Preparing a reader

Stephen Hughes
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Preparing a reader

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 17th, 2014, 6:36 am

Rather than cut across the flow in Jonathan's thread about Preparing a text, let me put my opinion out on its own basis.

Thinking terms of how we use texts in other languages that we use, it would be a little strange to talk in terms what we should do to prepare a text for reading. Generally, the text is the point of fixity to which the reader approaches and understands as best as possible with the resources that they have internalised (or - if they are still getting there in their learning - from reference works). The basic feature of language is the physical limitation of speach that only one thing can be said at a time. Texts, as we have them in the New Testament and other unillustrated works - also have that same linearity. Learning to deal with a hear-it-once / read-it-once linearity is learning a language rather than learning a method (or two) of analysis / decipherment that can be applied to a language.

The fundamental limitation is working memory. It is a question of how many things can be held in memory at one time. The more that things that do come automatically or regularly are expected / anticipated, the fewer things that need to be held in memory. Learning the meaning of words as glosses in a foreign language adds one to the number of things that needs to be held in memory. Also, recognising that a noun form is in (for instance) the accusative adds one to the number of things that needs to be held in working memory. If working memory can comfortably hold only a few things, those extra pieces of information pretty soon clutter the thinking and readers need to resort to coping measures to make the text more manageable - tree-diagramming, .

As an alternative to noting the number, case and gender of a noun, non-linguistic associations could be used. For the simple example of ἀκούω with genitive and accusative, we could imagine the genitive as a person / place and the accusative as words in the mouth. The less introduction of analysis when reading leaves the most posibility for understanding in real-time. That, of course, requires different training in how to process things. It is easy enough to do. Read a text in English... What do you do? How do you process the text? What understanding do you get? (Most importantly) what resources do you recall into working memory to understand what is said / read?

Those things that you recall to be able to process the text in English, are the things that you need to similarly have in Greek to process a text. That is the preparation of a reader.
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cwconrad
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Re: Preparing a reader

Post by cwconrad » September 17th, 2014, 7:24 am

Without recapitulating Stephen's comment, let me simply applaud and second it. It's not the text that needs preparation for reading but the reader that needs to be prepared for reading. Granting that a text to be discussed in a group may conceivably be discussed more profitably if a set of "talking points" has been sketched out, even so there's something to be said for a shared reading of the text in question and opening discussion to observations and questions arising spontaneously from participants.

But I think that Stephen is fundamentally right here: reading is a process the preparation for which is a matter of competence and linguistic proficiency in the reader; I question whether the procedure employed in reading has anything like the bearing on success of the reader's preparedness. There's an old Latin saw, discimus agere agendo -- "We learn to do by doing", and I think I've seen its corollary, discimus legere legendo -- "We learn to read by reading." Isn't that what's been repeated in the prior thread on preparing a text -- perhaps ad nauseam?
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Preparing a reader

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 17th, 2014, 12:03 pm

cwconrad wrote:There's an old Latin sa[ying], discimus agere agendo -- "We learn to do by doing", and I think I've seen its corollary, discimus legere legendo -- "We learn to read by reading." Isn't that what's been repeated in the prior thread on preparing a text -- perhaps ad nauseam?
I think that that needs to be taken with a modicum of salt. Would you fly with an airline that advertised something like this?
Our pilots learn by flying.
Experience counts, it allows us the develop our skill and efficiency in the use of a particular skill-set that we have learnt. Graduation from pilot training requires a much higher level of proficiency than other skills that on can pick up and safely make mistakes in, but the point of bringing that up is that after some training self-learning can continue.

While we say "reading" quite often, actually, not all reading experiences are the same. Crossing from one sense to another - aural to visual - is a common one, but that is not what is happening with decoding readers. They are not so crossed in their senses. Most people develop a few straegies that they apply to different text types. Euripides (for example), Mark and John are very good to listen to (in your mind) as you read - carried on by the senses. I find other involved texts seem to be good to be read more analytically, that is more like slow reading and thinking about what is read - sensory + intellect. The experience of reading is much better when there is a far better degree of proficiency in the language.

