Old man learning Greek

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tomgosse
Posts: 2
Joined: October 11th, 2016, 8:45 am

Old man learning Greek

Post by tomgosse » November 1st, 2016, 1:51 pm

Hello all, my name is Tom. I am just starting to teach myself New Testament Greek. I have the following books:
  • Learn New Testament Greek by John H. Dobson
  • A Grammar for New Testament Greek by A.K.M. Adam
  • A Student Handbook of Greek and English Grammar by Mondi and Corrigan
  • NKJV Interlinear New Testament
  • The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha
  • The New Testament in the Original Greek - Byzantine Textform by Robinson and Pierpont
I have another list of books, including a lexicon, that want to burn a hole in my checking account.

I'm sixty-six years old, and grew up in Boston. I am an Antiochian Orthodox Christian. I can read a little French with the help of a dictionary. But, my pronunciation is terrible. Speaking of pronunciation, all of the clergy I know learned NT Greek with a modern pronunciation.

All the best,
Tom
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Tom Gosse

Jonathan Robie
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Location: Durham, NC
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Re: Old man learning Greek

Post by Jonathan Robie » November 3rd, 2016, 12:54 pm

Many of us here are old men learning Greek, so you are in good company. Your background in languages will help enormously.

A modern pronunciation is not at all bad, but it's really confusing that ὑμεῖς and ἡμεῖς sound the same, as do some other pairs. Modern Greek fixed the problem by changing the pronouns, but you can't change NT Greek. You can easily pronounce η like the a in "take" or the the e in the German word "beten", though, and that resolves most of the confusion.

Burn the interlinear.

You say you grew up in Boston, where are you now? There may be people near you who could help.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Stirling Bartholomew
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Joined: August 9th, 2012, 4:19 pm

Re: Old man learning Greek

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » November 3rd, 2016, 7:01 pm

Keep the interlinear. There is phobia about interlinear texts that you will find on several forums other than this one. It's just a phobia. Ignore it.

If you haven't already discovered the STEP bible, here is a link. https://www.stepbible.org
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C. Stirling Bartholomew

Stephen Hughes
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Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

Re: Old man learning Greek

Post by Stephen Hughes » November 3rd, 2016, 10:37 pm

Hi Tom,
An other "book" that you could buy out of your loose change is a journal / dairy. Talking to yourself will be a great way of recording and recognising your achievements as you go. Something like:

Dear Greek learning diary,
Today I learned the words for "plate" xxxxxx. Xxxxx is used with the verb yyyyyy. With the verb xxxxxxx, it takes the form xxxxb so I can say yyyyyp xxxxxb.

By synthetically (1) analysing (spelling out) what you see, then by (2) engaging in some higher-order thinking using whatever grammar you know to (3) create something, you might find the learning process more rewarding. So, also with questions:

Dear Greek learning diary,
I see that the word for "plate" has three syllables xxxxx in the dictionary, but has four syllables xxxxxx in the NT text xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxx (Matthew 23:25). I really don't understand why the word for "plate" is longer by one syllable longer, when used in the NT, than it is in the dictionary. The difference appears to be that there is a ccc after/between/before the ddd.

You won't necessarily be able to answer your own questions, but rationalising ignorance makes it more manageable emotionally. In doing that sort of break down of your things you have diffuculties with, you will have gathered and recorded data from a number of sources. You will have recognised both relatedness and difference. You will have thought about what the nature of the difference might be. That process of reduction may or may not lead to the correct interpretation of WHAT or WHY there is a difference, but it will have been a step in the right direction (a step towards personal engagement with the language). So too with assumptions, catch them as they slip past the gate guards:

Dear Greek learning diary,
I think that the word xxxxxx for "plate" could also mean "bowl", because of such and such (unrelated) reason.

Your natural inclination will be to make some broadreaching assumptions to make things more manageable. Such overextensions of grammar or word meaning are very common, and will in most cases self-correct as your knowledge and experience increases. Writing them down however, will allow you to more easily identify them as logical infrences, and to let you be less possessive of them, when it is time to give them up.

[I used the diarying method for a long time, but without the "Dear diary..." personalisation.]
__________

Besides the diarying, you should be aware of what you are learning, when you learn Greek. There is the form of the language, that needs to be decoded - the foreign looking alphabet, the complexities of the verb and noun in their many forms, but such decoding is not decoding into English, it is decoding into Greek. Let me explain a little.

Greek has a system of grammar which works in abstracto. Various theoretical constructs work together to form the Greek language. Some people who learn the language, decipher from the form of the Greek language to English, then construct meaning soley using their mother-tongue language processing skills. While that is common, it is not necessarily the best, and it won't necessarily result in learning the language. Two alternatives to that are analysing the grammar and learning to think in the language through some sort of kinesthetic method.

The first type of learner, somebody who decodes the form of the Greek directly to English will say, "I understand αὐτῷ. It means 'to him' or 'to it'." The sevond type of learner, developing the analytical approach, one might say at the outset, "I understand αὐτῷ, because I know it is the dative singular masculine form of αὐτός." That however is only a means to reference what it is in the abstract grammatical system of Greek. The desired goal of learning Greek, is to know what a dative does in the language, not only to identify it - think of the difference between a natural history museum (statically analysed forms), and a zoo (forms in a "natural", but contained environment, interacting with each other in limited ways that are "typical"). Seeing similar things in the language lined up side by side lets us see some similarities that we may not notice otherwise. In the process of decontextualisation, however, a lot of contextual information is lost. Fads and fashions in zoo construction and grammar presentation are sort of parallel in their preferences - the decontextualised compartmentalism accompanied my a plaque of scientic explanation and background information of a century ago has given way to interactive, impressionistic or experiential approach in both things, relecting the changing preferences of the ages. Buying another grammar written within the same general mindset will only add very little more than paper to your library.

