Self-teaching techniques

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Stephen Hughes
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Self-teaching techniques

Post by Stephen Hughes » February 28th, 2016, 10:32 am

There are generally speaking, three ways to develop as a teacher; copying others, applying ideas and learning from our own mistakes (or experience). In the case of the autodidact - the self-teacher - there may be some difficulty in copying others, though a forum like this affords opportunities to share ideas and to learn the how to study from others. There are also some range of ideas sprouting forth from the fingers of those who offer suggestions on what theories are best to bear in mind when teaching (yourself). Finally, there are recurrent admonitions to read and keep on reading.

Self-teaching is presumably more involved than the mindless memorisation of table upon table from a primer, or a determined effort to go on rendering every word into English, or even just reading on in the hope that the meaning might one day leap out of the page.

I'm hoping that we could go to a little more depth than simply " I read" or "I recite paradigms". On way of going deeper in discusion is to follow the model of obstacle - overcoming (problem - solution) "If face this, I do that". Another is to enumerate steps in finer detail. A third might be to show the interrelatedness of learning, either the aspects of learning to the over-all process of learning (a way to see if your approach is balanced), or how the learning is related to the practice of using the language.

There are likely to be some techniques that you have proven work well for you, there are some which you are trying now and it is not clear if in the long-term they will prove to be the most beneficial, and there are some which you think should work, be they are more ideals than experience. I guess any of those could be shared, and if you were to state whether they are old, faithfuls, present practice or inspiring future directions, that would be beneficial too, I think.

In keeping with the three part model for improving as a (self-)teacher, either first hand experience -how it was done, interesting ideas or how you've moved on or improved may all be interesting.
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Self-teaching techniques

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » February 28th, 2016, 9:53 pm

Great topic! I would like to spin out a few thoughts in no particular order:
  • The dawn of the information/knowledge era has made an enormous difference in this undertaking. Learning Greek - or anything else - on your own in 2016 is nothing like what it was just 75 years ago. We have all become self-learners in a major way and across a broad range of interests. Think of the impact of just internet alone!
  • I learned Greek on my own. I did not choose that approach but it was my only option at the time I set out. I recommend a good teacher who will save you a thousand griefs and get you there so much faster - and better. Nevertheless, for reasons of accessibility, cost, time, etc. many will continue to set out on their own.
  • The "hum of the hive" that comes from a lively class of committed Greek students may be the single most important contribution of the classroom approach. I suspect that most who set out alone, and then drop out, do so because of the lack of encouragement, joie de vivre in the task, and mutual assistance that comes from a well structured class.
  • B-Greek does indeed help with that somewhat, although it is quite limited compared to the effect of an in-person group with a good instructor. (A poor instructor might be worse than none at all, and a "good" instructor is not just a Greek scholar!)
  • That there is this visible community of Greek learners/teachers, though, is by itself very encouraging to the self-learner. That there are knowledgeable scholars in that community willing to answer your basic questions is invaluable - and again, very encouraging - although I suspect most self-learners would not venture out on that turf.
  • When learning on your own, basic materials are critical, and resources are oh-so-important. And I am talking basics here. It is very difficult to find the right materials when you are alone and don't know anything. It is an enormous benefit to receive help and suggestions at the outset to steer you in the right direction and direct you to the right materials/resources.
  • It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to set out to learn Greek on your own, and some who do so might appear a bit over-confident or might be inclined to "rush in where angels fear to tread". Patience and forbearance is a great kindness to these ones at this stage.
  • As any teacher will attest, teaching is a most effective way of learning! Your students will poke holes in your facades and cause you to go deeper more effectively than most anything or anyone else.
  • I found audio to help very much in learning on my own. Listening to skillful narrators helps you to develop a real sense of the language as a language and it is a different learning experience.
  • Mounce's BBG, with all its faults and blemishes (which we've identified in detail) is quite helpful in teaching the self-taught novice a thoughtful approach to morphology. It is in his approach to teaching morphology that I find Mounce particularly effective. But morphology is THE major part of the task at that stage and FOR THAT METHOD.
  • ... which brings up another point: the responses to your queries will differ wildly depending on method.
  • Finally, I would still say "READ! READ! READ! It is once you immerse yourself in the text for real that you start learning the language beyond the analytical stage. However you do that, and reading is a major way, it is a necessary step once past the basics, or you will die on the vine very quickly as the memory "charges" of abstract grammar points quickly fizzle out.
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cwconrad
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Re: Self-teaching techniques

