Life after a basic grammar

Resources and methods for teaching and learning New Testament Greek.
Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: Life after a basic grammar

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » February 17th, 2017, 3:54 pm

Set reasonable goals. After a year of basic grammar, I set about transcribing by hand and taking detailed notes on the Apocalypse and Gospel of John, which took a while. After that I set out to learn Sophocles. That was not a reasonable goal at that time. The first fifty lines of transcribing by hand and taking detailed notes on Sophocles OT was beyond difficult, nearly impossible. I had a library copy of Richard Jebb which was incomprehensible. It would be decades before I was doing Sophocles with anything like confidence. Better to read some simple historical narrative or Plato's Dialogues.

The advantage of reading the Apocalypse and Gospel of John at the same time is you see the syntax difference right away. I am an advocate of Apostolic John as the author of both books. But that is not topic for the this forum.

If you want to read in classics download the Goffrey Steadman notes. https://geoffreysteadman.com
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C. Stirling Bartholomew

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Life after a basic grammar

Post by Stephen Hughes » February 17th, 2017, 7:25 pm

Michael Sharpnack wrote:... I'm reading passages right now, I'm basically translating them into English in my head.
Just wait till your brain starts wanting to translate everything you hear or read in English (or another language) into Greek, asking you to choose the right one from a number of alternatives. :o At that point you'll know that the bend has been well and truly gone around. Muttering to oneself in words incomprehible to others, as suggested earlier, is just the start. :lol: After you've been speaking to your world in Greek for long enough, it starts speaking back at you. :shock:
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Shirley Rollinson
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Re: Life after a basic grammar

Post by Shirley Rollinson » February 21st, 2017, 6:31 am

Michael Sharpnack wrote:Thanks for the responses. So, I just bought Deckers Greek Reader, and I think I'll buy Smyth's grammar as a reference as well as Dickey's composition book to start working through.

Another question: as I'm reading passages right now, I'm basically translating them into English in my head. I know the best way to learn the language is to internalize it, and read it for itself, not to translate it, but I feel I have to right now for it to make sense to me. Are there any specific steps to work towards that goal? Anything to avoid? Or, just keep reading that way, and eventually it will start to internalize?
I find that a good way is to read the Greek text aloud - don't try to translate it, or even understand it in detail the first time through. Just read it aloud, and listen to yourself (it's the main way most of us will get to hear spoken Greek). Then read it aloud again, slowly, - you'll start to pick up phrases and get a sense of the meaning, Then make a list of the words you don't know, write out their dictionary forms and parse them. Then write a translation. Then go back and read the whole text through aloud a couple of times.
Keep going. And if you start to feel discourages, look back at where you were last year, and how far you've come (assuming you read some every day) :-)
Shirley Rollinson
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Michael Sharpnack
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Re: Life after a basic grammar

Post by Michael Sharpnack » February 21st, 2017, 8:54 pm

Shirley Rollinson wrote: I find that a good way is to read the Greek text aloud - don't try to translate it, or even understand it in detail the first time through. Just read it aloud, and listen to yourself (it's the main way most of us will get to hear spoken Greek). Then read it aloud again, slowly, - you'll start to pick up phrases and get a sense of the meaning, Then make a list of the words you don't know, write out their dictionary forms and parse them. Then write a translation. Then go back and read the whole text through aloud a couple of times.
Keep going. And if you start to feel discourages, look back at where you were last year, and how far you've come (assuming you read some every day) :-)
Shirley Rollinson
Thanks for the tip, I will be doing that. Also, I've been reading your online textbook; good stuff. Do you have any more on particles? I find them pretty difficult. I really like the list you have and the explanations with them, I haven't found that in anything else I've read yet, but I could use more practice interpreting their meaning within context.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Life after a basic grammar

Post by Stephen Hughes » February 25th, 2017, 12:08 pm

Michael,
How much of the grammar that you know is in tables, and how much is in the texts?

I mean like, are you familiar with at least one instance of a feature of grammar that you have learned? For example, if you have learned that the genitive may be a "genitive of price", can you say, "The genitive of price as in the story of the feeding of the 5,000 (households), Philip replies to Jesus and says, Διακοσίων δηναρίων ἄρτοι οὐκ ἀρκοῦσιν αὐτοῖς "loaves of bread to the value of 200 denarii would not be sufficient for them", (ἵνα ἕκαστος αὐτῶν βραχύ τι λάβῃ. "for each of them to get even the slightest bit") (John 6:7)." Rooting the grammar to examples is a way both to consolidate it, and to improve processing speeds when you are reading.
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Michael Sharpnack
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Re: Life after a basic grammar

Post by Michael Sharpnack » February 25th, 2017, 4:34 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:Michael,
How much of the grammar that you know is in tables, and how much is in the texts?

