Confidence in the Grammar

Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » January 27th, 2015, 12:08 pm

Wes Wood wrote:I would agree if that was all that I had said that my tone was indeed different. In fairness, context is everything. Look at the full sentence that you are quoting.
Wes Wood wrote:It has been my experience that most people who would like to know "Biblical Greek" are content with having the ability to translate.
My expression of my position may have improved, but my tone has not intentionally shifted for better or worse.
I did not wish to misrepresent you, and I apologize if you feel I have done so.

Perhaps its time to let the dust settle and the air clear on this one. I have found the discussion very interesting, and I appreciate ALL of the input. It has certainly caused me to consider the journey and the path a bit more carefully, and to weigh the experience and perspective of others like you who are closer to the "beach" than me.
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cwconrad
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by cwconrad » January 27th, 2015, 12:10 pm

I think there's much more agreement over the objectives of Biblical pedagogy than has perhaps been acknowledged. Much of what I have been trying to say has perhaps been misunderstood, and for that I do apologize. I've complained about what I see as failures or flaws in the procedures and limited goals of many beginners in Biblical Greek, and in particular, those who are given over to the so-called "grammar-translation" pedagogy. These are the ones whom I believe to be content if and when they can convey the sense of the Biblical Greek text in a vernacular formulation that fundamentally represents the structure and word-meanings of that Greek text. I certainly think that the goal of learning Greek should be to think Greek, not to "translate" it. But when the teaching focuses primarily on grammatical rules and the testing of what has been learned is based upon ability to produce a vernacular equivalent of the Greek text, I think that the process is a waste of time.
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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)

Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » January 27th, 2015, 12:30 pm

Hangin' out here a bit, and having an opportunity to dialogue with masters of the craft, some of you whom I knew about before I found my way here, has been a great benefit and a real encouragement to me, as to many others. This encouragement I can convey to those travelling with me. Thank you for continuing to light the path, and also for caring enough about the enterprise to knock some of us on the head betimes. :D
Last edited by Thomas Dolhanty on January 27th, 2015, 12:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 27th, 2015, 12:33 pm

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:How? With a particular focus on Greek text itself, while developing an understanding of the syntax, the vocabulary, and the and the structure of the language. That focus includes frequent class readings of the text, and an attempt to “internalize” the language by reading unfamiliar text (see Lewis below), communicative drills, memorization of Greek passages, and so on.
This is a little unnatural, don't you think? Usually one know a language before reading a text in it for meaning. I'm in favour of acquiring some skills in the language - through drills and rote learning - before approaching a text. The mind works with the authour then as you read.

Generally speaking, we read in languages we know, not those we want to know. We read to acquire information contained in the text. We can learn the odd new word, an interesting turn of phrase, or a novel way of using something, but not the language as such. I realise that this raises more eyebrows than it does questions.
cwconrad wrote:But when the teaching focuses primarily on grammatical rules and the testing of what has been learned is based upon ability to produce a vernacular equivalent of the Greek text, I think that the process is a waste of time.
What do you mean here?

Do you not want literary Koine reduced to venacular Koine? Like do you mean paraphrasing in Greek / simplifying it is a fool's paradise for pedants? Is that taking things too far / beyond what is needed for a seminarian to understand the text?

I think it is both fun and helpful to do that.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 27th, 2015, 12:55 pm

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:Hangin' out here a bit, and having an opportunity to dialogue with masters of the craft, some of you whom I knew about before I found my way here, has been a great benefit and a real encouragement to me, as to many others. This encouragement I can convey to those travelling with me. Thank you for continuing to light the path, and also for caring enough about the enterprise to knock some of us on the head betimes. :D
Nobody here is as good in Biblical Greek as they are in their mother tongues, or even other learnt modern tongues [that they have put less effort into and gotten more out of].

Yes. We all gain benefit from the experience of sharing with each other.

Ouch!! :cry: Participants on the forum are generally respectful of each other and they treat each other with patience and kindness. Even misanthrops like myself are gently reminded from time to time to respect other participants.
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cwconrad
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by cwconrad » January 27th, 2015, 1:32 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:
cwconrad wrote:But when the teaching focuses primarily on grammatical rules and the testing of what has been learned is based upon ability to produce a vernacular equivalent of the Greek text, I think that the process is a waste of time.
What do you mean here?

Do you not want literary Koine reduced to venacular Koine? Like do you mean paraphrasing in Greek / simplifying it is a fool's paradise for pedants? Is that taking things too far / beyond what is needed for a seminarian to understand the text?

I think it is both fun and helpful to do that.
I don't object to paraphrasing in Greek (à la Lightman); it's far more useful than producing woodenly literal English versions. I'm referring to a pedagogical process represented at its worst by Machen's primer as it was reprinted for decades (I don't know if it's really been reworked in recent years or not). There the grammatical rules are set forth in a manner suggesting that Biblical Greek is almost another form of English, the Greek practice sentences are formulated, at least in the first half of the exercises, in Anglicized word-order, and the English sentences to be put into Greek are frequently formulated more in conformity with English grammar and word order rather than with Koine Greek usage.