Post by cwconrad » February 29th, 2016, 10:02 am

I find myself in agreement on just about everything that Thomas has set forth there.
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:The dawn of the information/knowledge era has made an enormous difference in this undertaking. Learning Greek - or anything else - on your own in 2016 is nothing like what it was just 75 years ago. We have all become self-learners in a major way and across a broad range of interests. Think of the impact of just internet alone!.
I don’t believe that there was ever any student of Greek who took it seriously that has not been a self-learner; I don’t believe that Greek (or anything else, for that matter) can really be learned passively. Once you start to take it seriously, you ask questions and seek answers — from people, from books, from whatever sources your curiosity can latch onto (λαβέσθαι).
I learned Greek on my own. I did not choose that approach but it was my only option at the time I set out. I recommend a good teacher who will save you a thousand griefs and get you there so much faster - and better. Nevertheless, for reasons of accessibility, cost, time, etc. many will continue to set out on their own..
It may well be that there are teachers of Greek so bad that they kill any student’s desire to learn it; there are certainly those who don’t really encourage it. But it is better to study Greek with the help of someone who has a good grasp on it than to go it altogether by oneself.
The "hum of the hive" that comes from a lively class of committed Greek students may be the single most important contribution of the classroom approach. I suspect that most who set out alone, and then drop out, do so because of the lack of encouragement, joie de vivre in the task, and mutual assistance that comes from a well structured class..
Amen! I’ve recounted this experience before, but I think it’s worth repeating: One Sunday afternoon two decades ago I was on the lower floor of our university library and glanced in a seminar room window and realized that there was my Greek class doing what I later learned was a weekly review class organized by one of their own number unbeknownst to me; I found out that they took turns leading the review. Need I say that this was the single best beginning Greek class I ever had? I didn’t teach that class; perhaps I facilitated it, but those students were something special.
B-Greek does indeed help with that somewhat, although it is quite limited compared to the effect of an in-person group with a good instructor. (A poor instructor might be worse than none at all, and a "good" instructor is not just a Greek scholar!).
Teaching and scholarship are two different things; some good teachers are also scholars; some scholars are also good teachers. What good teachers and real scholars have in common is the skills to communicate effectively. The better teachers have the kind of pedagogical creativity we’ve seen amply demonstrated in this forum by one of our number who is known to any regular participant.
That there is this visible community of Greek learners/teachers, though, is by itself very encouraging to the self-learner. That there are knowledgeable scholars in that community willing to answer your basic questions is invaluable - and again, very encouraging - although I suspect most self-learners would not venture out on that turf..
I have observed extraordinary demonstrations of committed learning in this forum. I’ve seen some duds too, but it’s worth noting that failed pedagogical communication here has often been a matter of questions posed so carelessly that they don’t elicit helpful answers. One thing students need to learn is how to ask the right questions in a way that gets them helpful answers.
When learning on your own, basic materials are critical, and resources are oh-so-important. And I am talking basics here. It is very difficult to find the right materials when you are alone and don't know anything. It is an enormous benefit to receive help and suggestions at the outset to steer you in the right direction and direct you to the right materials/resources..
Amen! It’s unfortunate that students sometimes turn to seriously flawed resources, one of the worst of which is Machen’s primer; there are others that are popular for reasons that I cannot imagine.
It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to set out to learn Greek on your own, and some who do so might appear a bit over-confident or might be inclined to "rush in where angels fear to tread". Patience and forbearance is a great kindness to these ones at this stage..
I agree with that, but I suspect that some students respond well to the equivalent of an old-fashioned rap with a ruler on their fingers.
As any teacher will attest, teaching is a most effective way of learning! Your students will poke holes in your façades and cause you to go deeper more effectively than most anything or anyone else..
See my anecdote above.
I found audio to help very much in learning on my own. Listening to skillful narrators helps you to develop a real sense of the language as a language and it is a different learning experience..
This should be obvious, but it isn’t. After all, language is fundamentally an instrument of spoken communication for centuries before Prometheus taught us how to communicate after we’ve passed away.
Mounce's BBG, with all its faults and blemishes (which we've identified in detail) is quite helpful in teaching the self-taught novice a thoughtful approach to morphology. It is in his approach to teaching morphology that I find Mounce particularly effective. But morphology is THE major part of the task at that stage and FOR THAT METHOD.
Don’t try to use it without the workbook!
... which brings up another point: the responses to your queries will differ wildly depending on method..
Again: quot homines, tot sententiae.
Finally, I would still say "READ! READ! READ! It is once you immerse yourself in the text for real that you start learning the language beyond the analytical stage. However you do that, and reading is a major way, it is a necessary step once past the basics, or you will die on the vine very quickly as the memory "charges" of abstract grammar points quickly fizzle out.
I will never disagree with this.
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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)

Paul-Nitz
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Re: Self-teaching techniques

Post by Paul-Nitz » February 29th, 2016, 11:47 am

About 4 years ago, over a 2 month period I memorized the story found in Mark 9:14-29. Using the "Hoffman Method," it took about 15 minutes of work per day.

I began memorizing it by reading out loud with great expression and much gesturing. Then I got self conscious and stopped. Memorizing became more laborious and less profitable.

