Why not start with modern Greek?

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Why not start with modern Greek?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » July 27th, 2019, 7:50 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
July 26th, 2019, 7:59 pm
JustinSmith wrote:
July 25th, 2019, 7:52 pm
Stephen Carlson wrote:
July 2nd, 2019, 6:45 am
But if you're going to start with another language before ancient Greek, why not Latin? It is inflected like Greek but the vocabulary is more familiar. In a sense, it is the perfect stepping stool to Greek.
Latin is a dead language. Greek is not. Koine Greek is a dead dialect. That is an important distinction. Greek is a living language. Modern Greek is inflected very similarly to Koine Greek (certainly more closely than Latin), so I am not sure why one would go this route. A native community far outweighs a more (perhaps) familiar vocabulary.
You're free to object to this very traditional proposal, but I dispute the alleged basis. Koine Greek is not a living language, and there is no native community for it. It is just as dead as Latin--indeed deader, since there is a vibrant L2 Latin community in papal universities. Yes, modern Greek is a living language but so is Italian, and they have a similar relationship to their respective 2000-year-old ancestors, except that Greek's orthography is much more conservative. (You can write Italian with Latin orthography, and it looks a lot like modern Latin.) Finally, linguists generally reject the language vs. dialect distinction as vague and unrigorous; even if the test is mutual intelligibility, koine Greek is not mutually intelligible with modern.
To paraphrase what I said above "Latina non solum viva est sed etiam immortalis" (but that's the comment of a partisan). Otherwise, Stephen is correct in all particulars above.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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JustinSmith
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Re: Why not start with modern Greek?

Post by JustinSmith » July 27th, 2019, 11:41 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
July 26th, 2019, 7:59 pm
Finally, linguists generally reject the language vs. dialect distinction as vague and unrigorous; even if the test is mutual intelligibility, koine Greek is not mutually intelligible with modern.
You overstate your case here, Stephen. Language v. dialect is a very debated and fuzzy distinction in the field of linguistics. That is quite different from being disregarded. Is Levantine Arabic a different language than Gulf Arabic? What about American English and British English? Different dialects or different languages? We must have a place for the language v. dialect distinction.

I argue that Koine Greek is a dead dialect, not a living language. Greek is a living language, with spoken dialects today. Latin cannot boast that. Therein lies the distinction. Also significant is the fact that

As for mutual intelligibility with Modern Greek, please see the video I linked in the last comment. Could you go to Italy and do this with Latin?
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JustinSmith
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Re: Why not start with modern Greek?

Post by JustinSmith » July 27th, 2019, 11:47 am

Nikolaos Adamou wrote:
March 2nd, 2012, 10:59 pm
There is a unique continuity and unity in the Greek language, where most of the change happens between Homeric and Classical, but from that period, to the Hellenistic, Eastern Roman Empire, Under Ottoman Occupation and Modern times, all the way up to the linguistic reform in early 80’s, the language shows stability and continuity. Particular and significant role in this continuity and stability play the usage of Biblical Greek in the liturgical life of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Italian is another language different that Latin, λατινογενῆς, Modern Greek is NOT another ἑλληνογενῆς language, substantially different from the New and Old Testament Greek or classical. The difference between Modern Greek and Hellenistic Greek is much smaller than the Shakespearian and modern English.
...

It is not correct the statement “Modern Greek speakers have to learn ancient Greek as a different language”, I learn ancient Greek as my language. Biblical Greek is still a living language used uninterrupted in the Orthodox Church from the first century up to now. The hymnology used is the same composed from the third century up to today.

...

A great advantage of approaching Hellenistic and Classical Greek from a Modern Greek language point of view, is the option to communicate with Greeks themselves.

The main question I have is what are the advantages of interrupting artificially the unity and continuation of my language besides to have a discussion about my language not in Greek and without the Greeks.
Stephen Carlson wrote:
July 26th, 2019, 7:59 pm
You're free to object to this very traditional proposal, but I dispute the alleged basis. Koine Greek is not a living language, and there is no native community for it. It is just as dead as Latin--indeed deader, since there is a vibrant L2 Latin community in papal universities. Yes, modern Greek is a living language but so is Italian, and they have a similar relationship to their respective 2000-year-old ancestors, except that Greek's orthography is much more conservative.
Let the Greek speak for Greek, Latin will not find such a defender.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Why not start with modern Greek?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » July 27th, 2019, 11:53 am

JustinSmith wrote:
July 27th, 2019, 11:47 am

Let the Greek speak for Greek, Latin will not find such a defender.
Multi contra sunt Latinae linguae vindices!
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Why not start with modern Greek?

Post by Stephen Carlson » July 27th, 2019, 7:34 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
July 27th, 2019, 11:53 am
JustinSmith wrote:
July 27th, 2019, 11:47 am

Let the Greek speak for Greek, Latin will not find such a defender.
Multi contra sunt Latinae linguae vindices!
We have a winner!
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

Benjamin Kantor
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Joined: June 24th, 2017, 3:18 am

Re: Why not start with modern Greek?