A lack of familiarity with syntactically similar phrases is a major drawback to reading fluently and comfortably. While some common ones are familiar from there being occurrences of them throughout the corpus, there are others that are used, which do not have ready parallels. That inhibits our use of our highly developed pattern recognition skills - that we share with other primates - and forces us to rely on analysis and logic, which slows things down. Experience in (well-selected) reading widely will build up pattern recognition skills. That will considerably disencumber the reading, but it does require some effort to learn to recognise them in real-time (commonly said to be instantaneously).
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Preparing a reader

Post by Stephen Carlson » September 17th, 2014, 4:21 pm

My father was an aviator. Other than just an analogy, aviators need a certain number of "pilot-hours" to pass their flight training as well as a certain number every month to maintain their proficiency. So there is a lot of doing in acquiring and maintaining one's competence as a pilot.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Preparing a reader

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 18th, 2014, 12:38 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:
cwconrad wrote:There's an old Latin sa[ying], discimus agere agendo -- "We learn to do by doing", and I think I've seen its corollary, discimus legere legendo -- "We learn to read by reading." Isn't that what's been repeated in the prior thread on preparing a text -- perhaps ad nauseam?
I think that that needs to be taken with a modicum of salt. Would you fly with an airline that advertised something like this?
Our pilots learn by flying.
Experience counts, it allows us the develop our skill and efficiency in the use of a particular skill-set that we have learnt. Graduation from pilot training requires a much higher level of proficiency than other skills that on can pick up and safely make mistakes in, but the point of bringing that up is that after some training self-learning can continue.
Stephen Carlson wrote:My father was an aviator. Other than just an analogy, aviators need a certain number of "pilot-hours" to pass their flight training as well as a certain number every month to maintain their proficiency. So there is a lot of doing in acquiring and maintaining one's competence as a pilot.
The simplicity of the Latin saying could be taken in a number of ways.

There are a lot of other things that a pilot needs to do in addition to getting up their pilot hours in control of an actual aircraft to become a commercial airline pilot. I'm only familiar with the training programme for an airline here. It starts with stringent physical and mental aptitude testing, a successful B.Sc. in Aviation Science or the like, English language proficiency testing, overseas (in W.A.) flight school training on Cesnas and then very extensive flight simulator training on what ever make and model of plane they have been chosen to fly in, then many years of being a first officer and finally it is possible that he might be able to be a pilot.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Preparing a reader

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 18th, 2014, 2:15 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:
cwconrad wrote:There's an old Latin sa[ying], discimus agere agendlo -- "We learn to do by doing", and I think I've seen its corollary, discimus legere legendo -- "We learn to read by reading." Isn't that what's been repeated in the prior thread on preparing a text -- perhaps ad nauseam?
I think that that needs to be taken with a modicum of salt.
Before this thread was lead onto the rocks with a discussion of the pilot training analogy, this comment about salt was an allusion the outcome of my experiment in learning Lithuanian.

I tried the "learn by reading" theory. What I found was that most of my understanding came from the similary between that language and Latvian - and to a lesser extent Polish.

The biggest drawback was that we there were too many variables at play. Topics on a single topic were better than rambling ones. The second problem was that that was only dealing with the written form of the language.

After some time I tried listening to a radio broadcast and some songs. The "learn by reading" idea didn't hold water in that regard either.

Trying Chinese in a similar way, but with the spoken language and living in a speech community has paid much better dividends, even for the written form of the language.

Perhaps I was too young and not persistent enough.

That being said, the learning process was similar in reading the Greek dialects. The similarity between the languages was similar in degree, but different in details (vowels and consonant changes in Baltic, mostly vowels in Greek). The major difference was the approach to learning. For the dialects, there was reading, but there was also a lot of other instruction and secondary literature (esp. Buck) involved. In "real" life, secondary literature is similar to having a patient native speaker on hand to explain what you can't understand. Always having there can inhibit learning too. (The tourist breaking free of the guide and trying to expresd themselves on their own is always an interesting exchange to watch).

Hence the valuable pinch of salt comment.

I would tend to say that with a good reading strategy / technique extensive reading is a great thing for language improvement, but it is not a universal strategy for language acquisition.
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cwconrad
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Re: Preparing a reader

Post by cwconrad » September 19th, 2014, 9:22 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:
Stephen Hughes wrote:
cwconrad wrote:There's an old Latin sa[ying], discimus agere agendlo -- "We learn to do by doing", and I think I've seen its corollary, discimus legere legendo -- "We learn to read by reading." Isn't that what's been repeated in the prior thread on preparing a text -- perhaps ad nauseam?
I think that that needs to be taken with a modicum of salt.
Before this thread was led onto the rocks with a discussion of the pilot training analogy, this comment about salt was an allusion the outcome of my experiment in learning Lithuanian.
Not that it matters, but I think you're the one who introduced the pilot training analogy.
Stephen Hughes wrote:I would tend to say that with a good reading strategy / technique extensive reading is a great thing for language improvement, but it is not a universal strategy for language acquisition.
It seems to me that my own introduction of a Latin maxim, discimus legere legendo ("We learn to read by reading") was misunderstood from the outset as a proposed strategy for learning a language. I never intended that, although I can see how the misunderstanding was possible. I never had any notion that extensive reading was a strategy for learning ancient Greek, Lithuanian, or any other language "from scratch." Obviously one must have developed certain basic skills and a requisite facility with the structural signals, morphology, basic vocabulary, and the more common idioms before proceeding on a program of extensive reading in texts of progressive difficulty.