If the testing of what's been learned is to be done in English, it might be more useful to ask for discussions of contextual groupings of words, or to ask questions about the meanings of phrases and clauses rather than ask for equivalent English words. I rather liked the (formidable) format of your recent questionnaire on Rom 12:2. I just don't think an English translation of a Greek sentence is an adequate demonstration that one has understood the Greek that's been translated.
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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)

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 27th, 2015, 4:19 pm

cwconrad wrote: I rather liked the (formidable) format of your recent questionnaire on Rom 12:2. I just don't think an English translation of a Greek sentence is an adequate demonstration that one has understood the Greek that's been translated.
Sorry for so many options, but it is not the easiest of words to get a grip on, and that is the most difficult of its usages in the New Testament, actually.

I speak to much here to be able to pretend by silence that I might be knowledgeable. Look honestly speaking, neither Danker & his predecessors, you or I know the definitive answer to that questionnaire. I have my thoughts from time to time, but they change depending how I look at it. We do our best that we can with it, but in the end it is still a topic for further investigation, but for now needs to be read while understanding that we don't exactly know for sure.
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Wes Wood
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by Wes Wood » January 27th, 2015, 11:18 pm

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:I did not wish to misrepresent you, and I apologize if you feel I have done so.

Perhaps its time to let the dust settle and the air clear on this one. I have found the discussion very interesting, and I appreciate ALL of the input. It has certainly caused me to consider the journey and the path a bit more carefully, and to weigh the experience and perspective of others like you who are closer to the "beach" than me.
There is no need to apologize. I promise you haven't offended me. I suspect that we aren't quite as far apart on these matters as it seems that we are. Regardless, no worries here :)
cwconrad wrote:I've found this discussion interesting,
I completely agree with this.
cwconrad wrote:although it has seemed to me to meander all across the range of recent Greek pedagogy and the practice both of those who are trying to teach it and those who are trying to learn it. I put that "try" in quite deliberately, because I think there is some lack of clarity in thinking about the why, the how, and the what of both teaching and learning Greek.
I am more than a little at fault here. When I am planning lessons for my students, one way that I can guarantee that I will fail is to focus exclusively on the information I am going to present to the neglect of my students. I think I have concentrated on the learning aspect in this thread more than I should have.
Stephen Hughes wrote:Young people are driven and open to change, that is no different in the Church. From their (maybe not still your at 30) point of view the middle aged are in a rut
To be quite honest, I don't know what any people my age think or should think. I am as much a hermit as one can be without actually being one.
Stephen Hughes wrote:As good an idea as it is, it is not going to sell.
I would have bought it...but I suspect that you are correct. Maybe if you had a blending of exercises the first set with readings outside of the Bible and then transition to Biblical texts this would help to bring people over to the dark side. I would suspect that the students would come away with a sense of accomplishment after they apply what they have learned from the first readings to the Biblical texts.
Stephen Hughes wrote:To add the dimension that they would be taught in Greek to as large an extent as possible would seem reasonable to some and way out there to others. But that would be a normal thing in most other language instruction senarios
I believe that immersion in the language would be best, but that is not easily attainable for folks like me. I am even less qualified to comment about best practices for that type of learning. I have enjoyed many of those types of materials, though.
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Ἀσπάζομαι μὲν καὶ φιλῶ, πείσομαι δὲ μᾶλλον τῷ θεῷ ἢ ὑμῖν.-Ἀπολογία Σωκράτους 29δ

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 28th, 2015, 5:08 am

Wes Wood wrote:
Stephen Hughes wrote:To add the dimension that they would be taught in Greek to as large an extent as possible would seem reasonable to some and way out there to others. But that would be a normal thing in most other language instruction senarios
I believe that immersion in the language would be best, but that is not easily attainable for folks like me. I am even less qualified to comment about best practices for that type of learning. I have enjoyed many of those types of materials, though.
One of the best things to do on the "way out there" side of learning a language would be to listen to Greek for 6 to 9 months before starting to learn. Get recordings of the language (in the intended pronunciation system) and listen to them for 15 or 20 minutes every day till the distinction between words becomes clear and the repeated parts start to sound out and your feelings start to raise questions like, "I wonder what that means?" The natural progression is:
  • Wow, that is foreign,
  • Hey that sounds like <such and so in English>,
  • I've heard that quite a lot actually,
  • I wonder what that means?
Learners have to battle the whole range of emotions that naturally and reasonable follow those stages of acclimatisation. Frankly, having somebody give a long-winded, even if it is well-meaning explanation of what is going on, while you are going through those emotions is annoying or distracting at the least. It is like somebody explaining the working of door-hinges while you have your fingers jammed in one, or people talking and telling you something during the first moments of grief when you get news of the loss of a loved one or an explanation about something just after you get told you don't need to come to work next Monday. One of the roles of teacher is to just "be there" for the students as they go through that process of loss (shock, loss, reminders), familiarisation and the desire to move on. Recognising the stages of grief is an important part of teaching beginners. Differentiate the rapid loss and slow recovery of unexpected death or loss, with the slow process of resignation as somebody ages and lets go of things a little at a time or as a business seems to slowly wind up. The grief is just as real but can have different management. The grieving can be grieved and then when the loss comes the moving on is different.