Post by Benjamin Kantor » July 29th, 2019, 5:14 am

JustinSmith wrote:
July 25th, 2019, 7:52 pm

After speaking with numerous Greeks in Athens and presenting them with the Koine of the NT, I can't help but wonder if this isn't because of the way we determine competency. Being a native Greek speaker is perhaps no advantage for parsing via American academic standards. But in terms of actually understanding the language? Φυσικά! Granted the classics are obviously further away.
Agreed on measure of competency. But native Greek speakers understanding Koine is not something that surprises me. See below ...
JustinSmith wrote:
July 25th, 2019, 7:52 pm
One does not need to grow up in Greece to learn Modern Greek well enough to approach Koine. I have met expats who have never studied Koine who, after learning a decent bit of Modern Greek (upper intermediate), found the biblical text quite intelligible.
How many hours (either in a class or contact with native speakers or both) do you think they had to get to this point? That is really what the issue is here. I'm not disputing that a good level of proficiency in Modern Greek will make the narrative portions of the NT accessible, but how much time does it take to get there? Most people who want to learn Koine Greek will have to do it 3 hours a week in a class or maybe with a language partner. I'm trying to think practically about how people who want to learn Koine can do it. Most people can't move to Greece; so I'm trying to get an idea of how many hours they will need (in a classroom, with a language partner, etc.) to achieve what you are suggesting.


JustinSmith wrote:
July 25th, 2019, 7:52 pm
A video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNA34iBGJPs) was recently shared with me that applies directly to this conversation. This is the most definitive evidence I have seen for the continuity between Modern and Koine Greek, outside of going to Greece itself. The first fifteen minutes will convert you.
I had actually already seen part of that :) It doesn't surprise me. That is not really the point I'm getting at though.



Finally, I would like to see the same test with Josephus, Plutarach, Chariton, or Epictetus and see what comes out. Have you tried anything like that?
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Benjamin Kantor
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Re: Why not start with modern Greek?

Post by Benjamin Kantor » July 29th, 2019, 5:30 am

Let me perhaps sum up my general question in the following manner (again, thinking practically as a teacher). Let's assume the following ...

- class meets 1 hour per week three times a week
- total curriculum is 2 years long
- ultimate objective is proficiency in Koine Greek (not necessarily the NT alone, but Koine Greek in general)

In light of your experience with Modern Greek, what is the best way to use this time and how would you plan the curriculum? (assuming the teacher can teach a class proficiently in either Koine Greek or Modern Greek using the same teaching methods).


This is the situation for most people who want to learn these languages. Of course moving to Greece is the best way to learn Greek--no arguments there :D -- but how do we do this for the vast majority of language learners? (obviously a university context is just an example, you could use language partners or self study as well)
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https://www.KoineGreek.com

JustinSmith
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Re: Why not start with modern Greek?

Post by JustinSmith » July 29th, 2019, 12:46 pm

Benjamin Kantor wrote:
July 29th, 2019, 5:30 am
Let me perhaps sum up my general question in the following manner (again, thinking practically as a teacher). Let's assume the following ...

- class meets 1 hour per week three times a week
- total curriculum is 2 years long
- ultimate objective is proficiency in Koine Greek (not necessarily the NT alone, but Koine Greek in general)

In light of your experience with Modern Greek, what is the best way to use this time and how would you plan the curriculum? (assuming the teacher can teach a class proficiently in either Koine Greek or Modern Greek using the same teaching methods).


This is the situation for most people who want to learn these languages. Of course moving to Greece is the best way to learn Greek--no arguments there -- but how do we do this for the vast majority of language learners? (obviously a university context is just an example, you could use language partners or self study as well)
I think this is precisely where conversations should start with Modern Greek, and I do not claim to have all the pedagogical answers. This has been a rather recent αποκάλυψη/ἀποκάλυψις for me, and is clearly a disputed one. So, unfortunately, there are arguments here.

I am skeptical of developing a high level of proficiency in Greek with a 3/hr week for four semesters program. That is roughly 200 hours of in class instruction, and we would never expect that amount of time to produce a high level of acquisition for a modern language—why would we expect differently of Koine? We must disabuse ourselves of such a notion. The ones who press on (I imagine largely represented in this forum), are the ones who persevere and do not let the language go until it blesses them.

Personally, I am convinced of Greg Thomson's GPA (https://www.growingparticipation.com/introduction). This is a 1500 hour program designed for learning living languages. I think that the best the classroom can do is teach Greek—not one dialect—and ideally with a native speaker of Greek involved for at least Modern Greek. One can progress far enough along in the GPA to grow outside of the classroom (with a world of Greek materials and Greeks themselves!), after about 500 hours of "nurturing" one-on-one or with a small group of students with a language nurturer. At 15 weeks a semester for four semesters (60 weeks), that would be about 8.5 hours a week of work over the course of two years. Or, you could go to Greece and learn full time and get there in four or five months. :)

