Randall Buth's Fluency Workshop

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Louis L Sorenson
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Joined: May 5th, 2011, 9:21 pm
Location: Burnsville, MN, USA

Randall Buth's Fluency Workshop

Post by Louis L Sorenson » July 29th, 2012, 7:35 pm

Some of us B-Greekers are here at the Biblical Language Center's "Fluency Workshop" in Fresno, California. At this point, we are about 2/3 of the way through the seminar. The seminar is a fluency seminar, teaching everyone how to speak and hear Koine. It's not a pedagogical seminar per se, but that topic comes up occasionally before, between, and after the classes. Already, some blogs have started to appear about the workshop. David Miller (who teaches at Briarcrest in Canada) has made several posts on his blog. They can be found athttp://gervatoshav.blogspot.com/2012/07 ... lting.html and http://gervatoshav.blogspot.com/2012/07 ... nding.html.

For those who wonder what actually goes on, I will give a summary of our activity. The workshop is a 10 day workshop. We have about 7 hours of instruction a day. There are two intervening breaks, one a half-day on the morning of the fourth day, and a full day on day seven. The in class instruction totals up to about 65 hours. The breaks are important part of the plan, allowing participants to reset and re-energize. Jordan Kiffiak is the lead teacher this year. Jordan has been teaching both Hebrew and Greek via this method for the last 5-6(?) years (about 8 sessions of teaching). He is extremely competent and very energized. Jordan is backed up by about 8 facilitators, along with Randall Buth who has been present throughout, along with a couple of participant facilitators. There is a very high teacher/student ratio. In break-out groups 5 students sometime have three facilitators.

There are about 40 participants en toto. There is wide range of experience among the participants. A number of department heads and staff are present from a number of academic institutions. There are a number of students acquiring Ph.D.s or Master degrees. Some like myself have tried to implement the communicative method (living language approach) in either a school setting or private setting. A number of self-learners (many are younger) are present. Some have taken up to four classes via this method; for some, this is their first exposure to spoken Greek. Several students have not taken much Greek or have not used their Greek in 30 years. Those students are not a hindrance, but rather let us see how the method works on someone with some minimal experience learning Greek.

The first day we started out learning via TPR. (TPR "Total Physical Response" is a methodology using actions to internalize language). This was done as a whole group. Sit!, Stand! Raise your hand! Raise your other hand! Put your hands down! Stand on the floor! Stand on the chair! Run! Stop running! Run! Sit down! Get up! Lie down! Initially we started with about four verbs and then added several more core verbs the next day. The goal was to wire sound (the spoken word) to meaning.

The second and subsequent days we started learning via TPRS. (TPRS "Teaching Proficiency through Storytelling" is a methodology of asking questions over and over about a very short story in addition to doing and seeing TPR in action. In the morning we listened and watched as three facilitators talked to each other in front of the whole group. Very little English is spoken at all. The four primary facilitators are fairly fluent in Koine. They have a great grasp on a wider range of vocabulary and forms that is used in class. They open the class saying a prayer in Koine ad hoc. Errors do pop up here or there, as this is not their primary language. They are quickly corrected, as they usually work in duo. After the prayer, they usually do TPR modelling. Ἰασών τρέχει. Ιασών, τρέχεις; ναί τρέχω; ποῦ τρέχεις; ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ τρέχω. ποῦ τρέχει; τί ποιεῖ; τρέχει; ποῦ τρέχει; As the days have progressed, the grammar has gotten more complicated. Initially, the forms were present tense imperative. Then present indicative and past tense. Perfect forms meaning "stand" etc. are introduced from the beginning. A large number of the μι verbs have been added in over the first five days. Participles, active and passive are used. For most of those who teach Greek, the only learning is wiring sound to meaning and recalling what they already know, but even the new students understand what is spoken.

After the group session, we break up into smaller groups (3-5 groups). Each group has two-three facilitators. We all rotate through the various stations. In some, we use TPR where we are expected to reproduce and understand. These small groups model and act on what was given in the morning. Some groups use TPRS and tell stories where we are expected to follow along.The stories are very short and are always modeled with actors and objects/props. As the days progressed, the past tense has been more fully added, and we hear the story in the present tense and in the past tense. Most of the students here are pushed to their max. And the only complaint I've heard is that there is sometimes not long enough of a break between the sessions. We are now approaching the stage where a number of the students here can retell the story in either past or present tense.

