Paul Nitz: Communicative Greek in Malawi

Re: Paul Nitz: Communicative Greek in Malawi

Postby David M. Miller » December 26th, 2013, 7:00 pm

χαῖρε Παῦλε!

I am curious about how much GNT reading your students do. Can you comment on how your current students' reading facility compares to students that you taught before you started using a communicative approach?

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Re: Paul Nitz: Communicative Greek in Malawi

Postby Paul-Nitz » December 30th, 2013, 8:58 am

In the first year of Greek (150 lessons in 2012-13) we did no substantial reading other than the composed stories that I came up with for targeted structures. We occasionally looked at some Biblical passages to show that we actually could understand some bits already. So far this year, I haven't changed the pattern much.

This year, we are using Dobson as a sort of outline. I try to cover the major point of each lesson in a communicative way. Then the students read the lesson at home. The next class period, we take questions on the lesson. We'll read through parts of it that the students found difficult.

For example, Lesson 20 in Dobson is titled "ποίησας" (sic). The main language structure it teaches is the attributive use of an aorist participle. We had a bowl of water and a bowl of clay in front of the class. A student was told to make a ball (ποίησον σφαῖραν). Then he was told to wash his hands νίψαι τὰς χεῖρας. After we played with that set up a few times we described what happened.
τί εποίησεν;
ποιήσας σφαῖραν ἐνίψατο τὰς χεῖρας.

So, the structures we get into are certainly at GNT reading level, but my students do not have a wide enough range of structures or enough vocabulary that they will need to read the GNT without being discouraged in the learning process. What they need to feed on is Greek that they mostly understand (comprehensible input, plus one).

Dobson has his readers begin to translate short readings from John beginning with Lesson 8 or so. From the start this year, I made those assignments optional. Later I encouraged the students to skip them. It was not encouraging them and was not teaching them more Greek.

I've used Dobson twice before and rather encouraged students to work through the John selections. When I was working at developing decoders, that made sense. Now, it doesn't.

I don't expect my students will be able to read Greek, except for very easy GNT narratives, before the end of this school year. This school year is the end of their Greek training. They will be asked to use Greek in upcoming classes, but will have no more Greek training classes. Yet, I'm not worried. They have the right idea and will be able to and have the interest to advance on their own. They are already "readers." They're just at a very low level.
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Re: Paul Nitz: Communicative Greek in Malawi

Postby Paul-Nitz » January 10th, 2014, 11:39 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:So many directions we could go from that ...
    [1] could you start by describing the ministerial school you are teaching at, and who comes to the seminary?
    [2] How different is this from teaching at an American seminary?
    [3] Are they likely to be using Greek primarily for preaching purposes?
    [4] How many languages are they likely to know, and which ones?


1. Our school, the Lutheran Bible Insitute, exists solely for training pastors for our churches in Zambia and Malawi. It has a three-year cycle. 20 students (10 from Zambia, 10 from Malawi) come, and stay for three years. We take in a new batch of students every three years. This means that though I've been teaching at this school for ten years, I have only taught any individual course once every three years, not annually. Successful graduates go on to our Lutheran Seminary in Lusaka for another 3 years.

Our curriculum has included 5 hours / week in the second year of the cycle and 3 hours / week in the third year. Starting this September (a new schoolyear and new batch of students) we will offer Greek every year, 3 hours / week.

2. There are huge differences between teaching here and in American. Too many to mention, really. Regarding students, our students want to learn. They respect teaching, teachers, and task of learning. Regarding the school, I have no obstacle to overcome in applying the communicative approach. No one is saying "How much material are you covering." I am able to be learning focused, and not content focused. That's a blessing I appreciate, and not only in regards to teaching Greek, but also my other courses.

3. Yes, they would primarily use Greek for preparing sermons (or just understanding the GNT better).

4. Zambia was a British colony (N. Rhodesia) and Malawi was a British protectorate (Nyasaland). In both countries today, English is regarded as the national language and the language which should be used for education. We teach in English, but since everyone also knows Chichewa, I often refer to it in Greek and other classes.

The students' mother tongue might be Chewa, Chinyanja (very close), Tonga, Tumbuka, Luvale, etc. I think all of them know more than one Bantu language.

This is a big bonus for teaching via a communicative approach. The 2nd language area of their brains is already fired up. It also means that explaining the value of learning Greek is a breeze. Monolinguals have a little more trouble with learning Greek as a language. And, it is far more difficult to describe to monolinguals the value of reading the NT in Greek.
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Re: Paul Nitz: Communicative Greek in Malawi

Postby Penelope Kappa » February 14th, 2014, 4:54 am

Your work is admirable, Paul. I know the Greek Orthodox Church are active in Malawi, but I have no idea if they teach greek as well. If they don't, you put us to shame. I have to say, your classes are fun.
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Re: Paul Nitz: Communicative Greek in Malawi

Postby Thomas Dolhanty » April 6th, 2015, 3:12 pm

Penelope Kappa wrote:Your work is admirable, Paul. I know the Greek Orthodox Church are active in Malawi, but I have no idea if they teach greek as well. If they don't, you put us to shame. I have to say, your classes are fun.


