Why not start with modern Greek?

Why not start with modern Greek?

Postby Jonathan Robie » February 28th, 2012, 4:22 pm

Modern Greek has much more and probably much better resources for those who want to learn a language with a living languages approach.

If some people start with Homer or Attic Greek then move forward in time to Koine, is there anything to be said for starting with modern Greek, then moving back in time to the Koine period? In theory, this might provide opportunities to get a sound oral foundation in one kind of Greek, then work into applying that to another kind of Greek. The differences between modern and Koine are sigificant, but so are the differences between Homeric and Koine.

Good idea? Bad idea? Why? Does anyone have concrete experience with this approach?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: Why not start with modern Greek?

Postby Wayne Kirk » February 28th, 2012, 5:04 pm

Jonathan,

I wondered the same thing at some point in my studies. Someone much more familiar with Modern Greek than I will have to chime in, but I would suppose that it comes down to just how different the two are.

Kindly,

Wayne Kirk
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Re: Why not start with modern Greek?

Postby Barry Hofstetter » February 29th, 2012, 6:31 am

Modern Greek speakers have to learn ancient Greek as a different language, similar to how modern Romanian speakers have to learn Latin as a different language, or English speakers Old English. Occasionally, our classics department at UMBC would get modern Greek students looking for an easy "A" taking a NT course or Xenophon or the like. They did no better than we Americans who had started our ancient Greek in our first semester of college, and some did worse.
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Re: Why not start with modern Greek?

Postby Mark Lightman » February 29th, 2012, 12:44 pm

Jonathan wrote: Modern Greek has much more and probably much better resources for those who want to learn a language with a living languages approach.


According to Wikipedia, there are 13 million speakers of Modern Greek, so, yes, I would say Modern Greek has about 12.99999999 million more resources for learning it than does Koine Greek.

Now, in terms of non-human resources—Rosetta Stone, children’s books, videos, audio drills, phrase books, songs, target language dictionaries--Modern Greek also wins hands down. The gap is huge, BUT the gap is much less now than it was just a few years ago. Every day the gap grows smaller, as excellent new Koine resources are produced. Moreover, because the gap is so large, it forces learners of Living Koine TO PRODUCE THEIR OWN RESOURCES, which, ΙΜΟ, is a good thing. Over on B-Hebrew a guy, basically an amateur, wrote his own Hebrew lexicon. I don’t know how good it turned out to be, but the process of writing a lexicon, FOR THE GUY who writes it, is a more valuable resource than all the existing lexicons in the target language. In the same way, I think it is more helpful to PRODUCE part of a Koine Rosetta Stone, as many people on this list have done, (including you, Jonathan) rather than to USE one prepared by others.

If some people start with Homer or Attic Greek then move forward in time to Koine, is there anything to be said for starting with modern Greek, then moving back in time to the Koine period?


Absolutely there is. διαλεγώμεθα δή.

The differences between modern and Koine are significant, but so are the differences between Homeric and Koine.


In fact, it has been argued that the differences between Modern Greek and Koine are less than the differences between Koine and Homer. Hmmm...?

Wayne wrote: Someone much more familiar with Modern Greek than I will have to chime in, but I would suppose that it comes down to just how different the two are.


That’s actually part of the problem. The more familiar one is with Modern Greek, the more similar it appears to Ancient Greek. Same with Homer. My first thought on opening the Iliad was, “This IS Greek, right?” Now it seems very similar, not by any means the same, but similar, to Koine. There is a very subjective element here, but it does seem like there ought to be some objective way to resolve this question.

Good idea? Bad idea? Why?


It’s certainly not a bad idea, although I bet there will be some purists who will say it will “harm” your Ancient Greek by introducing meanings and constructions that are not part of “authentic” Ancient Greek. Believe it or not, there are some purists who say that if you are learning Biblical Hebrew you should NOT learn Modern Hebrew because it will “interfere” with it. When I hear this, I want to cringe, because I could only wish that Modern Greek was as close to Ancient Greek as Modern Hebrew is to Ancient Hebrew. If it were, we would not be having this conversation.

Good idea…Why?


It’s a good idea because, some will argue, theoretically, by going to Greece or by hooking up with Native Greeks, one could learn Modern Greek quickly and well, and then you could see how helpful it would be to reading Ancient Greek. Some people will say it is a good idea because some people, while accepting the idea of living language methodologies, will always view Living Koine as “artificial.” I’ve been told several times that if I want to learn to speak Greek I should just learn to speak Modern Greek, but I have never been told this by someone who himself actually speaks Modern Greek.

Does anyone have concrete experience with this approach?


This is the heart of the matter. Surprisingly, considering how we tend to beat topics to death here, I recall very little discussion of this on B-Greek. (φήμι δὴ τούτον τὸν ἵππον ἔτι ζῶντα.) I hope someone out there does have concrete experience and will come forward. I have had concrete experience in learning Koine as living language, and I can say that it has been TREMENDOUSLY helpful in improving my reading fluency. There are many others out there who have said the same thing. What I want to know is, will learning Modern Greek as a living language do the same thing. I honestly don’t know. I’m glad that Jonathan started this thread. I await further responses.
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Re: Why not start with modern Greek?

Postby Stephen Carlson » February 29th, 2012, 1:26 pm

In my view, classical Greek is like classical Latin, Koine Greek is like Vulgate Latin, and modern Greek is like Italian.

I've studied both Italian and Latin, and based on my experience I'm not convinced that learning Italian before studying Latin is the best way to go about learning Latin. Nevertheless, there is some benefit to learning more languages, if you have the time, money, inclination, and aptitude for it.