At lunch, two facilitators sit at each table (students sit wherever they wish). Small pieces of paper with some suggested Greek phrases and dinner talk are put at each seat. We are encouraged to try to use as much Greek as we can at lunch. At the end of the day, we again meet in a group and learn a song and then listen to a real story (sometimes the truth is stretched) of the experience of one of the facilitators. Then we go to supper (no facilitators or talk-sheets). We are given no homework. The food has been great.

I've been looking around at the participants in the group and no one is dozing or writing or listening to anything else. All eyes are up front. Everyone is enthused. Some of the participants are here because their organizations are considering using this methodology to teach in their school at home or on the mission field. Some came with an open mind, but questioned whether or not the communicative method could be realistically implemented in their curriculum. I cannot speak for them, but I have to say that all present are putting 100% input in their sessions. For the most part, their experience and outlook is positive. The next 2 1/2 days will tell.

For myself, I've been looking to improve both my speech and especially my listening skills. I went to a Greek Orthodox service this morning and the father there gave us a diglott copy of the Orthros to read. The main service had the liturgy of John Chrysostom in both Greek and English. The choir sung in both English and Greek. It was very easy to follow along. I'm finding that my reading out loud of texts is much smoother. So personally, I'm already seeing gains.

Reporting Live from Fresno
Louis Sorenson ὁ καλούμενος Λεονίδας

Stephen Carlson
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Re: Randall Buth's Fluency Workshop

Post by Stephen Carlson » July 29th, 2012, 10:31 pm

Thanks for the report. Very interesting.

There is one thing that really struck me. 65 classroom instruction hours is wonderful amount of time. That's how much total classroom time is allocated to the first year of Greek at many seminaries.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

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Re: Randall Buth's Fluency Workshop

Post by RBrown » August 3rd, 2012, 9:38 am

Just out of curiosity, what institutions and organizations are represented by the students at the workshop? Thanks!

Louis L Sorenson
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Joined: May 5th, 2011, 9:21 pm
Location: Burnsville, MN, USA

Re: Randall Buth's Fluency Workshop

Post by Louis L Sorenson » August 4th, 2012, 4:15 pm

Those present will have to speak for themselves what they intend to do, but David Miller from Briarcrest also made a post. There was a large contingent present from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and several from Moody Bible Institute. A lot of people from the USA Upper Midwest (where I live) were present. We talked about having a fluency weekend occasionally. Lee Fields was one of the facilitators. He has taught using Randall's materials at Mid Atlantic Christian University for the last several years, and has been developing curriculum revolving around Randall's books "Living Koine."

We had a discussion at the end about how 10 years ago, there was no movement or interest on using the same approach to teaching Biblical Greek as is used by modern language teachers. ETS and SBL now both(?) have an applied linguistics section where these issues of improvements in pedagogy and application of modern linguistic findings can be applied to Greek/Hebrew. Randall Buth stated there is starting to be movement in the academic world at looking seriously whether the CM (Communicative Method) can be used for teaching a dead language.

I was told that Christophe Rico recently had a session in Florida. So I wonder if anyone present could chime in on how that went?

I'll make an updated post soon.....

Reporting from back home in Minnesota
Louis Sorenson...Λεωνίδας

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Re: Randall Buth's Fluency Workshop

Post by Paul-Nitz » August 20th, 2012, 9:20 am

Like Louis, I was also at the Greek Fluency Workshop.

Excellent summary, Louis. Thanks. This workshop was more laughter and learning than I have ever enjoyed before.

I had already bought into the Communicative Method. Now I have experienced it. My decade long search for a Greek pedagogy that works is over. Now remains the implementation.
Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi

Louis L Sorenson
Posts: 706
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 9:21 pm
Location: Burnsville, MN, USA

Re: Randall Buth's Fluency Workshop

Post by Louis L Sorenson » September 1st, 2012, 10:31 pm

I never finished the review of the last two days of Randall Buth's fluency workshop. So I want to let everyone know what went on the last 2.5 days.

Monday (day 9 - but really 41 hours in = 75% of the way through) was a reset after a long break. Remember that most of the attendees had already learned Greek to a substantial level, i.e., they could pick up a NT text and waddle through it, but most had little audio connection to the language. The FOG happened on Monday. What many of us thought we had 'attained,' we realized we had some more learning to do. The level of exhaustion was significant towards the end of the day. This comment is not just my own, but one made to me by several members of the group. It could have been the long recess (a whole day) and the natural speed of absorbtion/re-incombination or whatever you call 'getting back into it.' But the next day and a half, the FOG tended to lift.

