Three Methods for Helping Beginners Learn to read Hel. I.1.

Re: Three Methods for Helping Beginners Learn to read Hel. I

Postby Mark Lightman » March 7th, 2012, 7:55 pm

Since you're not a fan of meta-language, you can paraphrase the function of preposing τὰς ναῦς as περὶ τῶν νεῶν/πλοίων.

Hi, Stephen,

So, are you are proposing that we paraphrase Hellenica I.i.18, with something like:

περὶ μὲν οὖν τῶν πλοίων, ᾤχοντο οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι ἄγοντες πάντα εἰς Προκόννησον πλὴν τῶν Συρακοσίων.
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Re: Three Methods for Helping Beginners Learn to read Hel. I

Postby jeffreyrequadt » March 7th, 2012, 9:19 pm

I'm going to jump in here because my name was mentioned earlier (I THINK). I certainly don't have the expertise in Greek or in teaching Greek to weigh in on how to paraphrase any of Xenophon or whether Mark's paraphrase is accurate. I'm one of the B-Greekers who couldn't read it without outside help. I just knew what some of the words meant, but it basically threw me for a loop.
What I have suggested in the past is more of a "leveled reader" approach. This kind of approach would only serve the function of teaching students to read and comprehend Greek, and would not meet the needs of other aspects of language learning. For those not familiar with a leveled reader, it's basically the idea that if you can limit the complexity of the vocabulary, sentence structure, conventions, and other language features of the text, the person who is reading the text can focus on meaning and on allowing their control of the limited features to grow into mastery, thus allowing them to interact with a slightly more sophisticated text, which would allow the reader to focus on meaning, enabling them to progress to a more sophisticated text, thus the idea of "levels." As far as I am aware, nothing like this has been created. I know there are "graded readers" available (I used some in college), but this is really quite different. I believe the American Bible Society tried something like this to work with adult English language learners (such as immigrants to the US), but someone more knowledgeable than I will have to comment on that. The idea is to take a text, perhaps from the New Testament, but just as easily from any other Koine or Classical text, and to create several different versions of that text at progressing levels of difficulty. The first level might be a page with a few short sentences with only a predicate an a prepositional phrase, accompanied by a picture that shows what the page is telling. The next level might be sentences that fit more of an authentic Greek sentence pattern (although probably not the original, which would probably be too complex), including authentic Greek word order, but still not too far removed from level 1. Then as you progress levels, you come closer and closer to the original Greek text. I imagine something like this could be done with Aesop's fables, or some Greek myths, or anything else that would be motivating to learn to read and could be simplified. Something action oriented probably. I don't know if Plato or Aristotle is incredibly complex or not. I'm just not familiar with Greek literature.
One of the advantages to this leveled reader system would be that I, as a person learning to read Greek, would be familiar with the basic story if I started at level 1 and then worked my way up. Then, as I confronted new vocabulary, I would already have a good idea of what they mean.
The thing I liked about Method Three is that the whole point of the paraphrase was to help me understand the real Greek. If I was at that point, what my brain probably needed first and foremost was to be able to visualize what was happening. And if I already knew what ναῦς meant, then reading πλοῖον in a paraphrase wouldn't hurt that comprehension at all. It would just help me understand what was happening with the ναῦς. If I DIDN'T understand what ναῦς meant, then starting with πλοῖον would at least get me off on the right foot. The way I would learn the difference between πλοῖον and ναῦς would be in a text where both words are used, or perhaps on a "glossary" page with illustrations and captions and labels. Or, if this was a real story, and it's talking about war and attacking and defending, and the word ναῦς kept popping up and I kept seeing illustrations of ναῦς, I would start to connect the picture with the word. The same would be true for πλοῖον. So if I were reading the sentence from Xenophon and really couldn't understand it without some help, reading the paraphrase would be a welcome aid that would allow me to quickly turn back to the actual text. That's how I think Method Three could be quite helpful in learning to read Greek.
With regard to the leveled reading system, I don't have the expertise with Greek to even start such a project. But I am an educator, and I like to think about my craft, which means that I think about how we learn and I design ways to help people learn. So if someone else with Greek proficiency wants to work on such a project, they can contact me off-list and we can get started dreaming. At least until a big publisher takes such a project on and hires people far more qualified.
Jeffrey T. Requadt
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Re: Three Methods for Helping Beginners Learn to read Hel. I

Postby SusanJeffers » March 8th, 2012, 7:44 am

does anyone know of, or is anyone working on, a 'leveled reader' like what Jeffrey Quadt describes?

"What I have suggested in the past is more of a "leveled reader" approach. This kind of approach would only serve the function of teaching students to read and comprehend Greek, and would not meet the needs of other aspects of language learning. For those not familiar with a leveled reader, it's basically the idea that if you can limit the complexity of the vocabulary, sentence structure, conventions, and other language features of the text, the person who is reading the text can focus on meaning and on allowing their control of the limited features to grow into mastery, thus allowing them to interact with a slightly more sophisticated text, which would allow the reader to focus on meaning, enabling them to progress to a more sophisticated text, thus the idea of "levels." As far as I am aware, nothing like this has been created."