Point being in all that is that listening to Greek (or any other language) for a reasonably long time before learning it is a good way to not only get familiar with it, but also to not mix up the initial stages of grief with the moving on.

Of course if you are in that situation, where loss and moving on happen all at once, distractions and group support are good. Chanting paradigm tables can have a soothing and unifying effect. (cf. the scene from Hamburger Hill, the movie when the "Doc" with the glasses is freaking out and his friends slap hands together and help him to overcome his emotions). For others, they need a bit of space to get themselves together individually. The surety of knowing that they know that they know grammar tables in a way that can't be taken away from them, is as much an emotional crutch for some as it is knowledge of a language. You will spot them by their faces, when you mention irregulars. I suggest that introducing four patterns (three irregular and one regular) in the early stages is better than the illusion of regularity (for adult learners as per the start of this thread) in the early stages when initial enthusiasm is at its greatest. One of them (the regular) will quite naturally emerge is the mainstay of their language learning experience.

If you want to understand the feelings that some people have when faced with a foreign language (especially a dead one - where they have no power to express themselves), you can read literature on settling migrants, the emotional state of displaced persons, trauma and grief counseling, etc. Not guiding / leading your students through their grief in the early stages leaves their futures more or less to chance.

It's not as bad as the morbidity of this post seems to read, your aim is to lead / guide them through it to a good future in Greek.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 28th, 2015, 5:59 am

Wes Wood wrote:
Stephen Hughes wrote:As good an idea as it is, it is not going to sell.
I would have bought it...but I suspect that you are correct. Maybe if you had a blending of exercises the first set with readings outside of the Bible and then transition to Biblical texts this would help to bring people over to the dark side. I would suspect that the students would come away with a sense of accomplishment after they apply what they have learned from the first readings to the Biblical texts.
It is as much about the attitude you want to instill in people as the knowledge you want to impart. I use them frequently myself, but actually, statements like "the word only occurs x times in the New Testament" or "in our literature", are quite meaningless and bordering on the ignorant. Think about it from the point of view of the authour himself. Did Luke, Paul, Mathew, Mark,or John have a limited exposure to Greek? The spelling of even the earliest extant manuscripts is fairly standard (better than mine if I'm not paying attention to it at least), the grammar mostly good.hat suggests a quite broad knowledge of Greek - the literature of the New Testament period or the literature. We don't know what the standard of the spelling was in the autograph. Likely as not it was closer to the papyri for the less literate and closer to the literary standard for Luke and Paul. Whether that is right or not, what's important is that there was a (ranged) literary standard more or less.

That all implies that the authours wrote in the knowledge of a wider literary context, and by necessity in dialogue with it. They did not write in an esoteric language, for which they had to give a dictionary, a teaching grammar and a reference grammar to those wanted to read it. :? But that is the situation that is usually presented to learners of Greek / those who want to read the message in the original language. Technically speaking it is an issue of Intratextuality (the relationship between a text and itself) or Intertextuality (the relationship between different texts), and that is further complicated by the fact that the New Testament is a corpus not a text in itself. Also looking at a particular text (in this case corpus treated as a text), learners have been trained to believe that literature from outside the New Testament can be used as "evidence" for the New Testament - a form of extratextuality (the relationship with things outside the text).

At what stage, could we say that somebody knows a language and the use of a dictionary or a reference grammar is supplementing that knowledge? I guess that at the worst, we would have to imagine an homo illiteratus who limits of his language are the limits of his day to day to day life, who has poor but understandable pronunciation, who imposes his native speech habits on Greek, but who none-the-less understands Greek as a language. That suggests a pretextual stage in learning.

The question then, is should, Such a person be brought to texts using the New Testament - the target text, go through the process of applying their knowledge of Greek to other texts, then bringing their knowledge of Greek and skill in dealing with a text to their reading of the New Testament. Surely that would be the best approach.

Imagine a German course, first exposure mostly colloquial, then move onto simple literature while continuing to speak, then to Faust. That would be different from reading Faust to understand and learn the German language. In the end, if some asked you, Do you know German?, you could say, I know German, and I have read Faust, rather than only being able to say, I can read Faust.
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

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