But I am an idealist. And perhaps that is not suited for the current restraints laid on language pedagogy by universities and seminaries. My main point here on the forum is that there is an actual living dialect of this language that beckons those who want to learn it. It will require some extra work, like Hebrew, to transfer over to the ancient dialect, but it can be done. I am not so interested in pretending like anyone can attain high levels of proficiency in a language after four semesters, I've seen that story play out with too many peers who cannot read a sentence of Greek today without Accordance or Logos.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Why not start with modern Greek?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » July 30th, 2019, 10:05 am

JustinSmith wrote:
July 29th, 2019, 12:46 pm
But I am an idealist. And perhaps that is not suited for the current restraints laid on language pedagogy by universities and seminaries. My main point here on the forum is that there is an actual living dialect of this language that beckons those who want to learn it. It will require some extra work, like Hebrew, to transfer over to the ancient dialect, but it can be done. I am not so interested in pretending like anyone can attain high levels of proficiency in a language after four semesters, I've seen that story play out with too many peers who cannot read a sentence of Greek today without Accordance or Logos.
τὸν χρονόν γε καὶ τὸν πόνον τήν τε σπουδὴν πρᾶξαι τὴν μαθητὴν δεῖ οὐ μόνον ἐν τῶ τοὺς παλαίους συγγραφέας ἀναγινώσκειν ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν τῷ γράφειν καὶ λαλεῖν. τὸ δὲ περισσότερον τῆς ἐν τῇ διαλέκτῳ ἀσκησέως βέλτιον.

In my undergraduate experience in Classics, after my third semester of intermediate Greek (reading Plato), I took two reading courses per semester until graduation. Beginning Greek (two semesters) was 4 hours per semester, all the subsequent courses were 3 hour courses. Due to a bit of laxity concerning some other requirements I ended up with an extra semester (oops, parents not happy), so that was 6 semesters beyond the intermediate level, so that was 51 semester hours of ancient Greek (I also did the same number of Latin courses, but that's not as relevant here). Without the two extra courses, this was considered sufficient for baseline competency to move on to graduate school (which I subsequently did). Could I at that point speak ancient Greek fluently if I hopped on the TARDIS and ended up in 3rd century Athens and the TARDIS's translation matrix failed? Not walking out the door, certainly. Could I deal with pretty much any ancient Greek literature with my lexicon and occasional grammar references? Certainly. It's also crucial to remember that such coursework is only meant to provide the foundation for further study, whether in a formal or informal context (that's true of modern language curricula as well). I thought my skills were amazing when I graduated -- okay they were pretty decent, but graduate school showed me how much I still had to go and life has shown me that I'll never arrive, but to keep on πολλῇ τῇ ἀσκήσει.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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JustinSmith
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Re: Why not start with modern Greek?

Post by JustinSmith » July 31st, 2019, 3:37 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
July 30th, 2019, 10:05 am
Could I at that point speak ancient Greek fluently if I hopped on the TARDIS and ended up in 3rd century Athens and the TARDIS's translation matrix failed? Not walking out the door, certainly. Could I deal with pretty much any ancient Greek literature with my lexicon and occasional grammar references? Certainly. It's also crucial to remember that such coursework is only meant to provide the foundation for further study, whether in a formal or informal context (that's true of modern language curricula as well). I thought my skills were amazing when I graduated -- okay they were pretty decent, but graduate school showed me how much I still had to go and life has shown me that I'll never arrive, but to keep on πολλῇ τῇ ἀσκήσει.
Barry, yes, you have persevered through sub-ideal teaching methods and you can access much of the Greek (and Latin) corpus. But you are part of the 1%. This is not the case for most of our brothers in arms. Those of us who have been at it for long enough know that we will never arrive. <<Ὅσοι οὖν τέλειοι, τοῦτο φρονῶμεν. Kαὶ εἴ τι ἑτέρως φρονεῖτε, καὶ τοῦτο ὁ θεὸς ὑμῖν ἀποκαλύψει.>>

You are also right to point out that coursework is only meant to provide a foundation for further study. Yet the conversation turns on efficiency. You say:
Barry Hofstetter wrote:
July 30th, 2019, 10:05 am
τὸ δὲ περισσότερον τῆς ἐν τῇ διαλέκτῳ ἀσκησέως βέλτιον.
All things being equal, yes. But all things are not equal and my argument is that it would behoove the learner to begin with the dialect that has a native community. Again, if you were Chinese wanting to read Shakespeare, would it be better for you to learn American English first—then the goofy rules about -eth and ye—or just focus on reading Shakespeare (or working in a synthesized version of the language instead of the spoken dialect)? I don't think that is a straw man. Speaking with a native is hands down the best thing you can do to build proficiency in a language—and, hey, being able to communicate with an actual people group instead of a scholarly circle ought to be attractive to us, as well. The Greeks are more than the gatekeepers of a language (and Greece is worth the visit!).

At 51 semester hours, and assuming at least an hour of work outside of class per semester hour, you could have completed the 1500 hour program mentioned above. This means that you would be able to understand native-to-native speech with ease, the trademark of true language proficiency. For the <<πολλῇ τῇ ἀσκήσει>> man, keeping you away from the classics and learning all the -eth's and ye's of Koine (and beyond) would be an impossible task. And I dare say you'd take to it like a cow to cud at that point.
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