llsorenson wrote:I'm sure a number of people would love to hear how others first learned ancient Greek, and what they think of it in retrospect. The point here is not to trash teachers or books (you can be frank about the books), but to try to highlight the kinds of exercises, activities, were more helpful than others, what to avoid, and to be able to 'analyze' the way you were taught and place it into the correct pedagogical approach (if it fits).
Some of this content can and should perhaps be included in your profile or introduction, But this is the place to talk about it with others.
I have, in fact, written in my profile about my experience in learning Greek in college and grad school, and also about my experience of teaching Greek. I would add a caveat here, however, to any discussion of "the correct pedagogical approach": Although I certainly prefer to use some textbooks rather than others and recommend some procedures and methodologies for learning rather than others, I'm skeptical as to whether any single textbook, method, or procedures is necessarily the "right fit" for any and all who set about to learn Greek. The classes and the individuals whom I have taught over some 40+ years have differed enough from each other to an extent that I hesitate to lay down broad generalizations. What I offer instead is some observations.
(1) Very good students can learn from very bad teachers and very bad textbooks. I think that relatively few students learn Greek well outside of a classroom and without a teacher, but I have known some spectacular exceptions. What matters most, ultimately, is the intelligence, industry, and ardent desire to understand in the learner: it is the learner who brings to the process the elements that are most decisive for successful learning.
(2) Whether in a classroom setting or when engaged in independent study, an inestimable resource is a person who can either answer the questions that any earnest inquirer inevitably must raise or who can direct the inquirer to sources and resources for researching the question. The better teacher who finds that he/she doesn't know the answer to a student's question will waste minimal time before seeking out an answer and bringing it back to the class or directly to the student who raised it. I can attest that an immeasurable portion of what I have learned about ancient Greek has come from following up on questions raised by students in and outside of my classes. A classroom of people at work on learning ancient Greek is not at all a matter of an authoritative teacher and students absorbing lore; rather it is a community of people sharing in a mutally beneficial process of learning.
(3) I really can't say much about independent study of ancient Greek; I really do think that everyone undertaking the study of ancient Greek needs to have a resource person or community to help him/her seek answers to questions. I have long felt that one of the great services that B-Greek can perform is to function as a resource community for beginners to seek answers to questions. I think the peril of independent study is flagging interest rather than lack of intelligence. Success does indeed depend on unflagging interest and ardent desire to understand. My frustration at times with B-Greek discussion of pedagogy is that the discussion seems to get stuck, like the old-fashioned broken record, on the first elements and often goes no further. It's as if people want to stay in the beginners' wading pool and never move out to deeper water. Or it's as if speaking and writing Greek is so much fun that we just can't imagine the possibility of trying to speak and write good
(4) I've indicated elsewhere that I think "a working knowledge of ancient Greek" involves (a) instant recognition of the inflected forms of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs, (b) recognition of and understanding of the standard
syntactic structures and usages, and (c) a solid grasp of the alternative tense-stems of the major irregular verbs. Perhaps thre should be added (d) a familiarity with frequently-used idiomatic expressions . These are the things that one should learn in the course of a good two-semester college course in ancient Greek or in working industriously through one of the standard primers of ancient Greek. I am leery of the notion that one can somehow avoid the systematic exposure to these matters that a regular college course or the industrious sustained working through a primer and ever acquire real proficiency or ability to read ancient Greek without some kind of crutches.
(5) I am a proponent of voluminous reading of Greek texts as essential to acquiring greater proficiency in the language, and I think that one ought to read Greek texts outside the literary genres and eras of Biblical Koine. I think that this is essential to learning to think in the manner of Greek speakers and writers. But I don't think reading is enough; I think one needs to learn to use ancient Greek as a vehicle of communication, preferably both as a speaker and listener in conversation (that is far, far better) but at the least as a writer and reader of texts. If it's at all possible, one would do well to seize the opportunity for listening to others reading and speaking Greek and to speak Greek in conversation. Composition exercises are also important, beginning with sentences that involve practice standard syntactic patterns, advancing to paragraphs, dialogues, essays, etc. There was a time when composition in Greek was a standard element in undergraduate and graduate level study of Greek; now, unfortunately, it is all too rare.
(6) I have had enough years of experience teaching Greek with what I have called the "grammar/translation" methodology that employs rote learning of morphological paradigms, rules of grammar, lists of principal parts, and vocabulary lists to have become convinced that relatively few students gain proficiency as a consequence of this kind of learning alone. I have had students who could parse the inflected words, recognize the forms of irregular verbs, and recite the rules of syntax -- and yet have great difficulty at understanding connected Greek discourse. I am convinced that, however useful at some stage this rote learning may conceivably turn out to be, it really doesn't have much to do with and does not produce comprehension of a Greek sentence or paragraph. Moreover, I don't think that a complex Greek sentence or paragraph can be analyzed grammatically into such identifiable elements acquired by rote learning unless
one already has a fundamental grasp of the meaning of the text in question: I think that understanding a text's meanng precedes any breakdown of the text into elements that can be identified and discussed individually and in relation to each other
There is more, I think, that needs to be added to these observations, but that will do for starters.