My personal fantasy is to have a series of leveled readings to accompany each lesson in the traditional Greek textbook I use, so the students could "just read" instead of sweating over every sentence. I know I'm in the minority with regard to method, compared to those who post the most in b-greek, but I expect to continue using a traditional textbook for the foreseeable future, and just want to supplement it with lots of reading as we go along.
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Re: Three Methods for Helping Beginners Learn to read Hel. I

Postby Jonathan Robie » March 8th, 2012, 10:44 am

cwconrad wrote:But I think that understanding the text, and even demonstrating that one understands the text, is not the same thing as analysis of the text and accounting for how and why the text works. A metalanguage is essential, and it's hard enough for most of us to handle the analysis in English. My 2c.


I think we need to be able to discuss the aspects of the text that are most important, or most elusive. In this particular sentence, the salience of τὰς δὲ ναῦς, the relationship between the verbs ᾤχοντο and ἄγοντες, and the way the imperfect is being used for ὄιχομαι are all important, and I don't know how to discuss them without a metalanguage.

That metalanguage could be in Greek, if it were simple enough. We could come up with some graphical convention for highlighting phrases that are fronted. We could discuss these things in English or German or Swahili. But if we're going to discuss this sentence, we should not adopt a framework that does not allow us to discuss these things at all.

Of course, all of these things can be taught with a great deal of Greek, and perhaps with very little other language. I imagine salience and fronting could be taught with lots of Greek sentences and a highlighter - once you have learned the concept in some metalanguage. And Carl's right, most of us find English hard enough. On the other hand, when I learned German, the metalanguage was German. A talented teacher might be able to pull this off for Greek. But it's beyond my skill as a student of the language.

A paraphrase that eliminates the difficult aspects of a sentence doesn't teach you how to understand that sentence. If the goal is to use Greek that is easier to understand, don't look at this sentence, look at a simpler sentence. Leveled readers and graded readers are useful tools.

I do think we should strive to use as much "real language" and as little "metalanguage" as we can while still conveying the concepts. I prefer εγω to "first person singular", for instance, when looking at verb forms. And I prefer lots and lots of examples in the target language. But the goal must be to teach the language with all its bumps and wrinkles, with whatever is needed to explain them.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: Three Methods for Helping Beginners Learn to read Hel. I

Postby Stephen Carlson » March 8th, 2012, 12:24 pm

Mark Lightman wrote:
Since you're not a fan of meta-language, you can paraphrase the function of preposing τὰς ναῦς as περὶ τῶν νεῶν/πλοίων.

So, are you are proposing that we paraphrase Hellenica I.i.18, with something like:

περὶ μὲν οὖν τῶν πλοίων, ᾤχοντο οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι ἄγοντες πάντα εἰς Προκόννησον πλὴν τῶν Συρακοσίων.


I think the "metaphrase" captures the function of the topical (τὸ περὶ οὗ) position of τὰς ναῦς all right. On the other hand, the apparently unmotivated movement of οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι to its default position after the verb is not so helpful.

The glossing of δέ as μὲν οὖν is an improvement over καί from a discourse perspective, but I still think it's unnecessary. Καί and δέ are the second and fourth most common words, respectively, in the New Testament. My students learn these two words within the first 6 hours of classroom time. If someone is not aware of what δέ means, they will have a lot more problems with the sentence than the metaphrase can help.

A metaphrase will help the student understand that ᾤχοντο means ἀπῆλθον but it won't explain why it's imperfect. But if the goal is rapid reading, then it's probably more important to expose the student to more instances of ᾤχοντο in the wild to get them used to the form than it is to come up with an explanation of why it's that form.

I suppose that rendering participial clauses as independent clauses in a metaphrase can help some students find their way around the gross sentence structure.

Ultimately, however, we are learning Greek to read what's actually written in Greek. The sooner students can avoid interlinears, ponies, and metaphrases, the better.

Stephen
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Faculty of Theology, Uppsala
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Re: Three Methods for Helping Beginners Learn to read Hel. I

Postby Mark Lightman » March 8th, 2012, 1:25 pm

Stephen wrote: I think the "metaphrase" captures the function of the topical (τὸ περὶ οὗ) position of τὰς ναῦς all right
.

I agree, and what you are proposing here is actually Method 6, the “metaphrase.” In a metaphrase, you paraphrase the Greek into Greek NOT to make the Greek easier to understand for beginners, but to illustrate the meta-language point you want to make, while avoiding non-target language jargon. The metaphrase, as in our combined effort

Xenophon: τὰς δὲ ναῦς οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι ᾤχοντο ἄγοντες ἁπάσας εἰς Προκόννησον πλὴν τῶν Συρακοσίων.

Carlson/Lightman: περὶ μὲν οὖν τῶν πλοίων, ᾤχοντο οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι ἄγοντες πάντα εἰς Προκόννησον πλὴν τῶν Συρακοσίων



may well be HARDER for beginners to understand than the original, but it can reflect the interpretive/metalanguage axe one has to grind. I have been doing this for a while on B-Greek.

I would only say that in my opinion, Method 6, while not as good as Method 3, is much better than Method 2. If people have something important to say about the historical present or what the augment grammaticalizes, let them write a metaphrase of one of the standard narratives--Chariton or Longus or Lucian or Homer or Matthew or Mark or Xenophon would be good--and make these ideas less vague and easier to understand.

(p.s. in our metaphrase I replaced δὲ with μὲν οὖν and re-dislocated οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι for euphonic reasons.)

Ultimately, however, we are learning Greek to read what's actually written in Greek. The sooner students can avoid interlinears, ponies, and metaphrases, the better.


πῶς γὰρ οὔ? But I would add that this applies to metalanguage as well.

εὐτύχει δή.
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