I respond partly to Mark's earlier response to my reservations about "Method 3" and also to Paul Nitz's comments on the usefulness of "Method 3" once one has reached a point where it can come into play.
First an additional word about the metalanguage: I think it plays a vital role:
(1) Pedagogical method is grounded in an intelligible understanding of how language works, and so depends upon a grammatical and Linguistic framework;
(2) Progress of students toward fluency must depend in part on grasping how the language being learned functions in ways that differ from those of one's native language. In the course of acquisition of language skills, one is going, from time to time, to need answers to questions about usage;
(3) Obviously too, How languages work -- and how a particular language works -- are legitimate objects of sysematic study for their own sakes, quite apart from whether or not they assist pedagogy.
Now, in response to Mark's dismissal of my reservations:
Okay, so I’ve got the whole thing backwards: the student who’s having the difficulty reading, you say, not a “passage” but a single sentence, needs help. It doesn’t make sense, because something doesn’t click together with other elements that one thinks one grasps well enough. So, someone steps in and helps him with a paraphrase.
Who does this paraphrase? Is this a service that you, the παιδάγωγος and τριτημεθοδεύτης, are offering to provide for those confronting an ἀπορία with a text they’ve come upon? Or do you have in mind a published text that offers this sort of paraphrase of all the sentences in a textual corpus? I wonder if the latter is really practical: what I’ve said about the difficulty with commentaries would apply here too. The difficulties that the commentator has foreseen students having all too often don’t match the difficulties with the text that students actually have: they answer the questions you’re not asking.
So it has to be someone who is available to consult when the student runs into a problem. Is this something you see as a service provided at a web-site (such as the B-Greek Forum, for example)? A consultant who will take your verse reference and offer you up a quick and neat simplified reformulation of the sentence that resolves the student’s difficulties with that sentence, either in one shot or in a succession of stages working up to full understanding?
“ … again and again one will encounter a difficult sentence that one cannot understand. Usually there is just one bit of information—what goes with what, a word used in a sense one has not encountered before, an intransitive verb taken transitively, a verb unexpectedly taking two accusatives, an unfamiliar ὡς construction, a genitive or dative going not with a noun it's close to but with verb father away, κτλ--that causes the whole sentence to be mystery.”
Here you resort to metalanguage to describe the types of difficulty; you apparently believe that we can bypass a discussion of what the difficulty is in grammatical terms and move straight to a rephrasing that gets around the difficulty. It seems to me that the rephrasing might be more helpful if there’s an intermediate stage of identiifying where the difficulty in understanding the sentence actually lies. Isn’t it a guessing game if you don’t do that? And if we’re talking about “processing” the sentence as a sequence of syntactic elements, aren’t we already doing a logico-grammatical exercise of the nature of a metalanguage then?
So I’m not so sure that all my reservations have vanished. I still want to know: Who’s performing this service for the students and how do you see it formalized -- in a consulting service at some site that has staff available at regular hours to do paraphrases for students who get stuck in the middle of their reading? Or do we conceive of Readers that offer this sort of paraphrase, readers that have been composed with some sort of providential grasp of which difficulties students are bound to encounter?
I think you’ve not adequately answered the question about metalanguage. Where you and I are in full agreement is that we both acknowledge that grammar and conversion of the Greek text into a word-for-word target-language equivalent is nigh unto useless as a basic pedagogical method for learning a language. I think, however, that it must come into play at some point (and recurringly) as when one comes to see that difficulties encountered have something to do with different ways of expressing or formulating ideas in the two languages. That is to say, I think that grammar -- a metalanguage -- becomes an aid to forward progress in the second language. It’s helpful to look at what makes a sentence difficult and talk about the difficulty. There’s no reason why even that couldn’t be done in Greek, of course.
I also think you’ve equivocated about Smyth: either Smyth’s grammar is an essential tool or it’s completely dispensable. If it’s useful for something, then what is it useful for? I will readily grant that understanding the grammar is not essential to gaining fluency, but I think that most students who do not live and breathe in a cultural milieu where Kone Greek is spoken by people who use it like native-speakers -- those people, I think, are going to find it helpful at one point or another, and at intervals again and again, to become involved in analysis that requires a metalanguage.
In a sense then, I’m still raising my Juvenal question: τίς ἐπιμελήσται αὐτῶν τῶν ἐπιμελουμένων; τίς διδάξει αὐτοὺς τοὺς διδάσκοντας;
Part of the answer, I think, has been implicit all along. We are helping each other, teaching and learning at the same time. The best class in Beginning Greek that I ever taught was one that had (long unbeknownst to me) weekly study sessions of the whole class conducted by the students in that class taking turns at the leadership role. That’s one of the things this forum does for us students; as Solon put it, γηράσκω ἀεὶ πολλὰ διδασκόμενος.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
ἄτοπον, ἔφη, λέγεις εἰκόνα καὶ δεσμώτας ἀτόπους.
ὁμοίους ἡμῖν, ἦν δʼ ἐγώ. Plato, Rep. 7 (515a)