I mean like, are you familiar with at least one instance of a feature of grammar that you have learned? For example, if you have learned that the genitive may be a "genitive of price", can you say, "The genitive of price as in the story of the feeding of the 5,000 (households), Philip replies to Jesus and says, Διακοσίων δηναρίων ἄρτοι οὐκ ἀρκοῦσιν αὐτοῖς "loaves of bread to the value of 200 denarii would not be sufficient for them", (ἵνα ἕκαστος αὐτῶν βραχύ τι λάβῃ. "for each of them to get even the slightest bit") (John 6:7)." Rooting the grammar to examples is a way both to consolidate it, and to improve processing speeds when you are reading.
That's excellent; I have a little bit of that for some aspects of grammar, but not very much at all. How would I go about building a kind of repertoire of examples that match grammatical concepts like that?
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Life after a basic grammar

Post by Stephen Carlson » February 25th, 2017, 7:42 pm

Michael Sharpnack wrote:That's excellent; I have a little bit of that for some aspects of grammar, but not very much at all. How would I go about building a kind of repertoire of examples that match grammatical concepts like that?
That's what ideally your grammars of Greek should be doing. Wallace has a number of examples, but not everyone will agree with all his categories or the examples he assigns to them.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Life after a basic grammar

Post by Stephen Hughes » February 26th, 2017, 1:03 am

Discussing a little further along SC's lines...

Wallace is a widely used intermediate grammar, Smyth is (often called a reference grammar, but it is one given to students who are still coming to mastery of Classical Greek, so could be called) an intermediate grammar too. The examples in Wallace will be more familiar to you, for contextualising purposes.

There are different types of memorisation strategies that you can apply to Greek. For the vast majority of learners of Greek (Classical or Koine) we could more readily fill a dozen A4 sheets with grammatical tables or phonological rules, than we could with text, actual, original Greek text. Carl Conrad seems to be a notable exception here, and the other that I personally have met was my Dutch tutor, Dr. van de Lubbe (now at UTS), who had learned one of Euripides' plays by heart for a high school performance put on by her Classical Greek class, and who even in her PhD years could recite the text admirably. The difference between the two of them, is that Carl Conrad has given more time to analytical thinking about what he has memorised, while my Dutch tutor, seemed to more have simply enjoyed the exerience, evidenced by her smile throughout the recitation before our class one day.

In my experience too, reciting whole paragraphs (or chapters) tends to begin as a flow of sounds, which then take definition as words, become further defined as parts of speech, then working together to form meaning. That is not a simple, straightforward or quick process. At a later stage of memorisation - ie after a degree of appropriate reflection - elements of whole passages can become exemplars for our understanding of Greek, and they do so quite naturally.

There are two ways to approach the business of providing examples, one is by indexing to the grammar, which is great if you are interested in exploring a specific aspect of grammar as it has been defined by others, and the other being the memorisation of passages that are of personal interest or significance to you. To do the first - matching the texts to the grammar - look at Wallace (or The Salt Shaker or some other site online) for examples, contextualise the shortest possible snipet of Greek in as much English as is necessary. (If you had said you were working through a beginners text book, I woul have only suggested the phrase Διακοσίων δηναρίων ἄρτοι "loaves of bread worth (or costing) 200 denarii", with the rest of the verse in translation.) You will know when you are ready to learn more of the context in Greek, because you will say to yourself, "Oh, I know, it goes something like blah blah blah". At that point you are ready to give exactitude to your vague recolections, ie sirt of rote lwarning with a headstart. In the second case - close analysis of the grammar of a passage - you can choose a passage based on its literary merits, how much it clicked with you at whatever level of your being, and read it closely and analytically. Understanding the grammar point related to it will be part of the process close reading. My first passage attempted in that way was Romans 10:13, first giving and example of nouns and verbs, then of cases and tenses, and later demonstrating the difference between irrealis and future. This is a fun and effective way to learn grammar, but due to the nature of the selection process, it is none-the-less not comprehensive in its coverage of grammar. In fact most people would urge one to combine both of those methods in a way that works best for you.

Way back in '91 or '93 when I was taking Polish from Dr. Ronowicz (now Assoc. Professor of Linguistics at Macquarie), he insisted that we learn a short exemplar for every point of grammar. It was arduous, but many of those that I learned, I have remembered, albiet without remembering the grammar any longer.