As I recall, we switched to the topic, "Preparing a reader" from the previous topic, "Preparing a text (to be read)." We agreed, some of us, that it wasn't so much the text-to-be read that needed massaging of some sort preparatory to the reading exercise, but rather, it's the reader who needs to be massaged so as to expand and extend reading ability and readiness to "tackle" new texts of greater difficulty than what one has previously read. Now, when I brought up the adage about learning to read by reading, what I meant was that, once one has acquired basic skills in reading, the thing to do is to practice them repeatedly and extensively on texts of increasing difficulty and range of subject-matter, era of composition, etc. In my own experience, that involves readiness to consult an unabridged lexicon and a good grammar (Smyth has usually availed for me). I expect to encounter new words, many or even most of which I can guess at intelligently or consult a lexicon if I feel the need for more precision; I expect to encounter, on occasion, syntactic configurations and idiomatic phrases that are new to me, and I'll consult resources that are available; nevertheless, my own experience has been that I have over the years increased my facility in reading hitherto unseen texts by proceeding to read them in sizable chunks.

How do we prepare a reader to do that? For one thing, one must have instantaneous discernment and understanding of all regular inflections -- one has to get beyond use of parsing guides and interlinears, even if they have been helpful in the earliest stages of acquiring reading skill. Another requisite is essential vocabulary; there are some good lists available for that. In my earlier years I learned more than I can recount from lower-level good, old, classical commentaries on “standard” Greek authors and texts (e.g. Benner on the Iliad, Barrett on Euripides’ Hippolytus, Marchand on Thucydides) — characteristic usages of an author, idiomatic phrasing (e.g. Herodotus: “X is on your left as you sail into Y from Z”), etc.

In sum, perhaps the adage should not be, “We learn to read by reading” but “Practice makes (more nearly) perfect” or “We learn to read better by reading long and reading lots of texts.”
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

RandallButh
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Re: Preparing a reader

Post by RandallButh » September 20th, 2014, 3:14 am

+1 on what Carl said
and sitting on an increased oral/aural capability along the lines of Walter, previously cited on one of these threads:

Phonology in Second Language Reading: Not an Optional Extra
Author(s): Catherine Walter
Source: TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 42, No. 3, Psycholinguistics for TESOL (Sep., 2008), pp. 455-474 Published by: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL)
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40264478 .
Accessed: 15/04/2012 10:01
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Preparing a reader

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 21st, 2014, 7:07 am

There is another matter that can prepare a reader; Background information about words.

It is always more difficult to conceptualise a word's meaning when seeing it for the first time, and often every time seems like the first time in a foreign language. Reading background information and reading around in the related concepts builds up an analogous (fake) set of "memories" of how we've come to understand the word from our previous experience in seeing it written or heard it in conversation. It can be said that wide reading does a lot to build up our understanding of words in context, but there are some words that are not used so often or are quite technical (carry a lot of background meaing) and need explanation. This serves as a remidial measure in both of those cases. Any kind of "talk around" is okay / adequate to bring us into the feeling that the word belongs to an experience that we could invisage ourself sharing - developing an relateable emotional attachment to the word, so that it is no longer a foreign word (word we feel is outside ourselves).

As I alluded to in one of my earlier posts, I have been reading through Aristotle, Metrologica in my free time / nothing better to do time (previous mention).

Here I want to take a passage and show the effect of giving encyclopedia like definitions that explain the entire concept, for the Greek, rather than glosses.
Aristote, meteorologie 2.5 wrote:§ 5. Οἱ δ' ἐτησίαι πνέουσι μετὰ τροπὰς καὶ κυνὸς ἐπιτολήν, καὶ οὔτε τηνικαῦτα ὅτε μάλιστα πλησιάζει ὁ ἥλιος, [362a] οὔτε ὅτε πόρρω· καὶ τὰς μὲν ἡμέρας πνέουσι, τὰς δὲ νύκτας παύονται. Αἴτιον δ' ὅτι πλησίον μὲν ὢν φθάνει ξηραίνων πρὶν γενέσθαι τὴν ἀναθυμίασιν·
Traduction française avec des notes
Here is some information, that once digested and applied to the text will give a depth of understanding not only to understanding the text, but also to understanding the language. It is an "inefficient" way to prepare, and is completely out of proportion to the length of the text. It is an attempt to give our minds in English the range of thoughts that native speakers reading the text would have had as common knowledge.