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Re: Why not start with modern Greek?

Postby Mark Lightman » February 29th, 2012, 2:09 pm

τὴν γνώμην ἔδωκεν ὁ Στέφανος: In my view, classical Greek is like classical Latin, Koine Greek is like Vulgate Latin, and modern Greek is like Italian.

I've studied both Italian and Latin, and based on my experience I'm not convinced that learning Italian before studying Latin is the best way to go about learning Latin.


That’s a good analogy, but with one difference. There is a much more established tradition of speaking Latin as a living language than there is for Ancient Greek. There is, for example, already a Latin Rosetta Stone, and if you live near a big city you will have no problem finding people willing to speak Latin with you, but list member Refe T. could not find one guy in the entire state of Kansas who would speak Koine with him. A sub-implication behind Jonathan’s question is that speaking Koine is illegitimate and harmful, (I know that Jonathan is not saying this, but others on this list have) and so one is forced to go to Modern Greek. Very few, if any, Latin learners would say this about spoken Latin, maybe because the Church and Catholic High Schools made sure that Latin never died as a spoken language.
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Re: Why not start with modern Greek?

Postby RandallButh » March 1st, 2012, 6:49 am

Modern Greek is wonderful for listening to mediterranean music and visiting Greece.

However, this needs to be discussed in the framework of developing a language to fluency. A person will spend the good part of two to three years to develop functional fluency in modern Greek. When they are finished, they will find out that they need to learn the ancient morphology as a new system and to greatly expand their vocabulary.

I only started down this road and made a decision that Koine outweighed my time availability for modern Greek. So I've devoted time to working strictly within Koine. If I were younger I would include modern Greek for its own sake.

As for the argument for 'not speaking' Koine, that is an argument for not learning a language. See some of the blogs at biblicallanguagecenter.com
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Re: Why not start with modern Greek?

Postby SusanJeffers » March 1st, 2012, 9:32 am

Taking your question as posed -- "Why not?" Randall's "if I were younger" certainly resonates.

It depends on your purpose, and how much time you have for study and practice -- hours per day as well as likely years left in your life.

For myself -- I'm an older person with *lots* of other responsibilities besides studying Greek -- and my main interest in Greek is as a means to engage Scripture more deeply, in a religious sense -- studying Greek (and Hebrew for that matter) is fascinating its own right, but still primarily a means subordinate to my primary spiritual/religious pursuits --

For myself, the answer to "Why not start with modern Greek?" is simply "because I don't have time" or "because it would take too much time that could be better spent more directly on my primary interests."

Although, even having said that, I do *very* occasionally look at the Rosetta Stone introductory modern Greek lessons, or watch online videos from modern Greek sources, and I do occasionally pick up Euclid's Elements, whose simple declarative sentences are far easier than any other ancient Greek I've found (and I was a math major, so the content comforts me).

Blessings,

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Re: Why not start with modern Greek?

Postby Jonathan Robie » March 1st, 2012, 9:53 am

Mark Lightman wrote:There is, for example, already a Latin Rosetta Stone, and if you live near a big city you will have no problem finding people willing to speak Latin with you, but list member Refe T. could not find one guy in the entire state of Kansas who would speak Koine with him. A sub-implication behind Jonathan’s question is that speaking Koine is illegitimate and harmful, (I know that Jonathan is not saying this, but others on this list have) and so one is forced to go to Modern Greek. Very few, if any, Latin learners would say this about spoken Latin, maybe because the Church and Catholic High Schools made sure that Latin never died as a spoken language.


You're right - I wouldn't make that argument. On the other hand, I'm not in a place where it's easy to find anyone to speak Koine with me, and I do find the materials for living Koine sparse still.

I find it valuable to listen to Scripture first, then listen to it while reading along, and then to proceed to working on the things that I don't get the first time through. So far, that's as close to living Koine as I get.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: Why not start with modern Greek?

Postby Mark Lightman » March 1st, 2012, 12:26 pm

Susan Jeffers. wrote: For myself, the answer to "Why not start with modern Greek?" is simply "because I don't have time" or "because it would take too much time that could be better spent more directly on my primary interests."


Hi, Susan,

You’ve made this point before. It’s a good point. It’s a good point in that it advances the discussion about how best to learn Ancient Greek.

But, in a sense, it begs the question. The argument for starting with Modern Greek is that it would SAVE you time. This is Buth’s argument for Living Koine, not that it is a more rigorous, time-consuming method, but that you learn faster and retain the info longer, ultimately using LESS time than twenty years of wasted time on grammar-translation that never produces fluency.

Buth wrote on his website http://www.biblicallanguagecenter.com/ " learn easily…progress further…remember for life…."


(hi Randall. Have you thought about adding “learn faster?”)

And I have said this many times, though I think it is still sub nauseam; Using living language methodologies actually takes LESS time than just reading/reading about Greek because you cannot read Greek in the shower or in the car on the way to soccer practice or while you are pretending to take notes at a staff meeting but what you are really doing is writing in Ancient Greek about what an idiot the boss is. (ἔτι μὲν οὖν ὁ μωρὸς λαλεῖ.) But you can speak, listen to, and write Greek in all these settings. This would theoretically apply to Modern Greek; you could squeeze it into your day and it would boost your reading proficiency better, more efficiently, FASTER, than just reading. Smart time, I think they call it. ὁ χρόνος ὁ ἐνεργής.
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