About the same time, I was researching the connection between gestures and language learning. It gave me confidence to go back to, and even double down on "gesturing" and speaking aloud as I memorized.

The memorization with gestures got the language into my head. I'm sure I gained more through that exercise than any other single effort.

Posting a performance of said story on Youtube was, for me, an important part of the exercise. Doing a "performance" forced me to work hard and helped me "feel" that I was communicating, no matter if no one watched it. I'm a little embarrassed by the video now (terrible pronunciation) but not regretful.

Since then, and partially through that experience, I've learned that whatever studying I do will be far, far more profitable if I TAKE LANGUAGE AS LANGUAGE, a genuine vehicle of communication.
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Self-teaching techniques

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » March 15th, 2016, 10:57 am

Paul-Nitz wrote:About 4 years ago, over a 2 month period I memorized the story found in Mark 9:14-29. Using the "Hoffman Method," it took about 15 minutes of work per day.

I began memorizing it by reading out loud with great expression and much gesturing. Then I got self conscious and stopped. Memorizing became more laborious and less profitable.

About the same time, I was researching the connection between gestures and language learning. It gave me confidence to go back to, and even double down on "gesturing" and speaking aloud as I memorized.

The memorization with gestures got the language into my head. I'm sure I gained more through that exercise than any other single effort.

Posting a performance of said story on Youtube was, for me, an important part of the exercise. Doing a "performance" forced me to work hard and helped me "feel" that I was communicating, no matter if no one watched it. I'm a little embarrassed by the video now (terrible pronunciation) but not regretful.

Since then, and partially through that experience, I've learned that whatever studying I do will be far, far more profitable if I TAKE LANGUAGE AS LANGUAGE, a genuine vehicle of communication.
I really like this, Paul! You should consider redoing it with a more seasoned pronunciation. In my introductory class, after two semesters of gruelling studies in Greek grammar, I switch the third semester to focus more on real language experience. This year we will do John 9 and Mark 5. I have students dramatize the text, do some other communicative exercises, note especially HOW the text says what it says, spend some (limited) time on grammar review and learning new structures/idioms etc. They work in groups to carry out these exercises. The idea is to begin to taste and feel the language as opposed to just learning the meta-language - though, as I said, we still do a bit of work on grammar.

I will point them to your video as one approach they might consider - or some might consider - to carry out part of their group assignments.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Self-teaching techniques

Post by Jonathan Robie » March 15th, 2016, 11:31 am

Currently, most of my self teaching falls into one of these categories:
  • Reading passages of 1-4 chapters at a time, listening to audio as I go, without stopping to look up words. I do this for fluency.
  • Writing questions and answers, in Greek, that correspond to each sentence in a short passage, considering the questions that come up as I do so.
I'm finding both of these very helpful. I'll do other things at other phases of my learning ...
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Self-teaching techniques

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » March 15th, 2016, 11:44 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:Currently, most of my self teaching falls into one of these categories:
  • Reading passages of 1-4 chapters at a time, listening to audio as I go, without stopping to look up words. I do this for fluency.
  • Writing questions and answers, in Greek, that correspond to each sentence in a short passage, considering the questions that come up as I do so.
I'm finding both of these very helpful. I'll do other things at other phases of my learning ...
And don't forget that most effective of learning exercises - teaching others!
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Self-teaching techniques

Post by Jonathan Robie » March 16th, 2016, 10:13 am

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:
Jonathan Robie wrote:Currently, most of my self teaching falls into one of these categories:
  • Reading passages of 1-4 chapters at a time, listening to audio as I go, without stopping to look up words. I do this for fluency.
  • Writing questions and answers, in Greek, that correspond to each sentence in a short passage, considering the questions that come up as I do so.
I'm finding both of these very helpful. I'll do other things at other phases of my learning ...
And don't forget that most effective of learning exercises - teaching others!
Absolutely.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Self-teaching techniques

Post by Stephen Hughes » March 18th, 2016, 9:20 am

It's worth doing an online test, to get some idea of your own learning style. One way of doing tbst is to consider Gardiner's theory of Multiple Intelligences. It will give you some idea of what types of learning experiences will resonate with you and give you yourself (or your students) the best learning results and the best chances to learn and remember. Personally, the Multiple Intelligence tests put me as a learner who needs games and activities to learn. Others would be auditory, group activities, very prrsonal self-study (lots of homework or exercises) or catering for one of the other learning styles.

If you are having trouble memorising something, set it music, or choregraph a dance around it. Perhaps drawing a picture of the things in a verse you are trying to memorise will help it stick. In my case, acting it with dolls works well.

Traditional teaching with a book and weekly recitation quotas works for the absolute minority of learning styles. You don't need to limit yourself to that in your self teaching. Aim to and practice interacting with the language in a way that best reflects a learning style that is at home with your strengths among the Multiple Intelligences.
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