading Calvin, Edwards, Luther, and Emil Brunner.

When I eventually got around to studying greek and hebrew I used the reading and syntax priority approach with both languages and learned morphology while reading texts. This was being advocated by William La Sor at Fuller but I couldn't digest his textbook on Acts. I was very eclectic, used everything I could get my hands on but my foundation was a late structuralist E.V.N. Goetchius.

[1] John Armstrong, my apartment neighbor below me was NT exegesis and to the east of me Robert Young was OT exegesis. John took two semesters of Attic at the university before seminary. He found the seminary Greek Grammar class much more difficult than his university courses. He had to take course twice and he was a very smart guy. Greek grammar was taught by the "Red Barron" who was feared by the NT students. Robert had studied Hebrew in Germany for several years before seminary and he was studying Ugaritic and working as a teaching assistant for one of the hebrew professors.
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Re: Reading Greek JACT Passages

Post by daivid » Thu Sep 29, 2016 8:09 pm

C. S. Bartholomew wrote:
daivid wrote: I think this is seeing things the wrong way round. If you are reading something which is difficult for you then you must parse or you won't understand anything. If you read something that for you is easy then you will read without parsing. Hence if you want to get used to reading without parsing you need to find writing that is easy enough for you to read without parsing.

There will be texts that are a of moderate difficulty that you may attempt to read but go astray because you are not parsing but you will be quickly be warned when things stop making sense. Then you know you must slow down and parse.

This won't work if it is exercise of sentences without context - this is why a connected story has a big advantage over exercises because the next sentence must fit the context of what you have read so far. With an exercise you have to parse even if the sentences are easy for you as that is the only way to check you have not misunderstood.
David,

I don't have a problem with anything you said here. I am not promoting anything radical. Markos is promoting what appears to me as a radical form of what Randall Buth is doing. I have been listening to Buth for almost 20 years. The show stopper for me is the lack of a language community where you can live in the language culture. Without that the rest is just a parlor game for Sunday afternoons..
True, I would like the chance to participate in a living language class but my comment had nothing to do with that.
Rico does teach by using living language methods. However, his book is however intended to accessible to people studying on their own. It can be treated as a set of easy readings and it was for that aspect alone I recommended it.

The point I was making was that whether you parse a text is a function of how easy the text is for the reader. If the text is difficult it is impossible to read without parsing the text. If I try to read Xenophon without parsing the words my eyes but I will not understand anything however long I stare at the letters.

A second danger is that English word order kicks in and I completely misread the sentence. This can be avoided if the sentence is part of coherent story or account. This is because if English word order does cut in the sentence will clearly not fit the context and warn to read again. If it is an isolated sentence that is impossible and you have no choice but to parse.

The third danger occurs if you already know the story. Then you will not be reading but simply be reminded by the Greek words of a story you already know.

Hence advice to read without parsing should really be "read something easy enough on a subject you do not know that is easy enough for you to read without parsing."

I want to follow your advice but without appropriate texts it is impossible.

But it is not impossible for those text to be written.
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Re: Reading Greek JACT Passages

Post by LeslieD » Mon Oct 03, 2016 11:12 am

Victor wrote:
LeslieD wrote:where you can guess the meaning of the words,
Surely you're not saying that Orberg's approach enables students to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words not by translating them but by defining or paraphrasing them to themselves in Latin?
In Orberg, even the grammatical explanations are in Latin. By "guess the meaning of words, I mean a sentence such as "Italia in Europa est," which appears on the first page. Any English speaker can guess what that means. A little further on you encounter "Ubi est Roma?" Given the question mark, you shouldn't have too much trouble guessing what ubi means. When it comes to the grammar at the end of chaper 1, you are supposed to be able to guess what singularis and pluralis mean.

Naturally, the complexity of the sentences increases as the book advances, and they start to form a connected narrative. By the end of book 2 you have basic Latin grammar and a vocabulary of around 5,000 words. It is possible to imagine that a text book of that kind may not be the easiest to write.

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Re: Reading Greek JACT Passages

Post by Victor » Mon Oct 03, 2016 5:12 pm

LeslieD wrote:Any English speaker can guess what that means...you shouldn't have too much trouble guessing what ubi means...you are supposed to be able to guess what singularis and pluralis mean.
Guess? Or translate? It's all the same to me.

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Re: Reading Greek JACT Passages

Post by LeslieD » Tue Oct 04, 2016 12:00 am

Victor wrote:
LeslieD wrote:Any English speaker can guess what that means...you shouldn't have too much trouble guessing what ubi means...you are supposed to be able to guess what singularis and pluralis mean.
Guess? Or translate? It's all the same to me.
Knowing what those few words mean, I wouldn't need to translate Ubi est Roma? into English before knowing that the answer was, Roma in Italia est. On the other hand, starting out with sentences much more complicated than that probably would require them to be decoded into English before their meaning could be understood.

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