I also find it easier to go beyond English glosses to thinking about meaning, to work with things in memory rather than on paper, but that would be a whole 'nother discussion - "Life after a basic wordlist".
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Sam Parkinson
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Re: Life after a basic grammar

Post by Sam Parkinson » July 2nd, 2018, 11:09 am

Michael Sharpnack wrote:
February 17th, 2017, 1:03 pm
Thanks for the responses. So, I just bought Deckers Greek Reader, and I think I'll buy Smyth's grammar as a reference as well as Dickey's composition book to start working through.

Another question: as I'm reading passages right now, I'm basically translating them into English in my head. I know the best way to learn the language is to internalize it, and read it for itself, not to translate it, but I feel I have to right now for it to make sense to me. Are there any specific steps to work towards that goal? Anything to avoid? Or, just keep reading that way, and eventually it will start to internalize?
Most of the people who are here are much more experienced than me, and there is lots of great advice here, but a few points from my own learning that might be of help.

A couple of years ago I was in the same position as you, and tried roughly what you are doing - buying intermediate & reference grammars (both Wallace) and also Decker's reader. My Greek learning essentially ground to a halt. It needn't have, with a bit more effort, but that strategy certainly didn't help.

A little later, I discovered the UBS reader's NT, and using that brought me from incompetent parser to comfortable reader. And now the intermediate grammars are actually useful and interesting. I also worked hard at vocab (using memrise) which made reading much more fluid and rapid.

After that experience, my strong recommendation is that you read the reader's NT for a while before tackling the grammars/readers.

Decker's reader is great, and selects passages very well. But it is intended as an intermediate textbook for seminary courses, more a companion for those grammars, to which it constantly refers you. It teaches you grammatical categories which don't make that much sense without plenty reading under your belt. Lots of those grammatical categories are meaning dependent, and therefore impossible to use without a decent understanding of the text. Both
Decker and any Intermediate grammar I tried simply seemed impossible to really internalise.

Contrary to what you might expect, using a reader's GNT (especially the UBS with parsing) is actually easier that this, as long as you have enough vocabulary to read every word down to 30 occurrences. 10 is even better, and very manageable with memrise or Anki.

It's hard work at first, but tackle books in order of difficulty (so 1 John, John, and so on... there are lots of lists out there). If you have to translate into English at first pass, that's fine. I think doing otherwise at this stage is optimistic. Instead, every day review what you read the day before, and it should be much more natural reading - even better, do this two days running - before tackling new stuff. Start small - a verse will do - and read every day. At first you will be parsing each verb and decoding verse by verse, but it gets easier by the day. After one pass through the NT found I could really read - no translation, no pauses, no difficulties - on the easier books.

Aim to read through the NT, and once you are done (even if you skip hard books like Hebrews and the second half of Acts) the intermediate and reference grammars go from impenetrable to fascinating, as you have the tools and info to really understand and absorb them.

Of course, as so many mention, Daily Dose of Greek is a fantastic help at this stage also.

It's worth remembering that intermediate grammars come next in seminary curricula not because they are what you need next to understand Greek, but because they give you the tools necessary for advanced exegesis classes. That's great. But you do yourself a great favour by postponing that and reading until you can read naturally.

For me, this was also a lot better for my devotional life! Reading the GNT every morning is wonderful for that - grammars, slightly less so...
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Devenios Doulenios
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Re: Life after a basic grammar

Post by Devenios Doulenios » July 10th, 2018, 9:07 am

I second what Drs. Shirley and Randall said about speaking Greek to yourself (including reading aloud, which can count as speaking). A fun way of doing this is by speaking to your pet if you have one. You can say things like: ιδου υδωρ ζων σου (Here's your fresh water), ιδου ο βροματος σου (Here's your food), αγαθε παιδε (Good boy), etc. I've done this with our cats and dog and it helps. Or as you are doing something at home, say, eating, you could say to yourself: τι ποιω (What am I doing), Εσθιω αρτον (I'm eating bread). Simple things, but it gets you started using the language actively, treating it as a real language. Another thing that helps is to listen to it repeatedly and often, using recordings of the New Testament or other ancient Greek. I have some links on my blog's resources page (Go to [url]http://letancientvoicesspeak.wordpress.com[/url) that can help. Τhese kinds of activities help you start to internalize the language, which in turn helps you develop reading comprehension.

All the best,
Δεβἐνιος Δουλἐνιος
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"τὴν ζωὴν καὶ τὸν θάνατον δέδωκα πρὸ προσώπου ὑμῶν τὴν εὐλογίαν καὶ τὴν κατάραν ἔκλεξαι τὴν ζωήν ἵνα ζῇς σὺ καὶ τὸ σπέρμα σου"-Δευτερονόμιον 30:19

"Ὁδοὶ δύο εἰσί, μία τῆς ζωῆς καὶ μία τοῦ θανάτου."--Διδαχή Α, α'

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