Learning Ancient Greek vs Other Languages

Learning Ancient Greek vs Other Languages

Postby Jesse Goulet » June 27th, 2012, 1:52 pm

I began taking French classes a couple weeks ago and I couldn't help but compare how ancient Greek is taught versus how my classes and other second languages are taught. Ancient Greek is taught basically with a bunch of charts and all kinds of technicalities for how words are formed and all kinds of technical linguistical constructions.

For modern second languages you learn basic vocabulary such as numbers, commonly used objects, people, and actions, the months, days, time, and things like how to introduce yourself to someone. There seems to be less emphasis on technicality (although you are certainly taught the basics for how words are formed and given some basic charts but seemingly less than for Ancient Greek) and more emphasis on practicality and immersion.

What do you think the advantages and disadvantages would be if Ancient Greek was taught in this manner? Is it possible or impossible, or possible to a certain extent (e.g. do we actually know how people introduced themselves in Ancient Greece? Does learning the months and days really help one learn the Greek New Testament?)?
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Re: Learning Ancient Greek vs Other Languages

Postby Jesse Goulet » June 27th, 2012, 2:11 pm

Another example:

*In Ancient Greek courses, at the end of a textbook chapter or class unit you would be given some Greek sentences to translate into English (I've seen some that also has you translate from English to Greek).

*In my French classes we have these instructions on our homework: "Remplissez les tirets avec la bonne forme du verbe donné. Fill in the blanks with the correct form of the given verbs." As you can see, the instructions are given in both French and English, which is an immersion tactic. Also, the exercises itself is not one of translation but of word formation, and you are given a French sentence with the lexical form of the word in brackets and you need to fill out the blank with the correct form of that word so it fits the sentence, which is both an immersion and technical tactic in one.

Should we teach Ancient Greek this way too?
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Re: Learning Ancient Greek vs Other Languages

Postby Jesse Goulet » June 27th, 2012, 2:45 pm

I should also add that in French class, the lexical form for verbs is the present infinitive form. I'm not actually sure why Ancient Greek uses the the present/active/indicative/1st/singular form instead of their present/active/infinitive forms.
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Re: Learning Ancient Greek vs Other Languages

Postby ed krentz » June 28th, 2012, 10:15 am

There would be many drawbacks to learning such terminology for those interested in NT Greek.

1. Names for months differ in different cities--and almost never occur in the NT. What use would it be to know that a month had the name of elaphebolion? 2. To learn the names for different vessels in use in a household, e.g. krater, amphora, pyxis, etc. would contribute nothing to NT studies. It might make sense to learn the difference between kore and korasion. Numerals occur rarely in the NT.
3. Does one need to know what a thiasos is to appreciate what an ekklesia is? I doubt it.

In short, the practical thing to do is teach the vocabulary that actually occurs in the NT. If one learns about 900 words, all that occur more than 10 times in the NT, one can read 90+ percent of the NT text. Of course, one needs to know the principle parts of verbs and noun/adjective declensions. Most NT introductory texts do not teach the optative, since there are only a small number (67) in the entire NT. When I learned Attic Greek, I had to learn optative forms as well ad dual forms.

Ed Krentz
Edgar Krentz
Prof. Emeritus of NT
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
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Re: Learning Ancient Greek vs Other Languages

Postby Eeli Kaikkonen » June 28th, 2012, 12:34 pm

Have you already read http://danielstreett.wordpress.com/ ?
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Re: Learning Ancient Greek vs Other Languages

Postby Stephen Hill » June 28th, 2012, 4:04 pm

Jesse, these are excellent questions. Eeli has already mentioned Daniel Streett's blog, which is a great place to start. Also check out Randall Buth's work on Living Koine and Christophe Rico's Polis Method (http://www.polisjerusalem.org/?page_id=126).

Broadly speaking, I think modern second language acquisition research supports teaching Greek and Latin as spoken languages, not just as written codes to be slowly (and often painfully) deciphered. Some mining of the B-Greek archives will reveal plenty of discussions on this point.
ἡμεῖς οὐχ Ἕλληνες• ἀνέλληνες δὲ φιλοῦμεν
τὴν οὐ καρφομένην Ἑλλάδος ἀνθοσύνην. – Headlam
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