For those of us, who have never lived in the eastern Mediterranian the ἐτησίαι "strong dry wind from the north" gives an "oh yeah, strong + dry + wind + north, I get that" response, but for the people who live(d) in the eastern Mediterranian the word ἐτησίαι (then in Classical Greek) and μελτέμια now (in Modern Greek from the Turkish word meltem possibly from the Italian mal tempo) has always been something that they experienced. Aristotle was not introducing an new idea (winds from the North), but rather trying to say that these winds were the result of a series natural phenomenon. The winds blew throughout the summer from mid-May the end of summer (Mid-September) every year, and are known (talked about) as much as the dominant weather pattern is in any place - for example the trade-winds during the age of sail.

The τροπαί "turnings" occur twice a year - the solstices - (usually at dusk), the sun is observed to stop moving north (τροπαὶ χειμεριναί), and the next day to move south, and 6 months later when it has reached its most southerly point, it turns again (τροπαὶ θεριναί) and the next day, appears to be moving north again.

The most prominant (binary) star (διπλοὶ ἀστέρες - plural in Greek) in the constellations Canis Major (The hound of Orion (Ὠρίων) the hunter (κυναγός - "hound leader")) - Σείριος (Sirius) is referred to as the Dog κύων star. It is twice as bright as Κάνωπος (Canopus) the next brightest star in the constellation . As the sun rises (ἀνατέλλω, ἀνατολή opposite δύσις) once each day and moves across the heavens, so a star appears (ἐπιτέλλω, ἐπιτολή, also opp. δύσις) once a year and as each night passes it is in a slightly higher position in the sky (after dusk) in the evening / or (before dawn) in the early morning (a much easier time to make the observation - preferred by the Ancient Egyptians because you can see the stars clearly in a dark sky because the eyes are already adjusted. Just before dawn, the star appears for an instant, before it's light is swamped by the sun.

The rising ἐπιτολή of a star was measured / noted either at the first moment after sunset or the last moment before sunrise - while that seems like a lot of difference to us, but in fact a twelve hour difference in about 6 months is not considerable. (The opposite of μετὰ ... κυνὸς ἐπιτολήν / μετὰ κύνα can be expressed as πρὸ τοῦ κυνός). (ἀνατολή (in reference to constellations of stars) refers to when the half of the constellation has arisen).

Perihelion and aphelion. The perihelion is the point in space and time when the sun as a heavenly body (and as a marker of time) comes the closest to the earth (πλησιάζει ὁ ἥλιος). This is phrased in terms of a heliocentric conceptualisation of the universe. The opposite point (in winter) (πόρρω ὁ ἥλιος) is the aphelion.

When winds are moving or beginning to move, they are said to "blow" πνέουσι and when they grow smaller or stop, they are said to "abate", or "die down" παύονται.

Within the context of Atmospheric thermodynamics, the process of evaporation (ξηραίνεσθαι) when water becomes vapour (ἀτμίς) and the air takes on the vapour (ἀτμίζων ὁ ἀήρ) happens more quickly in summer when the sun is near πλησίον the earth (and larger) and the air is hotter.
Wikipedia on the Clausius–Clapeyron relation wrote:In practical terms, ... the water-holding capacity of the atmosphere increases by about 7% for every 1°C rise in temperature.
That process of evaporation causes an envapoured updraft (ἀναθυμίασις) and in general terms, (because it is in the northern hemisphere) a clockwise rotating high-pressure system. That together with an anticlockwise rotating low pressure system over Anatolia (now Turkey) causes the Etesian winds.

By giving those explanations for the words, this part of the work of Aristotle and its contents are contextualised and understood as part of a scientific whole. It recreates what an educated reader might have known when reading this passage. In this way the problems that do arise from understanding are gone and a learner can concentrate on learning the language.
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cwconrad
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Re: Preparing a reader

Post by cwconrad » September 21st, 2014, 10:11 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:There is another matter that can prepare a reader; Background information about words.

It is always more difficult to conceptualise a word's meaning when seeing it for the first time, and often every time seems like the first time in a foreign language. Reading background information and reading around in the related concepts builds up an analogous (fake) set of "memories" of how we've come to understand the word from our previous experience in seeing it written or heard it in conversation. It can be said that wide reading does a lot to build up our understanding of words in context, but there are some words that are not used so often or are quite technical (carry a lot of background meaing) and need explanation. This serves as a remeidial measure in both of those cases. Any kind of "talk around" is okay / adequate to bring us into the feeling that the word belongs to an experience that we could invisage ourself sharing - developing an relateable emotional attachment to the word, so that it is no longer a foreign word (word we feel is outside ourselves). ...
Nice point. I guess this is the matter of conceptualizing the range of meaning for a word used by an author when there's more than just contextual setting involved. Sometimes the best thing that seeing a word in context can do for a reader is hint that it's a terminus technicus -- upon discerning which, the reader can consult a good reference. Which reminds me of something that I sometimes forget, namely that the purpose of graduate training is not the acquisition of information but rather the acquisition of methodologies for research. There's so very much to be known, but knowing where to look for what you want to know is invaluable.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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