How while it may be possible to either see the long explanations described on the plaque acted out in the wild, or to see the typical behaviours of certain word forms occuring in a text, the texts that you will be engaging with are much more than that. They typical behaviours that you might expect - foraging, hunting, nesting, mating and rearing - are only typical in so far as they are abstracted. In terms of Greek, that is the many social functions that language performs. To some degree they correspond to the forms of the Greek that you will decode, but you will find that the way the language works to express meaning is so much more than the forms, and more than the grammar. Using evermore educated commonsense - engaging a practical and practicing brain - is usually a good thing.

Set some learning goals - both big ones and immediate ones - and yse them to structure the other things of interest that will inevitably come up that you don't know about yet. Some goals might be:
  • To learn your favourite verse or phrase in Greek,
  • To finish a chapter of a textbook,
  • To learn 3 new letters of the alphabet each day this week,
  • To listen to the same passage of Greek over and over till it seems familiar,
  • To record your own reading, to self-check it, or
  • To write out a phrase, a list or a table that you are trying to master.
Good luck in your endeavour.
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

RandallButh
Posts: 1056
Joined: May 13th, 2011, 4:01 am

Re: Old man learning Greek

Post by RandallButh » November 4th, 2016, 7:08 am

Jonathan's advice about perhaps adding "eh" to the sound of η HTA is good. The η HTA and υ Y-PSILON (which equalled οι OI, too) were the last two sounds that merged into the modern system.

But don't let it bother you. Since you will mainly be reading a text and listening in church the υμεις ημεις distinction will not bother you and the most practical is to be able to follow the readings in Church directly.

If and when you begin to communicate with friends in Old Greek (τα αρχεια) then you could consider adding the two sounds for η and υ from the NT/Koine era. The slightly fuller pronunciation system of modern plus those two vowels is sometimes called Living Koine Greek or Restored Koine Greek.

I do appreciate what you are doing, since I am doing something similar these days with Swahili. Nothing wrong with learning to communicate in another language in older age.
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Shirley Rollinson
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Joined: June 4th, 2011, 6:19 pm
Location: New Mexico
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Re: Old man learning Greek

Post by Shirley Rollinson » November 4th, 2016, 7:09 pm

tomgosse wrote:Hello all, my name is Tom. I am just starting to teach myself New Testament Greek. I have the following books:
  • Learn New Testament Greek by John H. Dobson
  • A Grammar for New Testament Greek by A.K.M. Adam
  • A Student Handbook of Greek and English Grammar by Mondi and Corrigan
  • NKJV Interlinear New Testament
  • The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha
  • The New Testament in the Original Greek - Byzantine Textform by Robinson and Pierpont
I have another list of books, including a lexicon, that want to burn a hole in my checking account.

I'm sixty-six years old, and grew up in Boston. I am an Antiochian Orthodox Christian. I can read a little French with the help of a dictionary. But, my pronunciation is terrible. Speaking of pronunciation, all of the clergy I know learned NT Greek with a modern pronunciation.

All the best,
Tom
Dobson has quite a few typos in it, so don't be surprised if you meet the occasional sentence which does not match up with its translation.
You're also welcome to try the Online Greek Text Book at http://www.drshirley.org/greek/textbook02/index.html
Welcome to B-Greek,
Shirley Rollinson
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Paul-Nitz
Posts: 495
Joined: June 1st, 2011, 4:19 am
Location: Lilongwe, Malawi

Re: Old man learning Greek

Post by Paul-Nitz » November 5th, 2016, 4:02 am

A. Learning when you are older has some advantages. There is a myth about not being able to learn languages when you are older. Your somewhat bilingual background will help tremendously. What worked for you in learning French, use in learning Greek (where transferable).
B. Start with a more communicative basis before learning from books. This is difficult as an autodidact. The best option you might have is to buy the Living Koine 1st book and learn it to death. Something like this: Take each lesson, split it into thirds. Practice each third of a lesson three times over. Even better, do a "spaced learning" lesson with it. I did spaced learning with my students and by myself with Book 1. It worked very well (Learn 10 minutes, do something physical for ten minutes, Learn the same material for 10 min, Again something physical for 10. Repeat a third time.). Book one is here: https://www.biblicallanguagecenter.com/ ... ine-greek/
C. Then, if you don't have anyone else to learn with or from, stick with Dobson or Rollinson and learn it very well. Don't expect it to go very quickly. If you learned all of Rollinson's lessons (more extensive than Dobson) in a year, you are doing very well. The key is not arduous memorization. Rather it is making the language your own. Use elaborative rehearsal of some kind and spend many hours on each lesson (whether linear fashion or spirally). Some suggested elaborative rehearsal techniques:self-questioning, imaginary communication, gesturing the Greek, performing short passages from the NT, etc.
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Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi

tomgosse
Posts: 2
Joined: October 11th, 2016, 8:45 am

Re: Old man learning Greek

Post by tomgosse » November 8th, 2016, 6:53 pm

Thank you all for your kind welcome and advice. My plan, God willing, is to start studying at the beginning of next week. I will keep you posted on my progress. :D
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Tom Gosse

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