Yes, I agree. Thank you for making the videos available on YouTube. We have tentatively imitated some of your exercises in our class, and plan to do more as we can get our head (or perhaps I should say "τὴν γλῶσσαν ἡμῶν") around it.

Paul, I have actually deleted and re-posted this after reading through the comments above, which address some of my questions. I'm still wondering, though (and perhaps I've missed it), just who these students are when they come to you - age-wise? education foundation? Will the great majority go on to do the 3 year seminary program?

Maybe the most direct question, and I think you addressed it in part: What will they end up with after their time in your program? (Is it 3 years?) How many hours in total per segment? As you are certainly aware, this is the real question so many of us have to deal with - what did the student get / what did the program accomplish by end of year 1? Year 2? I'm not making any kind of an argument here - only noting that it is very hard to 'sell' a Greek language program that doesn't achieve certain milestones within a set time frame. Most of us, I suspect, will have to introduce new methods into that setting rather than simply replace the old.
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Re: Paul Nitz: Communicative Greek in Malawi

Postby Paul-Nitz » April 6th, 2015, 3:16 pm

Since the time of some of my previous posts, I have a new class of students. I have them for 3 academic years, 3 hours a week. I suppose 90% of our classes are communicative and in Greek. I use English (or Chichewa) when it helps understanding.

My objective is that they understand all the basic structures of Greek. My ultimate goal is that they have learned enough Greek with me that they CAN and WANT TO carry on learning through further course work and their personal study. Whether I did succeed with my previous class or will succeed with the present class is not yet clear, but I am very encouraged by what I've seen.

With the time I have with them, I doubt that I will get into reading the GNT, but they carry on to our Lutheran Seminary in Lusaka, Zambia where they will begin using Greek in various courses.

We do not make very quick progress. For example, getting down the concept of the cases has taken this class about 60 class hours. Along the way, of course, we've learned much about verbs and prepositions and such. But there's no two ways about it, we cover much less content. I could cover the cases via grammar translation method in 3-4 classes. A meager percentage of them would keep up. Of those, a couple may end up using Greek in ministry. I tried that method and saw the results. It just wasn't acceptable to me.

Just a quick answer. τίνα ἐστίν τὰ ἐρωτήματα ἤ τὰς ἀποκρίσεις σου, ὦ Θωμᾶς;

(I just saw you're re-post. I'm out for a few days, but will be sure to respond when I return)
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Re: Paul Nitz: Communicative Greek in Malawi

Postby Thomas Dolhanty » April 7th, 2015, 5:54 pm

Paul-Nitz wrote:Since the time of some of my previous posts, I have a new class of students. I have them for 3 academic years, 3 hours a week. I suppose 90% of our classes are communicative and in Greek. I use English (or Chichewa) when it helps understanding.

My objective is that they understand all the basic structures of Greek. My ultimate goal is that they have learned enough Greek with me that they CAN and WANT TO carry on learning through further course work and their personal study. Whether I did succeed with my previous class or will succeed with the present class is not yet clear, but I am very encouraged by what I've seen.

With the time I have with them, I doubt that I will get into reading the GNT, but they carry on to our Lutheran Seminary in Lusaka, Zambia where they will begin using Greek in various courses.

We do not make very quick progress. For example, getting down the concept of the cases has taken this class about 60 class hours. Along the way, of course, we've learned much about verbs and prepositions and such. But there's no two ways about it, we cover much less content. I could cover the cases via grammar translation method in 3-4 classes. A meager percentage of them would keep up. Of those, a couple may end up using Greek in ministry. I tried that method and saw the results. It just wasn't acceptable to me.

Just a quick answer. τίνα ἐστίν τὰ ἐρωτήματα ἤ τὰς ἀποκρίσεις σου, ὦ Θωμᾶς;

(I just saw you're re-post. I'm out for a few days, but will be sure to respond when I return)


I think you've mostly answered my questions with this and the foregoing. I was trying to get a sense of your overall program (input {profile of entrants} / program content & time allotments / outcomes) with the idea of how portable it would be to my setting. IT IS NOT! I am very jealous of the time you have, and I know the time it takes to do it well. In 60 class hours, we have covered all the basic grammar of nouns and indicative verbs (25 chapters of Mounce). In fact, we have done a quite enriched version of Mounce with additional work on the nature of prepositional phrases and relative clauses, rules for accents, and reading through 3 chapters of 1John. In fact this was an unusual group - mature and gifted - and I could not repeat that load with a more typical class.

In second year, however, right now the curriculum has open space. We are committed to reading NT text and reviewing basic grammar as well as introducing some more advanced grammar topics. However, there will be time to do a fair amount of TPR teaching and/or other communicative activities if they can be integrated with the rest. The big challenge is how to 'sell' it, how to integrate it 'seamlessly', how much time to allot to it, and - above all - what is most effective for our students and our setting? I found, for example, that WAYK doesn't work very well in this setting. TPR, I think, could, but best of all would be language to discuss the text under consideration - not just the text itself but the elements of the narrative ('Have you ever sown seeds?' etc.). In the next months I will walk myself through Randall's basic materials and work on developing some exercises which can be integrated with the other elements of our 2nd year curriculum.
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