As we progressed into more structures...the future tense, the perfect, some of those who had not had much Greek began to get lost. You could see that glossed over look in their eyes when they were asked a question. The moderators were great on dealing with the different learning levels of the various students. Again, this was a class intended for teachers of Greek, even though some present were still in the 1st year learning level. [Note: This was not a negative, as it was important for teachers to also see how the method works on 1st year students; for many, this was their first experience learning Koine Greek via the 'Communicative Method.']

We continued with the format that was used throughout the workshop. Morning meeting demonstrating TPR, then breakout sessions teaching some forms (many with review), followed up by a final group session where a personal story was told (in Greek) and a song was sung. Of the break-out sessions, one usually tended to be a back-and-forth TPR session; another one-or-two a story-telling session. Most of those sessions were asking the students to give a 5-7 word response - this was a change from some of the sessions earlier where a shorter response, even a one-word response was sought. Some break-out sessions were more ad hoc and and allowed for conversational Greek to be used between students, rather than trying just to get us to repeat the 'correct form' or give a simple answer in the correct form. I found (as one of the students who had a wider range of vocabulary and had used the audio/spoken method before in my teaching) that I was expected not to embellish and enhance a question, but needed to try to limit my response to what all would understand. That is a very hard thing to do - for an enthusiastic person who wants to get to the next level. But then again, the facilitators did a great job dealing with their 'frustrations' of those who wanted to push the envelope.

In one of the final sessions, led by Randall, we discussed a portion of the NT text. (I don't remember which, but it was about John). This was the first time we were given a Greek text from the NT to read while we talked. People were getting tired the end of Tuesday (day 9 of 10), but they were still enjoying the content and especially the parts that made them 'stretch' their skills and in which they did not need to 'recall' forms, but interact communicatively.

The end of the day 9 (of 10), we were given the option to teach our own story (do our own TPRS session) on the following day. About 12-14 students (half?) chose to try to do this. The final day, after a we broke into sessions and in 3-5 member groups, each of those who chose to tell a story were given the opportunity to do so.

The second to the last hour of the workshop was what all of us wanted to do. The facilitators discussed a passage of the Bible in Koine Greek. Hardly any English was spoken to the participants. I think most of us participants followed the discussion. [Note: Randall, get the video of this discussion posted ASAP.] One of Randall Buth's constant drum beats was how professors of German studies, French studies, English studies, etc. do not talk about the German, French, English in any other than the target language when teaching intermediate or advanced courses. And that the only way any intimacy and intricate understanding of a second language can happen, is by using the target language as the language of medium.

The last hour of the workshop was given to a question and and answer time. I was absent for some of this. Some of the talk centered on 'best practices' and how to implement this method with only a single teacher. A lot centered on where Buth's methodology and the methodology in general, and how academia in both Latin and Greek, and more specifically in Biblical Greek studies, have been changing their attitudes toward the "Living Language" approach of teaching Biblical Greek. The subject of the SBL and ETS and the applied linguistic seminar came up at the beginning and end of the QA session. (http://www.biblicallanguagecenter.com/A ... nguistics/).

In summary, Brian Schultz, on a post about the workshop http://www.biblicallanguagecenter.com/2 ... -workshop/ said that this was BLC's best workshop ever. At least one of the facilitators who has been with Randall for several years said that even several years ago, they were speaking 'child-level' Greek, and that what the participants heard this session was advanced even beyond last year's workshop by a good degree. A skill-set takes a long time to develop. Randall Buth, and his group have been at Greek Fluency for about 15 years now (1997-2012).

Reporting from Minnesota....Λεωνίδας ....[Louis Sorenson]

Stephen Hill
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Re: Randall Buth's Fluency Workshop

Post by Stephen Hill » September 23rd, 2012, 1:02 pm

Louis L Sorenson wrote: . . . I was told that Christophe Rico recently had a session in Florida. So I wonder if anyone present could chime in on how that went?
I wasn't there, but I heard from Christophe that it went quite well. He taught Greek and Bradley Ritter of Ave Maria taught Latin. The class took a couple of excursions to the Florida beaches and had a nice chance to use some nautical Greek vocabulary. The Ave Maria classics department has some posts linked here: http://classics.avemaria.edu/post/26763 ... -ave-maria. The following month, in Rome, we had a great group of students not only for Greek but also for Latin and Hebrew. (I was one of the teachers for the first level of Greek; it was a fantastic experience.)
ἡμεῖς οὐχ Ἕλληνες• ἀνέλληνες δὲ φιλοῦμεν
τὴν οὐ καρφομένην Ἑλλάδος ἀνθοσύνην. – Headlam

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